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Garden Designers Roundtable: Stone

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

I have kindly been invited to participate as a guest writer at the Garden Designers Roundtable to discuss the topic of stone. Being both a landscaper and a stonemason I think it is a fair assessment to say I have a passion for this subject. So here is my contribution to the decision.


 Throughout the ages stone has been utilised by man for a variety of uses, ranging from the spiritual to the practical. It is one of mans oldest building materials, and yet its methods of construction have changed very little over time. Here in Ireland, as in many countries, we have a rich history with stone. Even as far back as Neolithic times (4,000-2,300 BC) there is evidence that man was creating amazing stone structures that were not only built for practicality and strength, but also to be something of beauty. Newgrange (just a mere 45min drive from where I am living) is a fantastic example of this.

Newgrange was constructed over 5,000 years ago, around 3,200 B.C. (That’s over 500 years older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt.)

This is one of the things I love about stone, it is permanent. A stone structure, whether it is an ancient building or your little garden wall, has the potential to be there to be admired for generations to come. For archaeologists the great stone structures have been a great aid in mapping out our history, and although more modern stonework is of less importance (historically speaking) it still has a certain ancient presence to it, and defiantly sparks the imagination when encountered along a garden path.

Stone plays a role in most gardens in some form, whether it is a winding stepping stone path, inviting you to a tucked away part of the garden, a paved patio, or a simple rock lovingly dragged from your morning walk and placed in your garden bed (I’m sure most people who have a garden know what I am talking about).

Here are a few of my favourite stone features to include in garden designs.

Stone paths

Stone paths are a great way to lead the eye through the garden, and invite you to explore hidden or tucked away parts of the garden.

Stone seats and benches.

I love including stone seats in gardens for a number of reasons. Firstly I think it is very important to have a spot in your garden where you can sit and take in all your gardening achievements, a place to just get lost in thought. Stone seats are great for this as besides looking like they have been there forever, they are also an inviting place to rest. I also love the folklore associated with stone seats here in Ireland (I have written about this in the past here)

Stone Archways

Stone archways make a great focal point in a garden. They can create a sense of mystery, inviting you to explore what is beyond. They are also an exciting structure to build. One of the most fascinating things about stone arches is the physics behind them, and the fact that the procedure to build them has hardly changed since Roman times back in the 10th century, a procedure so primitive and simple in fact, that you sometimes feel you could be back in Roman times while you are building them.

The exciting part, of course, is when it comes time to remove the arch support.

Another thing you may not have considered about introducing stone into your garden is that you are also providing an additional habitat for rock lovers like moss and lichens.

I find lichens to be fascinating, they are in fact dual organisms, a fungus and one or more algae in a stable, mutually beneficial (symbiotic) partnership. The fungus provides structural form and protects the algae from extremes of light and temperature. Algae are capable of photosynthesis and some of the sugars produced provide the fungus with energy for growth and reproduction. Some lichens can live for many hundreds of years, and being sensitive to pollution levels they are important environmental indicators.

So that’s my lot, To see what see what fellow guest blogger Deborah Silver and esteemed members of the Garden Designers Roundtable have to say on this topic, please follow the links to their posts below. (Please note this discussion begins on Tuesday 24th of May. I have posted a little early due to time restrictions so other links may not yet be updated if you are reading this before that time)

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA

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