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Making Lemonade – or Stone Walls

March 31st, 2012

“He builded better than he knew,
The conscious stone to beauty grew.”
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
(found in Stone in the Garden)

Every time I dig a hole here at Chiot’s Run I end up with more stones than soil. It’s back building work (and biceps too), which I have to look at it as a treasure hunt for stones or it would quickly become frustrating drudgery. There’s a rather large pile of stones in the back that came from the digging of the foundation, I’ve added to it when the rocks I dig up aren’t needed for an immediate project. As a result I have a nice stockpile of stones ready for any project I can dream up, as long as my back can hold up.

Last fall, when I was planting tulips on the back hillside, I dug up rocks by the thousands. Some were small, about the size of a golf ball, most were about the size of a frisbee, and there were a good many that required a spud bar and could be categorized as boulders. I have been wanting to build a small rock wall to hold up the front edge of this bed for years, but have not had the energy or inspiration to do so. This past week, the weather was beautiful, the soil was still soggy, it was too cold to pain the remaining doors, so I decided to work on this wall.

Most of the rocks that went into the wall were dug from the soil that it’s holding back. The result is definitely wonderful as stone walls add a sense of history and permanence to a garden. Where once a garden seemed to drift into the lawn, now there’s a definite dramatic edge. This wall is the perfect height for sitting and from it you can admire the maple grove behind you up over the small hill or the raised bed garden behind the garage. I capped it with large flat stones just for this purpse (the little black garden cat seems to think it’s the perfect spot for her afternoon naps).

I need another day or two to finish up this project, my arms were getting pretty tired by the end of the afternoon I had spent working on this. It’s so nice to see dreams taking shape in the garden. Hopefully this stone wall will help limit erosion on this hillside and provide a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the garden.

Around here building with stone is like making lemonade from lemons. What could be a source of frustration is now a source of raw materials and beauty throughout the garden (not to mention some serious biceps and a strong back).

What’s one of the biggest frustration that you have with your current garden? Have you been able to turn it into lemonade?

For more reading and great inspiration on how to use stone in your garden, I highly recommend this book. After renewing the copy from the library many times I finally purchased a copy for my library. The beautiful images are an inspiration for all the stone projects in my garden.

19 Comments to “Making Lemonade – or Stone Walls”
  1. daisy on March 31, 2012 at 6:23 am

    What a lovely yet strong statement that wall brings to the garden. Great job!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  2. Kiskin on March 31, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Beautiful stone wall and what a sight with all the tulips blooming! What happens when the tulips die back? Are they interplanted with something? How does the bed look in summer?

    Reply to Kiskin's comment

    • Susy on March 31, 2012 at 6:48 am

      I seeded poppies in amongst the tulips so they should be blooming this summer. This is a new bed, it used to be covered in an invasive honeysuckle ground cover. I’m planning on planting some ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint and other perennials along the top of the fall as well to help with any erosion. The stone wall is also planted with small ground covers and plants that can take the dry bit of soil.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Stone Soup on March 31, 2012 at 6:41 am

    It’s just beautiful Susy! And that’s a lot of work, but so lovely to look at, and with a story to tell.

    Reply to Stone Soup's comment

  4. Fawn on March 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Very nice. I can’t imagine the money you would have paid for those stones if you had to purchase them. In S. Louisiana we don’t have stones anywhere so any type of edging or border material requires $.

    I think the task of weeding can get frustrating sometimes but I try to think of it in a Zen way. Be present and aware and enjoy the time. It usually works!

    Reply to Fawn's comment

  5. Melissa on March 31, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Those walls look great! I’d love to have all those in my garden. Stone is a precious commodity around my yard!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  6. tj on March 31, 2012 at 8:27 am

    …That stone wall looks wonderful! I can’t imagine what your arms must look like, sheesh. All I can say is, look out Mr. Chiots! ;o)

    …We have a stone wall like that around our well garden that was here when we bought our place but sadly they’re not stacked properly and every Spring I have to walk around and rearrange stones because they’ve fallen or slid. After seeing your wall I think I need more small flat stones to put in between the large stones for stability. I will have to take a look at that book you mentioned and possibly add it to my Wish List. :o)

    …Beautiful work Susy!

    …Enjoy your day you two!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

  7. Sincerely, Emily on March 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Your stone wall is beautiful, and a lot of work. My biggest frustration at the moment is that all the veggies in the fall/winter garden are still out there growing and i am waiting for the seed heads to develop and dry BUT I need to get the spring garden in…. It is frustrating to pull healthy producing things like lettuce to make room for tomato & pepper transplants. The up side is that there is still a ton of healthy lettuce growing that we can still eat, but it is 80F during the day already and that won’t last long. One variety has bolted and another hasn’t even started, so we will keep munching on the lettuce as long as I can leave it there and it doesn’t bolt.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  8. Mona Casselman on March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Love your “lemonade”. Our yard is full of treasures, too- we refer to gardening as “rearranging rocks” and have created some lovely raised beds. You work with what you have on hand, right?

    Reply to Mona Casselman's comment

  9. Rhonda on March 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    My biggest frustration is not enough land and too much shade. I have this tree that gives great shade to the deck and kitchen but in the afternoon, it shades more than half of the back yard. I have to really think about where I plant due to this tree. Nearly everything is planted along the perimeter of the yard since the shade doesn’t hit there.

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

    • Susy on April 1, 2012 at 7:14 am

      That’s a BIG frustration. Until we purchased the lots on either side of us and had a few large trees taken down that was a big issue here at Chiot’s Run too. The big tree can also cause a problem because they love to steal the nutrients from the soil. I had to dig the tree roots out of my raised beds every year!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. iris on March 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I did a comparable thing with my backyard when I was living in Philly (

    No one had touched the yard in such a long time, that when I was leveling the yard, I kept finding buried bricks. So I reused the bricks to line the flower beds and make a little patio and brick grill. It’s a shame it never got any sun after early spring…all it could grow was daffodils and hyacinths! ha

    Reply to iris's comment

  11. Maybelline on March 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Root Knot Nematodes have spurred me on to plant a raised bed of marigolds, basil, & asparagus along with tomatoes. These companions should team up to destroy those evil nematodes.

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

  12. KimH on April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am

    My frustration in my “garden” is lack of space as well.. My back yard, if you want to call it that, lol, is nothing more than a nice large deck and off that you walk under a giant ash tree that is really beautiful. Absolutely no sun there at all in the summer. M’honey built me a nice poured patio in the postage stamp size “yard” and I have all manner of shade loving plants surrounding it.

    My front yard is a very conventional front yard so I too grow my goodies in the beds around the house, and my mints in a neighbors bed too.. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • KimH on April 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

      Love your wall.. its spectacular!

      Reply to KimH's comment

  13. Emmon on April 6, 2012 at 10:57 am

    It’s funny — I just watched a YouTube video about someone who had a pile of unused rocks in his backyard, and used them, along with an old washtub, to make a pretty nice water feature/fountain. Anyway, it’s nice to see what you did!

    Reply to Emmon's comment

  14. Kendra on April 9, 2012 at 3:28 am

    We all need more low walls so that we can see plants at their level. Some flowers like hellebores need to be peered at from underneath unless they are grown on a wall like yours, and violets seem just so… far away. They are supposed to have an amazing scent but you have to lie on the ground in March to get near them!
    Your wall-building reminds me a bit of Marjery Fish, in We Made a Garden, about her experience of building walls, rockeries etc at East Lambrook Manor, Somerset, first published in the 1950s. Great read.

    Reply to Kendra's comment

    • Susy on April 9, 2012 at 8:13 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on that book!

      Reply to Susy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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