Landscaping with Stone Borders
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- If you slant the stones slightly towards the center, then they are less likely to fall out of the wall.
- Keep adding layers. Overlap them across pairs of stones in the layer below.
See My Stone Borders Being Built - Photos by Virginia Allain
Have You Built a Stone Wall?
Vote in the poll
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
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
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
More Information about Building a Stone Wall
- How to Build Stone Walls and Steps
Easy step by step instructions on how to build a stone wall and steps using versa-lock blocks.
- Build Your Own Dry Stone Wall
Home projects are usually left in the hands of the professionals, but a little bit of garden landscaping is often one that most people can tackle on their own.
© 2013 Virginia Allain