Friday, September 27, 2013

Stone Walls

To me there is something romantic about stone walls. I think of Italian villas with pink or yellow roses cascading down the sides of chunky stone walls. There is a timelessness about them as this is the original material from which we created our first barriers from wildlife and yikes, invading hordes.

Rock and stone is a renewable source. It is under our feet every day. Mountains give up their loose bits by letting them rumble down to level ground or throw them  skyward with incredible force. All we have to do is collect the ones we like.

In my garden there are times when it feels that all that I grow well is stone. When weeding or planting I remove bits of stone or pebbles to clear my pristine patch of earth only to find the next time more bits of rock waiting to be removed.

And so it was that I decided to look around in my neighborhood for stone walls. Being in an older part of town I knew of two stone houses and walked in that direction.



Growing up in Quebec we called these fieldstone houses. I don 't see many at all in the cities I go to in Ontario. Instead I believe brick was used more often.


Building rock walls is an art and a fading one at that. The wall (above)  has looked liked this for years. I think it was perhaps put together haphazardly, some stones stayed while others shifted away. It does its job though, marking a boundary.







At first I thought this was a dry laid stone wall (above) but it is not. There is cement holding the rocks in place from behind. This leaves the look of dry laid but with less work and fiddling.


A pretty wall that is cemented with field stone. There is a progression in rock wall building I am trying to show you. Early stone walls were dry laid - think of Scotland's rolling hills and pastures divided by dry laid stone walls. Today, time is a precious commodity. Dry laid walls are very time consuming to build and require some knowledge of technique and skill.


The next two photos below is a newer form of building stone walls in my neighborhood. The size of the stone cut from a quarry is the main benefit to building a wall quickly.



The average homeowner can not build this wall. A bobcat is definitely required to lift and move these rocks, or should I say boulders?

You may remember our backyard renovation a few summers ago. My hubby built the stone retaining wall himself. The stone is cut on all sides - not our first choice - we like a more natural stone. But it fits together more easily than field stone for example.



While my new wall is never going to have cascading roses flow over it, it is does what it is needed to do and looks mighty fine in the process.


22 comments:

  1. I have had rock walls on my mind since struggling to build a low fieldstone one this past summer, so this was a fun tour of different styles. Everywhere I look now I examine wall building techniques -- never used to even notice, but now I do. I think yours looks neat and cleanly built and just fine!

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    1. Hi Laurrie, I know what you mean. Ever since my husband reset another dry stack wall by our front door we have often thought of taking a proper course on walling. Now we scrutinize every one we see. There is definitely skill needed and strong arms and back!

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  2. The wall that is cemented with field stone is pretty but it has no place for small animals to hide and surprise seedlings to grow. That's why I prefer the loose walls.

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    1. Hi Denise, you are quite right. We have a chipmunk or two that makes it home in our stone walls. Unfortunately any surprise seedlings I find in the walls are weeds.

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  3. Mnie się podobają kamienne murki, ogrodzenia i domy. Mają wiele uroku i są bardzo ozdobne. Pozdrawiam.
    I like the stone walls, fences and houses. They have lots of charm and are very decorative. Yours.

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    1. I like the stone houses too. I would be happy in one with a big fireplace roaring in the winter.

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  4. Hi Patty
    Glad you're feeling better. Stone is something I didn't appreciate enough until I started design work. You've captured some excellent shots of stonework - I especially liked the shot of the long stone wall and the boulders.

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    1. Hi Astrid, Thanks the arm is beginning to feel better. If you ever want to read a book on stone take a look at In the Company of Stone by Dan Snow. He builds walls and follies and writes like a poet.

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  5. I like them all. My stone wall garden microclimate is dear to my heart. Long story as to why, but the stone, as you say, adds personality and timelessness. Great post!

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    1. Hi Beth, I tried to find a post on your stone wall but couldn't. If you did write one could you tell me where to look? I haven't planted anything in my walls yet, though moss is starting to grow on some stones.

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  6. We used to have lots of rock, when we lived on the slopes of Table Mountain's narrow end above Camps Bay. My husband was saying the only thing he misses is Studerstein. We had a HUGE boulder in the garden Big enough to contain 2 natural pools for the birds. And for us to lie across the surface.

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    1. Diana, that sounds like a very huge boulder. We have one large rock too -tho not nearly as big as yours - and once in a while I sit on it. A very different feeling from sitting on chairs!

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  7. Hi Patty girl !
    I love stone walls ... I saw a lot of historical ones actually while I was a child in Louisbourg .. dry lay and amazing !
    Stones are such a past of a garden .. I can't imagine my garden without them. I hope to expand the usage next year ... when those renos are finished and I can just concentrate on the garden .. will that ever happen??? LOL
    Thanks for stopping by .. I appreciate the advice and kind words .. and yes thank heavens for the kind weather too !! LOL
    Joy : )

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    1. You're welcome Joy! I look forward to seeing some new stonework in the garden when the time comes.

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  8. Your wall turned out nicely, Patty. I am like you, I feel the same romantic feel of a stone wall. It has permanence, and it has the old world feel of craft from long ago.

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    1. Permanence and then perhaps a history or a story? There is the romance,yes?

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  9. I adore stone walls and had one made that traces the graceful slope of our side yard...

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    1. Sounds lovely and alive with movement. Thanks Donna.

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  10. I love stone, too. It feels so permanent. I don't have any place to put a stone wall but am adding more loose stones as decorative accents to the garden this fall. Your wall looks great. :o)

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    1. Tammy, it is funny you mention loose stones. We have a handful of large stones that are interesting and we would like to use them in some special way. I should look to see what you have done with your stones in the garden.

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  11. We don't have as much stone houses or walls locally. Stone columns seem to be an "in" thing though but not walls. I like the samples you showed and yes, it seems you would need training for the freeform ones.

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    1. Bom, it is lot of trial and error and sometimes cutting of the stone. The better you are the less cutting and a developed eye in recognizing patterns in their shapes.

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