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A Creative Garden Retread

Articles: A Creative Garden Retread

A plant collector's handmade garden passageway. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Years ago, young and impoverished, I tamed my sloping backyard with tiers of recycled railroad ties. Decades later, the decaying steps oozed creosote and housed carpenter ants. But when I went to replace them with a more durable solution, I realized I would miss the plants now growing in every crevice. So I set about designing long-lasting stairs that would provide the same interest as my old, rotting wood set.

For several months, I walked around Seattle looking for interesting stair designs. I saw many unique ideas especially in older, middle-class neighborhoods with established, creative gardens. My favorite design looked like rocks stacked up under each tread. However, the rocks did not appear to be anchored and looked precarious.

I decided to build my new stairway using pre-cast, hollow cement blocks topped by solid cement treads. I would set the blocks to create planting pockets, and they would provide a face where I could affix a pebble mosaic. The space was carefully measured and the soil was cut for nine stairs.



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