The Dubois have 4 acre yard in west lake that slopes dramatically toward a creek at the back of the property, we installed a large Xeriscape landscape installation around the home and were looking for a way to transition the carefully landscaped and maintained portion of the yard to the slope that they planned to leave wild. A granite pathway led towards the creek, so we decided to span the pathway with a white limestone Moongate feature that would act as to differentiate the wilder portions of the yard. We were looking for something that would make an interesting conversation piece, and gave a feeling of whimsy and adventure as well. The moon gate filled the role admirably as well as giving the relatively new property a bit of a timeless feel.
To begin we cut an 18 inch trench into the soil and bedrock, and poured a steel reinforced concrete footing to act as the foundation for the Moongate. On top of our foundation we laid the support wings in cinderblock to give good support to the weight of the arch. We then clad the cinderblock in white limestone chop, leaving the joints empty to give the structure a ruinous look. We built a large wooden form work to support the top portions of the arch until the keystone was in place. The form was circle in two parts with an 8 foot diameter, and 2×4 supports that could be removed to allow the formwork to be disassembled and re used, without damaging the finished arch. After the mortar in the archway had set the form was removed, the weight of the arch was taken by the wings and the DuBois had an entrance to their wooded creek. We planted Star Jasmine along the wings and encouraged it to climb over the rough stone to reinforce the impression of age.
The Dubois’s were also interested in finding a way to better enjoy the creek that ran through the bottom of their property, occasional floods had washed out a few of their homemade solutions, and they wanted a place where they could sit and enjoy the water that wouldn’t wash way or be impossible to clean after high water. We settled on a large Ovular stone patio with a built-in bench. We set the patio a good 15 feet up the hill side and above a foot above ground to take it out of the reach of all but the most drastic floods, but still close enough to really experience the stream. Instead of laying the patio on a concrete slab which can crack and heave if the ground below shifts, we used a concrete ring beam with drains set into the concrete at intervals and filled the center of the beam with compacted limestone as a base for the patio. This allowed any water that may work itself into the base of the patio to drain out before it can undermine the structure. We set our ring beam twice as deep as usual to account for any water erosion that may take place in the future. On top of the ring beam we laid a beautiful selection of very large pieces of Oklahoma Select Flagstone. We transported the 500 lb stones by hand almost a quarter mile down a very steep wooded slope that would not allow any trucks or machinery. We used a black concrete dye in our mortar to eliminate the start contrast a standard white/grey mortar can give, and sealed the patio with a wet look sealant to bring out the color in the stones as well as protect the patio from any staining by mold or algae.
Landscaping Wise, because the area was very overgrown and also pretty vast and also on a slope the most cost effective solution to “tame” it was to use River Rocks. River Rocks perform well on a slope, they won’t erode or allow trenches after a heavy rain, unlike Hardwood Mulch or a lighter product like Pea Pebbles. Also, it being a rock product and not an organic product like mulch means that once installed no further replenishment needed, unlike mulch that decomposed and will require additional cost and time to apply a new layer. One final advantage to use the River Rock is that it is relatively affordable comparing to other rock products. Win!
To add both interest and contrast and to avoid the “sea of monotone rocks” effect, we used Tejas Black Gravel for all the beds. Although a bit more pricy than the River Rocks, the gray black gravel looks very sharp and unique and provides a real pop of bold color. The dramatic black gravel beds hugging the Moon Tower and signifies the eye that the wild area transition is about to happen.
The client also wanted a small area of good lawn for their dogs and grand kids to enjoy. We opted with “Celebration” Bermuda. A relatively drought resistant lawn that loves the full sun and has proven to be very reliable performer in many of our installations.
Here are the plants we used in this Design Install. Simply match the number in the picture:
2. Retama (15 Gallons)
3. Big Muhly
4. Gulf Muhly
5. Texas Sage
6. Jerusalem Sage
7. Mexican Bush Sage
8. Red Yucca
9. Mexican Feathergrass
10. Pride Of Barbados
11. Trailing Rosemary
12. Golden Showers Thryallis
13. Trailing Lantana
14. Cherry Sage