Tag Archives: path

Fieldstone path

Soon after we moved into our current home, I started doing one of my favorite things: digging up grass. One grass removal project became a cutting garden and a fieldstone path through the easement to a gate into our back yard. It was definitely worth the effort, we use it all the time. Here is what the area looked like before we started, just a standard, anonymous piece of grass:

In July, I got some help to dig out the first iteration and see how it felt. The path went from the street to the sidewalk, but I realized it would only work for the one car parked near the path. The stone in version 1.0 was just old concrete and pavers I’d found around the yard and these are still piled up in a stack at the end of the flower bed, waiting for me to have the energy and inspiration to do something with them. At this point, it was actually more dangerous to walk on because nothing was set. Then, I saw this post on NextDoor:

It was a lot of fieldstone (flagstone?) and a great price. It took my sister and I at least three trips in my smallish SUV and I was definitely worried about the suspension, but we got it to the house and started to lay out the new path. I never would have had the motivation to do this without her help.

First, we dug down into the path to start making way for the stone. We wanted the stone to be level with the curb and sidewalk. We also decided to extend the long tail of the path all the way down the side of the street so that any car parked along the way could use it. We poured paver sand down and added more wherever needed to level the stones and make the path smooth. We filled in the gaps with sand then dirt and some moss in the hope that it might take over eventually. I planted one plant at this point, a butterfly bush that was a replacement for one that had died within the return window. Here is how it looked soon after we finished:

To prep for the cutting garden, I amended the soil with compost, leaf mold from the garden pile, and peat moss. I wanted good moisture retention and good drainage. I don’t like tilling up soil and I may find another way to do this next time.

Later on last fall, I laid out peony (Shirley Temple, Sarah Bernhardt, and Karl Rosenfield), allium (giant Schuberti, Ivory Queen, and tiny caeruleum) and tulip (casa grande). I didn’t get pictures of it all, but I was glad to see the bulbs come up nicely in succession through early spring. The peony also all emerged and look great, still growing well into the summer months. Here’s a WIP photo with my peony roots laid out for planting down the right side of the bed:

In mid-spring this year, we added Roses (blushing knock out, Lichfield Angel, and coral drift), hidecote lavender, two asters, and another lavender moved from the backyard (originally from our last house). I also planted a catmint that is so far looking like it needs more sun and two Gerber daisies that I’ll want to move eventually since the colors don’t really fit in. Some more photos for now,

Always a good sign of soil health when you have mushrooms popping up in July 🍄

Making Memories

While my 16-year-old sister was at the beach last month, she stopped by the local bookstore and bought me a copy of The Image of the City by Kevin Lynch. Amazing. A lot has changed since it was published in 1960, but the main idea is just as important today: we should work to enhance the quality of the experience of each city. Is the city easy to navigate? Is it memorable? Is it hospitable?

Throughout the book, Lynch uses small drawings to explain his theories. Now, instead of practice my signature when I’m bored, I’ve been doodling:

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 5.41.02 PM

This is my idea of the best highway experience. The road travels toward the city, embraces the full broadside view of its beauty, then bends around. In Richmond, there is a reoccurring conversation about the view of Richmond from the highway (especially traveling south on I-95). Lynch’s research gives good context to this and similar, ongoing conversations.

To explain his desire to improve cities, Lynch uses the terms legible and imageable. Basically, does it make sense and is it memorable? If it doesn’t make sense to the viewer then it won’t be memorable. I have to add, you want your city to memorable for the right reasons: beautiful, consistent, dramatic, historic, dynamic, creative, vibrant, efficient.

To describe the “imageable city,” Lynch chooses five elements that he believes make up the urban experience. Each of these can either be completely forgettable or incredibly memorable. Here are some examples from Richmond:

  • Paths (Monument Ave., Grace St., the Boulevard)
  • Edges (the James River)
  • Districts (The Fan, Church Hill, and many others)
  • Nodes (downtown, Carytown, MacArthur Ave.)
  • Landmarks (The Sailors and Soldiers Monument, The Carillon)

Fortunately, Richmond has been blessed with examples that show off the potential beauty of each element. At the same time, there are many issues with the “Richmond image.” To many, it’s a confusing and disconnected city. 

To move forward, we need to find simple ways to turn everyday elements into memorable, quality experiences. For decades, economic development in Richmond equated to wedging large-scale projects in or near the central business district. These projects aren’t going to improve the overall experience of the city. In contrast, improving the most basic elements—paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks—will gradually create what Christopher Silver refers to as the “Good City.”

The real lesson of the book is that urban form is important from border to border. It’s a lesson for us as we work to create the best possible Richmond: a city that is coherent, beautiful, and vital.