Fantasy Land

12 Sep

At least one of the raised beds could use something to keep the winter wet away from the cacti, succulents and other xerophytes it contains. I have the idea to knock some posts into the ground as supports for a roof of transparent corrugated pvc roofing sheets. It would be simple and cheap to build. Plus, if the roof were secured to the posts using bolts I could take it off for summer, because let’s face it, it wouldn’t be much to look at. But there’s the rub.

Why would I have something ugly in my garden just for the sake of being able to grow some plants I wanted? Having a collection of unusual plants isn’t the be-all and end-all.

There’s another consideration too. The raised beds are partially curved in plan so I wouldn’t be able simply to bang posts in four square, as at least one of them would stand in the middle of a path. My mum visited this morning and suggested I round out one corner of the pvc sheets to fit the shape of the raised bed, which would work. Besides being practically minded, she also has an eye for design, and suggested a sail. Design and usefulness – what a great idea.

Trouble is, these sails are generally made from a fabric that provides shade. Obviously shade is no use for this application. I need a fabric that lets the light through. Looking around, i’ve found that there’s something called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE for short, which is flexible, strong, transparent, waterproof, UV stable and 1% of the weight of glass. It would be a perfect fabric to construct a canopy from.

Instead of a triangle shaped sail, four or more supports could be used to support a canopy with a hypar (hyperbolic paraboloid) design to it –

hypar canopy in a garden setting

This way the water could be shed off two sides of the canopy and more importantly, it would look so much more elegant and sculptural than a design with three or four points arranged on the same plane.

Imagine the applications it could have. The water run-off could provide for an area in which to pack marginals. The contrast with sparsely planted desert area with stone mulch could be used to spectacular effect.

If this is starting to sound like the Eden Project, well guess what? the Eden Project biomes are ETFE structures, like the Allianz Arena in Munich or the Beijing Water Cube built for the Olympics, albeit these are constructed of inflatable ETFE cushions rather than single sheets. If it’s good enough for a superpower bent on world domination then it’s good enough for me.

I think it’s safe to say that before I managed to pay for the suppliers, architect, structural engineers, builders and probably the local council’s planning department, i’d have run out of money.


5 Responses to “Fantasy Land”

  1. Loree / danger garden September 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Has your mom been looking through the stack of papers on my desk? Guess what I sketched out earlier this summer? A sail…something to deflect the water from my in-ground Agaves, and yet still look nice. The plan was over the long summer I would find fabric and construct just such a thing…well here it is mid-September and I haven’t even gotten started.

    • thechthonianlife September 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      It’s got to be done in our climates, hasn’t it?
      Fruitful as it was to trawl through then internet for ideas, I didn’t find anyone selling the exact thing I wanted, which would make getting hold of it expensive. Nor could I find any suitable fabric besides ETFE. The parents of one of the other children in my eldest’s class are architects: I asked them if they had ever worked with ETFE or similar and they just gave me A Look. If I ever get any further with it i’ll post again.

  2. Outlaw/Peter September 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    What a beautiful rain shield this would make! I’ve been trying to think of something to shield some of my agaves, too but only came up with using old windows nailed to 4×4 lumber. It will look atrocious but perhaps do the job and will be in an area not visible from the house. I like your stylish sail idea much better but since I’ve a garage full of old window sashes and not much time before the rains start, I’ll probably end up with a bunch of slanted galss table affairs.

    • thechthonianlife September 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Your idea would have character and I can picture it in your garden too.

      It’s see-through corrugated plastic all the way for me. If i’m honest I like bumping back down to earth.


  1. Cheers « The Chthonian Life - November 7, 2012

    […] other news, a relative of mine works for a firm who may be able to supply a fabric suitable for the rain shelter I was thinking about. I have to be careful that I don’t create a […]

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