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Landscaping with Stone Borders

Updated on May 18, 2015
Rock borders in my New Hampshire back yard.
Rock borders in my New Hampshire back yard. | Source

Building Stone Borders for Flowerbeds

Using stone to make low borders around planting areas gives a wonderfully natural look. It sure beats all the plastic and metal edgings that you can buy. In New England and other regions with plenty of rocks, you can collect the stone from your own yard.

I started building these miniature stone walls about six years ago. Haven't stopped. I love the sturdy look of the vintage walls seen throughout New Hampshire and other states around there. Now I have my own version right in my yard.

Here are my tips for constructing a dry, fieldstone border for your landscaping. The photo shows my planting beds by the back deck with the walls I built.

Where to Start?

  1. Determine the outline of your planting space and mark in the dirt where you want the border to be. You can also use the garden hose to lay out the line. I recommend a graceful curve. You might prefer straight lines with 90 degree corners. It's your project so do it the way you want.

    Since I use field stone, it doesn't lend itself to sharp corners. That's my experience, anyway.

  2. Gather the stones. At first we just picked them up as we cleared areas for planting. We found more once we started digging. Collect both large and small stones.

    Where I am in New Hampshire is old glacial area, so the rocks are granite and rounded in shape. Do not collect stones from old walls, even if those are tumbling down. In NH, it is against the law. Those are historical and protected.

  3. Pile the rocks near the area where you want to build your low wall. No use moving them more often than necessary (unless you want the extra exercise).

Instructional Books for Building Stone Walls

Building Dry-Stack Stone Walls
Building Dry-Stack Stone Walls

My low rock borders don't require a lot of expertise, but maybe you are planning a higher wall. In that case, I'd definitely want a book like this to guide me.

 

Dry stone walls don't use concrete to hold them together.

Laying the Base and Building Upwards

  1. I like to put 3 or 4 stones across to form the base. I use some of the smaller stones here. See the Photo Section below for the visual on this.
  2. The next layer of stones needs to fit the contours of the first layer and interlock with each of the stones in the 2nd layer. Put small stones in between to get larger ones level or to fill gaps between them.
  3. If you slant the stones slightly towards the center, then they are less likely to fall out of the wall.
  4. Keep adding layers. Overlap them across pairs of stones in the layer below.

See My Stone Borders Being Built - Photos by Virginia Allain

Accumulating the rocks - when I take my daily walk, I always bring back a rock or two that I find along the way.
Accumulating the rocks - when I take my daily walk, I always bring back a rock or two that I find along the way. | Source
Laying the first level.
Laying the first level. | Source
Adding more layers of rock.
Adding more layers of rock.
Curving the wall to go around a tree. It will stop at the wooden raised bed.
Curving the wall to go around a tree. It will stop at the wooden raised bed.
A side view of a border of rocks.
A side view of a border of rocks.
One of my earlier borders made of New Hampshire fieldstone.
One of my earlier borders made of New Hampshire fieldstone.
This planting bed is elliptical and includes several trees in it.
This planting bed is elliptical and includes several trees in it.
I was really pleased by the round border surrounding the maple tree.
I was really pleased by the round border surrounding the maple tree.
Didn't it turn out great!
Didn't it turn out great!
Another rock border in our community.
Another rock border in our community.

Have You Built a Stone Wall?

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I'm using rounded field stone. If you have flat stones like flagstone, it makes it easier.

Videos Showing How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

These videos show a regular sized wall, so just apply the same principles but on a smaller scale for a flower bed border made of stacked stone.

I see some people just put a single stone to form a border for planting areas. That's fine, especially if you don't have very many stones.

My preference is to mimic the stone walls that you see around New England. These go back to the colonial days. Each farmer had to clear the trees and drag large and small stones out of the field to plow for crops. Putting the stones to use as a wall for the field was a natural way to go.

Enjoy the Beauty of Stone Walls - with these books

Driving through New England, I'm enchanted by the centuries-old rock walls along the country roads. There is so much history here and if only these old stones could tell us their stories.

A Pictorial History of New England Stone Walls

Good Fences: A Pictorial History of New England's Stone Walls
Good Fences: A Pictorial History of New England's Stone Walls

Learn the history and the various styles of stone walls. Includes interviews with wall builders.

 

How to Make a Dry Stacked Field Stone Wall - Video Tutorial

Be Sure to Wear Gloves - To Protect Your Hands

G & F 1852-3 Women Soft Jersey Garden Gloves, Women Work Gloves, 3-Pairs Green/Pink/Blue per Pack
G & F 1852-3 Women Soft Jersey Garden Gloves, Women Work Gloves, 3-Pairs Green/Pink/Blue per Pack

I buy gloves in multi-packs so I'll have plenty on hand. They wear out and get holes in them. My preference is for soft ones like this so I can still feel the plants, stones, etc. as I work.

 

Building More Stone Borders

I gathered quite a few stones last fall, so this summer I can continue building my rock borders. Some of the early ones need reworked. I may never get finished.

(photo by Virginia Allain)

Volunteers Learn Dry Stone Wall Techniques

© 2013 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about Your Landscaping Plans

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    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 22 months ago from Central Florida

      I'd love to have a small stream. We do have a magnificent lake just a half mile walk away.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 22 months ago from Central Florida

      I'm really fortunate that in New Hampshire there are plenty of free stones. I pick them up when I go walking.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 22 months ago from San Francisco

      I've never known a gardener who thought her garden was finished, so I can understand how you feel those walls may never be finished, either.

      What a beautiful place you live! I thought I heard a brook while I read.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      how much money did you paid for the stones? Here a bag cost $50. A garden needs at least 20 packs for me.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 2 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love the look of stone borders and walls. That's a whole lotta work!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 2 years ago from Vermont

      We like to use native stones to build rock walls in our gardens also. Every couple years they need to be redone - or at least that's what my stone artist husband claims :D. I think he just likes the process of fitting the stones together artistically. I just love stone walls and rock borders, the more informal the better.

    • profile image

      DebW07 3 years ago

      I like having a few stones and stone walls in my garden, it gives it a unique look. Nice job!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      What fun! Thanks for sharing! ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I love the stone walls and borders. Thanks for showing how to do it!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 3 years ago

      Stones and rocks are just the best for all kinds of borders. I love 'em!

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      I have cement blocks all around my flower and veggie beds. I don't plan to change them, it was way to much work getting them there in the first place. Warning: They do leech out lime so plant acid lovers near the back! Love your rock borders.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 3 years ago

      John made 2 really nice borders around the gardens in our front yard - he found a bunch of old bricks under a porch, and had enough to use them as the outline. It really does neaten up the patch!

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 3 years ago

      My garden takes care of itself mostly, but I do have plans to make a little communal veggie garden out the front to try to encourage my ever-busy neighbours to discover how much better fresh vegetables taste.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      @rattie lm: You are right, there's nothing as great as fresh-from-the-garden veggies. I have so many big pine trees that vegetables aren't happy here. I plant flowers that like shade and also blueberry and blackberry bushes.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      When I get into a house I plan to do a bit of landscaping, mostly to create a serene garden patio space.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      @jlshernandez: Sounds lovely.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 3 years ago

      I bought stone edger from the local nursery which look like real stones. Each one is about 12 inches long and have the look of 3 or 4 rocks abutting together. Each one overlaps the next one and can be curved. I built one around a tree and around some shrubs.

    • profile image

      CannyGranny 3 years ago

      Sigh. I'm in a small flat now and miss my stone borders

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      @suepogson: I visited Yorkshire once and enjoyed it tremendously. Maybe you'll want to make some rock borders.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 3 years ago

      My father came from Yorkshire, England - and I remember the amazing dry stone walls from visits as a child. I love you miniature versions.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      You inspire me to start my own stone borders

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