Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cheyenne Botanic: Half the work's Before Breaking Ground

41 tons of Gneiss from the Granite Canyon Quarry came in two long-bodied End-dump loads.  It may have broken the truck's bed gate coming out... This stone is famous for being crushed into gravel, used as ballast for train tracks all around the west.

Scoria, or "red lava rock" to most of us, weighs about 50-70% of what the same volume of gravel would, so it was an awkward middle weight of not-heavy-enough-for-a-big-truck but not-light-or-small-enough-for-just-my-pickup, making us get creative about shipping it up from Colorado.  The same with the expanded shale...

A bit of a challenge using exotic materials.

It usually feels like half the work is just mobilizing the material.  There is much calling around quarries, truckers, and material dealers. 
We made plans for weeks, and spent a whole day just delivering stuff on Thursday. 

Luckily, I am working alongside Jacob Mares, Outdoor Hortculturist at Cheyenne Botanic, who has been creative and capably working ahead of time to get everything "mise en place", as my colleague back home says, before we even break ground.

 Jacob told me about Rooted in Cheyenne," a city movement which properly plants and establishes trees in Cheyenne cheaply and efficiently.

I was fascinated to learn that Cheyenne's Urban Forestry Department(click for fun video) uses a cutting-edge tree planting method which echoes some of what is done for rock garden plants.  The spring bare-root shipped trees (big sticks in a box) are planted into bays of pea gravel, where they spend the summer and grow out massive root systems.  In fall, they are lifted, the pea gravel easily falling away, to be planted bare-root.  Those who have been observing the results are stunned, especially by approximately 90% success rates.

We ran around Cheyenne bottle-testing sands and "topsoil" to find what we need.  Probably one of the easiest and most useful methods of finding out what soil is actually made of.  Click the link to arm yourself with a great tool if you don't know about it already.  

This positively baking  hot site will be irrigated to accommodate the greatest range of steppe, alpine, and desert plants.  We will use overlapping-path overhead irrigation- in this case "MP Rotators," which operate well with less pressure.  The new thing here is that they will all be plumbed in with flexible piping which is only a foot or so deep below the varying, steep grade of the garden, so that in the event of any repairs in the distant future, only small rocks and not giant boulders will need to be moved to access the lines.  The other new thing, a challenge, is trying to irrigate it all from the middle without any traditional perimeter heads, allowing us to get dramatic with giant, steep stones right against the path.

(In the past we've piped in a grid of hard PVC and buried it below original grade, then connected risers/swing-arms up to meet the finished grade, making the main line many feet deep below tons of rocks- which will be a real pain if and when it needs repair!  I predict any sane soul would create a new system in that future event...)
We are building this garden with the long-term in mind.

No matter what, it wont' need as much water as a bluegrass lawn.

Otis was on front desk duty.

1 comment:

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

I love dumped piles of rock. Brilliant stuff happens in those piles, especially with those irregular blocks with their breaks.

Different stuff for you than your other big projects. Will be interesting to see what you do with it!