Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Steps’ Category

Naumkeag was built on a steep hill, and so its landscape required quite a bit of manipulation to be usable. The Peony Terraces behind the house show how a big drop in elevation over a short distance can be turned into a showcase. In this instance, the terraces gave Mabel Choate a way to show off her tree peony collection. An apple cordon in front of the top retaining wall separates the Top Lawn and its promenade from the peony garden; fieldstone walls stepping down the slope make the narrow terraces.

This collection of tree peonies looks good through the growing season, and is a knockout in flower. Each fieldstone wall holds a couple of feet of elevation, at least, leaving a pleasant grassy lawn for passageway between the Rose Garden and the South Lawn.

This collection of tree peonies looks good through the growing season, and is a knockout in flower. Each fieldstone wall holds a couple of feet of elevation, at least, leaving a pleasant grassy lawn for passageway between the Rose Garden and the South Lawn.


Retaining walls on three sides enclose the rose garden; in one corner a stairway of radial steps spills into the space from a narrow opening in the masonry.
While the Peony Terraces could be considered to push forward into the lawn space, the Rose Garden, shown here, appears carved out of the hillside.  The grade is almost completely flat, the better to exhibit the curvy gravel paths and rose beds to viewers from above.  (The pattern is said to be reminiscent of the floral pattern on a Chinese painted plate.)  Everywhere on this property is evidence of how the land is sculpted in the service of spacemaking.

While the Peony Terraces could be considered to push forward into the lawn space, the Rose Garden, shown here, appears carved out of the hillside. The grade is almost completely flat, the better to exhibit the curvy gravel paths and rose beds to viewers from above. (The pattern is said to be reminiscent of the floral pattern on a Chinese painted plate.) Everywhere on this property is evidence of how the land is sculpted in the service of spacemaking.


A short, controlled slope drops off from the Arborvitae Walk to the marble fountain on its lawn terrace in the Evergreen Garden.
The lawn slope between the Arborvitae Walk and the fountain is short enough and just shallow enough still to be mowable.

The lawn slope between the Arborvitae Walk and the fountain is short enough and just shallow enough still to be mowable.


On the other side of the Arborvitae Walk, the slope up to the drive and Chinese Garden is planted with Pyracantha and made passable with this stairway of solid stone steps.

On the other side of the Arborvitae Walk, the slope up to the drive and Chinese Garden is planted with Pyracantha and made passable with this stairway of solid granite steps.


The steps leading to the drive from the Evergreen Garden link nicely to a walk across the drive. This walk, in the same stone as the steps (either marble, limestone, or most likely for durability’s sake, granite), brings you to the Devil’s Gate, one of two entrances to the Chinese Garden. (Apparently, the gateway’s 90-degree turn is meant to shake off the devil and prevent him from entering this garden space.)
The Devil's Gate:  step up into the space, turn right and go up a short ramp, and find yourself in the Chinese Garden.  Some transitions between gardens at Naumkeag are seamless, and easily blend one area into another.  Here, the drive separates two distinct gardens, each of which possesses a threshold that requires grade change.

The Devil's Gate: step up into the space, turn right and go up a short ramp, and find yourself in the Chinese Garden. Some transitions between gardens at Naumkeag are seamless, and easily blend one area into another. Here, the drive separates two distinct gardens, each of which possesses a threshold that requires grade change.


Another stone stair gets you up to the little temple in the Chinese Garden.
Elevating the little temple makes it more imposing and dominant in the Chinese Garden.  (That's not a wheelbarrow ramp in the upper stairway; it has some other kind of spiritual significance.)

Elevating the little temple makes it more imposing and dominant in the Chinese Garden. (That's not a wheelbarrow ramp in the upper stairway; it has some other kind of spiritual significance.)


To leave the Chinese Garden, you walk through a moon gate in the brick and fieldstone wall (masonry types may be the topic of a whole ‘nother post on this place). There’s just enough threshold to reinforce the notion that you’ve left a distinct place, and have entered an entirely different space. A curving ramp brings you back down the the drive.
To get in, go up a step and up a ramp; to leave, step over a threshold, through a wall, and down a ramp.

To get in, go up a step and up a ramp; to leave, step over a threshold, through a wall, and down a ramp.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

What do we see if we look at one place through a particular lens? Last week I was out at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, MA, and found myself appreciating the wide vocabulary of ways that Fletcher Steele used to get garden guests up and down the slopes. Here’s a partial list:

Brick and brownstone steps from the upper lawn terrace down onto the walkway above the peony terraces.  It's unlikely you'd see anything this idiosyncratic (narrow, curves with almost no tangents on the treads, funky riser/tread ratios) built today.

Brick and brownstone steps from the upper lawn terrace down onto the walkway above the peony terraces. It's unlikely you'd see anything this idiosyncratic (narrow, curves with almost no tangents on the treads, funky riser/tread ratios) built today.


Two steps down a grass ramp to a grass landing.  How do you navigate your wheelbarrow up and down the steps?  Use the wheelbarrow ramp, of course.

Two steps down a grass ramp to a grass landing. How do you navigate your wheelbarrow up and down the steps? Use the wheelbarrow ramp, of course.


Grass steps with stone risers welcome visitors coming in from the Lych Gate on the right  This stairway is really a series of little terraces that tame the slopes converging in that corner of the South Lawn.

Grass steps with stone risers welcome visitors coming in from the Lych Gate on the right This stairway is really a series of little terraces that tame the slopes converging in that corner of the South Lawn.


It's a stair, a ramp, a runnel, a runway. It shows you where to go, and incidentally holds level the top edge of the South Lawn and Oak Terrace.

It's a stair, a ramp, a runnel, a runway. It shows you where to go, and incidentally holds level the top edge of the South Lawn and Oak Terrace.


And, of course, can't leave out the Blue Steps, Mabel Choate's path down to her cutting garden.  Riser/tread ratios change with each step; high risers and short treads at the top of each run graduate into low risers and long treads by the bottom, so that each white stair rail above the step noses scribes a parabola in the air, rather than a straight line.

And, of course, can't leave out the Blue Steps, Mabel Choate's path down to her cutting garden. Riser/tread ratios change with each step; high risers and short treads at the top of each run graduate into low risers and long treads by the bottom, so that each white stair rail above the step noses scribes a parabola in the air, rather than a straight line.

Naumkeag, the Choate family estate now owned by The Trustees of Reservations

Read Full Post »