Hanging Garden

This is the ninth of ten short essays on the design and stone work I did on Rice Mountain for the Berg family over an 18 year period beginning in the late 1980's.

The stone work that completed the garland of gardens that trim the Berg’s home began as a tribute to the All-Star quarterback, John Elway. Mrs. Berg’s dream, of a front lawn large enough for a game of touch-football after Thanksgiving dinner, instigated the progression of building events that culminated in the creation of the Hanging Garden. To an inveterate NFL fan like Mrs. Berg, a timber-framed trellis at the edge of her front lawn will never be quite as good as a football goal post. But in it’s own league, the Hanging Garden turned out to be a winner.

At the southwest corner of the gardens, high stone walls support a wood deck and Adirondack-style fence. The deck beams jut out past the deck to form the trellis framework. Below is a stone patio shaded in summer by a canopy of greenery. Linking the lawn to the patio, a narrow stairway slices through the walls. At the bottom step, one of the wall corners erupts into an explosion of fractured stone frozen in motion. The opposite corner makes a proper right-angle turn, the wall continuing a zig-zag course until it meets the barn foundation ruin. One section of the hanging garden’s retaining walls springs from a piece of artificial ledge. I must have been nostalgic for the early days of my work on the Rice Mountain, back when the bedrock was still lain bare all around, to add this element so late in the garden’s design. At the top of the high walls a series of stones protrude. My original trellis construction incorporated the cantilevered stones and  beam pockets. It was replaced with an improved design that made the beam pockets obsolete, turning these utilitarian details into decorative features.  

While John Elway might have been Mrs. Berg’s quarterback hero, her favorite receiver, and mine, was “Wyo.” Named after the state where she was born, Wyoming, or, Wyo, for short, came to the mountain as a puppy and quickly won the hearts of all. Being a frisky border collie, she tore around the building site at breakneck speed, stopping only long enough for a friendly greeting. Since I was often bent over, lifting and setting stone, I got more than my fair share of face licks. Wyo couldn’t get enough of ball chasing. Once she realized that I would throw a tennis ball for her any time she brought one to me I became her go-to guy for ball play. As teammates do, we bonded through the fun of the game. During the years I worked there it was always satisfying to complete an area of stone work and move on to other projects but at the same time a bit sad to leave the mountain and say good by to my friend, Wyo, the little dog who brought so much good cheer to my laboring days.