Spotlight Material: Serpentine Stone
WHAT IS SERPENTINE?
Serpentine is actually the name for a large group of materials. It is not a single mineral that makes up this category, but rather various materials that fit into a certain formula that determines if they are categorized as serpentine.
The three primary materials that make this up are chrysotile, antigorite, and lizardite, and even though there are many more, the others are rarer.
Serpentine has been used for many years as an Architectural material, for gemstones, asbestos, sculptures, and CO2 sequestration. One of the big problems with serpentine when found in the landscape besides being a hard stone that will need to be cut through, is the fact that there are very few plants that will grow in it. Generally you will have "serpentine soil", which will be soil with some serpentine in it that will leach heavy metals, and not allow for ideal growing situation for most plants. Other areas might just be large rock formations. With such diverse flora across California, there are quite a few natives that have adapted to survive and thrive with this difficult stone. Among those and some favorites are Eriogonum libertinii, Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn', and various sedums.
This project is located in San Luis Obispo, CA. The owners came to us wanting a design solution for their backyard space, however, the hillside that sloped down to the home and was solid serpentine.
The owners were planning on removing it so that space could become plantable, so we suggested they celebrate the abundance of serpentine as an asset, as opposed to paying to haul it off.
A small amount of serpentine was excavated to fill a gabion structure retaining wall. Gabions are usually made with a welded mesh made of sturdy galvanized, coated, or stainless steel wire that won’t bend when filled with an inorganic material. Popular materials are usually rock, brick, or concrete debris. Recently we have seen gabions constructed with recycled materials such as glass and plastic.
The wall is situated to be set inside the hillside, but to also retain the soil and weight behind it. Ipe was used to cap part of the wall and bench to create functional space as well.
1320 Van Beurden Dr.
Suite 202, D-5
Los Osos,CA 93402
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