Place Shaping Walls

During recent trips to the Republic of Ireland and England I observed the variety and frequency of the stone walls that are so embedded in the landscape in those countries. The walls are of the landscape — but demonstrate man’s need for reorganization. Primarily used to corral livestock and demark crop boundaries, the walls are part of the fabric of the land.

Grazing pastures and agricultural fields separated by stone walls are characteristic of the landscape in this area of the Dingle Peninsula, Republic of Ireland. Here brambles have grown over many of the dry stacked walls in the distance.

Grazing pastures and agricultural fields separated by stone walls are characteristic of the landscape in this area of the Dingle Peninsula, Republic of Ireland. Here brambles have grown over many of the dry stacked walls in the distance.

Dry Stacked Walls

A variety of wall building techniques are used when it comes to stone walls. Field stone walls are constructed from stones that are collected from a site’s rocky earth and are typically dry stacked, sometimes with varying degrees of finesse!

In The Burren, north of the Cliffs of Moher, Republic of Ireland, the rocky uplands provide plenty of material for building walls to keep grazing livestock confined. The stone walls appear to morph out of the earth and blend in with the naturally occurring erratics (large rocks) and other piles of stones.

In The Burren, north of the Cliffs of Moher, Republic of Ireland, the rocky uplands provide plenty of material for building walls to keep grazing livestock confined. The stone walls appear to morph out of the earth and blend in with the naturally occurring erratics (large rocks) and other piles of stones.

Field stone walls from range from rock piles to beautifully orchestrated collages of stone. To ensure a wall’s success and durability, each stone must be carefully chosen to bear weight and support the structure. Some walls are double walled, with connecting stones to create strength.

Benefits of Dry Stacked Walls

Dry stacked walls allow water to drain freely, for normal settling, and freezing/thaw movement. They can be rebuilt or repaired easily.

The voids in these walls also provide habitat for creatures.

From left to right: Dry stacked wall with vertical capstones. Moss and plants are filling the void; a more formal dry stacked wall utilizes small stones; a rustic road-side wall with vertical stacking; a jumble pile wall.

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Mortar Set Walls

Mortar set walls are more expensive when it comes to labor and materials. They also require drainage. Bases must be built to support them. Some walls are veneered over a structural wall. Stones may come from the field, be cut or chiseled. Mortar set walls are sensitive to the elements and can be impacted by heaving and settling. Drainage can be visual and impact the aesthetics.

Due to the less flexible nature of mortar set walls, repairs are not as easily made and can be quite obvious.

Mortar set wall at  Cahernane House Hotel  in Killarney, Republic of Ireland.

Mortar set wall at Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney, Republic of Ireland.

Benefits of Mortar Set Walls

A high level of finish can be obtained.

Walls are very stable; especially for walking on.

Beautifully detailed walls at Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney, Republic of Ireland.

Beautifully detailed walls at Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney, Republic of Ireland.

Some Walls Retain the Earth

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Terraces retained by stone walls shape the gardens at Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England. These walls are a beautiful backdrop to the well-trained roses.

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Mortared stone retaining walls are a feature of the renowned gardens of Christ Church College, University of Oxford.

At Land Morphology we specify native stone for walls whenever appropriate. We used native stone at InSitu Garden in Connecticut, where it is featured in walls and stairs.

InSitu Garden , Redding, CT by Land Morphology

InSitu Garden, Redding, CT by Land Morphology

Photo by  Rob Cardillo . Herb and Vegetable Garden at  Brooklyn Botanic Garden , by Land Morphology

Photo by Rob Cardillo. Herb and Vegetable Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by Land Morphology

At Brooklyn Botanic Garden we utilized Pennsylvania Blue Stone to build dramatic vertical walls that signify the new garden addition is a special place. The walls provide a bright and textural backdrop to the garden.

Photo by  Miranda Estes .  Mid-century Modern  residence’s landscape by Land Morphology.

Photo by Miranda Estes. Mid-century Modern residence’s landscape by Land Morphology.

The stone walls in this Seattle-area garden define the space and help manage grade changes.

Stone walls, particularly when constructed from local materials, are a sustainable design solution. A well-designed and constructed stone wall is a beautiful solution for defining a space.

Christine NackComment