The Hard Stuff
The most noticeable feature at the Rancho is the use of gravel and other forms of concrete throughout. From back to front, these materials complement the cinder block house and reference the surrounding natural landscape. Low maintenance, neutral-colored and a great moisture retainer, GRAVEL covers much of the property in one form or other. Types used include pea gravel, chipped rock gravel and a larger, 3/4-inch version. But gravel is only part of the story where natural stone is concerned. BOULDERS, above left, feature prominently in the scheme, too. One of the largest, this awesome red/orange boulder from La Paz, Baja California, commands attention on the front corner. At right, POURED CONCRETE creates a stepped patio across the front of the house, making the perfect platform for large terra cotta planters.
The opposite side for the front patio, above left, features POURED CONCRETE in a 4-foot by 4-foot paver pattern that provides much-needed drainage. As shown in a earlier post CONCRETE CORES, above right, stacked atop each other delineate a parking area and function as an viewing bench overlooking Evergreen Cemetary.
We loved the built-in planters, above left, in two spots against the house when we first moved in, but hated that they were red brick. So my brother-in-law, José, covered them in a rustic, subtle yellow STUCCO, and transformed them into a feature we filled with RIVER ROCKS — set off by a bubbler in a large glazed Mexican pot. Back to the Rancho’s front, the walkway was cracked and uninteresting. So, we had it broken up, using the RECYCLED CONCRETE chunks, along with DECOMPOSED GRANITE, to create something much more organic and attractive, above right.
More RECYCLED CONCRETE, above left, this time stacked and used as a short retaining wall against the bottom of the kitchen deck, creates a nice visual finish there. Large 2-foot by 2-foot conrete PAVERS, above right, create stepped tiers in the back yard where once clumps of wild grass roamed freely. The resulting stepped areas can be used for more potted succulents and cacti, as well as seating areas. The chipped stone gravel between each paver is slightly darker, creating a nice graphic pattern.
Some people might think that all this stone and concrete would be cold and forbidding. I think I’ve avoided that effect by using plenty of plants to break up these areas. Varied foliage types, color combinations and heaps of containers help in this regard as well. Important tip: Before installing gravel be sure to lay down porous weed-block fabric and secure with large metal staple-like stays. Use gravel this way in place of your lawn and you’ll never have to weed, water it or mow again. Just think of the water, time, and money you’ll save!