Beautiful, versatile dry stack walls offer the gardener a welcome landscaping element.
One of the nice benefits of hardscape elements such as dry stack walls is that they are so versatile: They work by themselves as simply a border to a garden bed, or can easily blend with other non-plant pieces of a landscape. This low section of wall gradually increases in height to match the increasing depth of the slope, but complements both the structure and the color of the loose gravel path.
There's a casualness to dry stack walls, an inherent quality that lends itself to freeform shapes and complements more relaxed arrangements of plants, too. This retaining wall lifts the lush collection of flowers up, almost in raised bed fashion, but its loose accumulation of various sized stones provides an easygoing edge to the cottage-style blooms.
Dry stack walls and edges may be created with exact edges and borders, or they can feel more spontaneous. That's certainly the case with this edging surrounding a water garden. The stones feel random but natural all at once, almost as if the border is as much a part of the landscape as the plants. And, the top stones supply the perfect perches for a collection of whimsical sculptures.
A natural spot for dry stack walls is certainly as part of a garden, either as an edge to a garden bed or a retaining wall. But since the technique has a distinctly natural vibe, dry stack walls also work well as hardscape elements on their own, such as this bench. Carved out of a slope in a hill, the sides and back are supported by a long piece of stone that serves as seating.
With plants growing up, over, and around it, this dry stack flower bed edge becomes less a focal point element and instead just one more natural-seeming piece of the landscape. That's to its benefit, because many garden settings don't need hard and fast lines between hardscape and plant pieces of the garden. To create a similar setting, choose plants that will natural trail over and clamor up the dry stack wall.
Dry stack can certainly be used as longer borders in a garden, but it's a technique that's also appropriate for selected, smaller areas of the garden. Here, it's used only for an entryway corner, but thanks to the free-flowing country garden and the curving lines of the gate, the technique works well in this setting.
Dry stack edges are a great way to deal with gardening on a terraced site or hillside. In this garden, medium-sized pieces of flat stone fit securely together to prevent shifting. But since there's no mortar between the stone, plants may grow between cracks and excess water easily drains.
Dry stack walls may be created with large pieces of field stone, which gives it a more naturalistic appearance. But, dry stack walls work well in a more formal garden setting when the stone used is cut to be thinner and more uniform. Here, a decorative garden ornament was inset into the this dry stack wall for an unexpected outdoor accent.
Because dry stack walls are not mortared together, they only work for mid-height uses, usually about three feet or so. This wall makes a nice transition between its tallest section -- set to almost match the height of the garden gate -- and the shorter segments, which serve mostly to mark a border between grass and flowers.
Without mortar, the stones themselves in a dry stack wall must do the job of holding together, which means finding and fitting pieces so the joints don't overlap. And dry stack also needs a bit of a trench or footing dug out -- to a depth of about 6 to 12 inches -- to add more stability. But it's an excellent method for working with a site that may be terraced or shaded, such as this woodland garden.