Garden step that do more than get you up or down the hill Essay

Graceful level changes invite activity in sloping yards. Here, fivegardens benefit from having more than simple staircases. Steps cascadedown in a variety of heights, widths, and depths to provide space forseating, planting, plant display, even a children’s play area. At left, generous terraces fit around the broad hill-climbing stepsin Janet and John Simonson’s San Carlos, California, garden. Asandbox on one terrace creates a well-defined children’s play area.Landscape designer was Ken Coverdell of Half Moon Bay, California.

Portland architect Don Vallister designed the broad, bleacher-likestaircase (at right on opposite page) to join a turn-of-the-centuryfarmhouse to the redlandscaped garden. At the top of the stairs, a 10-by 16-foot decked extension of the old covered porch reaches out for thesun. The 14-foot-wide staircase provides many more sunny spots forback-yard spectators. Seattle architect Jay Fulton controlled a sloping side yard withthe seven-step, three-tiered bulkhead pictured at top.

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Dock timbers(about $2 a foot) form the stairs and planters. Where treads meetplanters, other timbers turn into the hill, helping to tie the structurein place. Timbers wer also spiked together with foot-long nails. Rustic stairs of railroad ties trail down from the back of Joan andarchitect Jim Heady’s house in Orinda, California (above left).

Irish moss thrives between treads; shrubs planted at random intervalsgive the lanscaping a natural look. In Tucson, architect Ron Fridland and lanscape architect LarryZukowski cast the steps that lead up to Barbara and John Carter’sfront door. To form plant display platforms along one side, every otherstair was doubled in height and depth.

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