Paradise Has Walls

Picture this. You’re having a backyard party. You’re just putting the finishing touches on a nice spread of food and drink while the evening outdoor lights blink on. Lovely music is playing in the background, the hot tub is bubbling, and people are starting to arrive. Everything looks pristine. Your screened-in porch is the perfect spot to relax, admire the beautiful garden you’ve worked so hard on, and entertain your friends. But… there’s just one problem. Every time you look over your shoulder, you see it. Nagging at you. Bating you. Mocking you. There’s that one bald spot in the middle of the yard you just can’t look past. Nothing will grow there. The soil is impossible! It looks sad and neglected and it doesn’t matter how everything else looks; it will always draw your attention, including your guests. What is a host to do?

This scenario wasn’t too far off for a client of ours. That’s when she gave us a call.

The issue with this client’s backyard was the small barren hill next to their back porch. When you looked out through the screen, the scene wasn’t unsightly but it was pretty boring, especially in comparison to the rest of her yard, which I will show you later. 
This hillside had hard, rocky, dry soil. The client tried many different plants but could not get anything to grow here. Everything she put in did poorly. We needed a solution that would break up the space without having to deal with the soil. At one point the client had someone lay some stone steps that led down the hill. Unfortunately the steps were too loose, small, and dangerous to walk down. But it wasn’t a terrible idea. Heck, we are never opposed to adding stone – which is exactly what we did.

The plan was simple: Add 2 parallel short stone walls that would create tiers on the hill, thus providing gardening spaces and dividing the area visually. We also wanted to replace the old stone steps with some that were sturdier, wider, and better looking all around. 

After removing all the old stone, pine straw, and failing plants, we went to work on the hillside, breaking up the rocky dirt and creating trenches where the walls would go. Here is an image of one of the finished walls and the stairs in progress. Also in this picture the crew is preparing the spot for the second wall.
Here is an image of the first wall. Our guys hand-cut each stone to fit together perfectly, but not too perfectly. It still needs to look a little natural.
Puzzles are easy when you can cut the pieces to fit exactly where you want them to go!
Here is a bird’s eye view of the steps. The hill doesn’t look steep from afar but here you can see the steps are definitely necessary for the grade. You can also notice how we gave the stairs a bit of a curve. Twists and turns, even in the slightest, are always more interesting than straight lines. 
Here is the finished second wall, parallel to the first without being too identical, different enough to be interesting and similar enough to create cohesion. 
The final step… was a final step: A long flat stone that went over the dry creek bed like a quaint little bridge for tiny wildlife. Here is a blog on a dry creek bed I did last year in case you’re curious about those.
There were some boulders already on the hillside that we decided to incorporate into the design. We think they add to the organic look of the stone steps and the rock walls.
Here is the finished product. A much more exciting hillside to gaze at from one’s screened-in porch, don’t you think? And don’t the steps look so inviting? Instead of the nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right in her yard, now the client will hopefully feel the call of those steps, beckoning her to come take a walk up them. 
This client is a master gardener who constantly works in her backyard and takes pride in the oasis she has created. When she couldn’t get anything to grow on the hillside, she hired us to create steps and retaining walls that would help with her soil and planting problem. We can’t wait to see what she does with the garden spaces. Hopefully she will send us an update on her planting ventures in this area soon!
In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the great work she does. This is the entrance to her magical garden, a fitting gateway into paradise. 
She has a firepit, hot tub, water feature, a shed to the right of this image, and a small cottage in the very back behind the trees. To the left of the hot tub is the screened-in porch and the hillside where we installed the walls and steps.
By all accounts, the rest of her yard was already gorgeous. She just needed a little help with the big stuff to complete it. We were happy to assist! 

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