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

Graceful level changes invite activity in sloping yards. Here, five
gardens benefit from having more than simple staircases. Steps cascade
down in a variety of heights, widths, and depths to provide space for
seating, planting, plant display, even a children’s play area.

At left, generous terraces fit around the broad hill-climbing steps
in Janet and John Simonson’s San Carlos, California, garden. A
sandbox on one terrace creates a well-defined children’s play area.
Landscape designer was Ken Coverdell of Half Moon Bay, California.

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Portland architect Don Vallister designed the broad, bleacher-like
staircase (at right on opposite page) to join a turn-of-the-century
farmhouse 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 the
sun. The 14-foot-wide staircase provides many more sunny spots for
back-yard spectators.

Seattle architect Jay Fulton controlled a sloping side yard with
the seven-step, three-tiered bulkhead pictured at top. Dock timbers
(about $2 a foot) form the stairs and planters. Where treads meet
planters, other timbers turn into the hill, helping to tie the structure
in place. Timbers wer also spiked together with foot-long nails.

Rustic stairs of railroad ties trail down from the back of Joan and
architect Jim Heady’s house in Orinda, California (above left).
Irish moss thrives between treads; shrubs planted at random intervals
give the lanscaping a natural look.

In Tucson, architect Ron Fridland and lanscape architect Larry
Zukowski cast the steps that lead up to Barbara and John Carter’s
front door. To form plant display platforms along one side, every other
stair was doubled in height and depth.


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