Rock your garden with stone walls
by C.L. Fornari
Do you want to enhance your garden with something that is beautiful no matter the season, and lasts a lifetime? If so, consider rocking your garden with stone walls.
Nothing shows off plants, creates more usable space and adds year-round structure to a landscape like stonework, and there is attractive stone for every garden. In fact, you might have attractive stone in your own backyard.
Carl Yockey, owner of the highly rated Artistic Masonry Co. of Swarthmore, Pa., recommends starting out with what's already on the property. "If there's stone already on the house, we'll try and get similar material for the garden," he says. Older houses often have stones that are on the property, either those that are native to the area or some that were left there when the house was built.
Throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, there are many local quarries that have long supplied stone for area homes and landscapes. Such rocks can give gardens in each area a singular appearance that looks like it just belongs in the landscape.
Jeffrey Mottern, owner of highly rated Mottern Masonry in Fairfax Station, Va., says that in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area you can see local stones on houses and along highways. "There are many types of native stone, but one of my favorites is Carderock stone," he says.
Homeowners in New England often choose their native slate, glacially deposited boulders or granite for their walls. All of which are found in the Northeastern states, so they naturally complement gardens in this area.
In Pennsylvania, Yockey says that Wissahickon Schist, named for a gorge in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, is often seen on houses so he'll try to get similar stones for the garden. "But it also depends on the homeowner's goal in the landscape," he continues. "If they want a dry stack wall, there are better, flatter stones for that."
Stone walls are beautiful, but usually the function comes first. Walls are perfect where the natural grade is steep. They are a beautiful way to level a slope. In the front of houses, stone walls can create raised flower beds that add curb appeal, and in the back they are frequently used to frame patios or create raised-bed vegetable gardens.
In contemplating the addition of stone walls, experts recommend that you first list your goals, be it to level the land, create flower beds, or to add year-round structure and interest. After that, make an appointment with a professional stone worker.
"Your local mason has the experience to put the various stones together so that it's all unified," Mottern says. "You've got some people who specialize in brick or concrete, but a true mason can do it all, knowing the advantages of each material and how to install them so that they last. If the stonework is done right, it's there forever."
C.L. Fornari is a writer, garden consultant, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to creating beautiful landscapes and successful gardeners. She gardens on Cape Cod, blogs at WholeLifeGardening.com, and offers other garden articles at GardenLady.com