Rudella Geiger. Garden Design. April 19th , 2018.
I remember as a beginning garden designer in California being taken aside by my mentor, a transplanted Englishwoman who owned the nursery, walking through a vast block of salvia, and being told that I could, if I liked, use 30 of them, not the three or five I had typically been planting. It was a liberating moment.
For example, in laying out one backyard, I projected the lines of its building addition into the garden space and then aligned the swimming pool and wooden walkway with those lines. The result is orderly and cohesive, even after being softened with planting.
In my own garden, I remember laying out an arbor, with its posts 10 feet high, and listening to trusted friends wondering whether it was not a little too tall. Thankfully I stuck to my guns, and some 18 years later, wreathed in wisteria and anchored at the ground by clusters of pots, the arbor seems just right.
That means that if the riser is 5 inches, the tread (what you walk on) should be 16 inches. All I can say is that the rule is true, and I have used it from steep canyon faces to gentle changes of patio levels. A useful corollary states that 5 feet is the minimum width for two people climbing steps side by side.
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