What's Love Got To Do With It?

I recently received a request for an interview from garden writer Hazel Sillver for an upcoming feature on stone walls and stone art for the September issue of Homes&Gardens (UK) magazine. Thought I'd share her questions and my responses.

Q: Why do you work with dry stone? What do you love about it?

A: As Tina Turner sings, “What’s love got to do with it?” I wouldn’t put stone in the category of things I love. It’s a practical medium for working in the outdoors. In the circles I travel, stone is plentiful and relatively inexpensive as a building material. It stores well; no need to protect it from the elements. Dry stone is a basic construction method. One material combined with one skill set and a few hand tools is all that’s needed to begin a project. For all it’s simplicity the possibilities for dry stone are endless.

Q: Aesthetically, what effect do dry stone structures have on a garden?

A: If the colors and patterns of the plantings are the picture, then stone structures are the picture frame. They can be minimal or gilded, dominating or retiring. Dry stone features are more or less visible depending on the season but they remain a steady presence at all times of the year in the garden.

Q: How could a dry stone wall be made more ornamental and/or more contemporary?

A: The techniques used to set stones in relation to one another can be varied. The sizes and shapes of the stones in any supply are often the final determining factor in the design of a dry stone structure. The supply limits the possibilities, focusing the process of design on what is doable. Limits actually increase the potential for a successful outcome. By first assessing the qualities of the available stone, a more ornamental or contemporary design might be considered and pursued.

Q: Other than traditional walling and small sculptures, how can dry stone be used to create interesting structures / landmarks in the garden?

A: Dry stone can be set in a more horizontal aspect to create a relief or mosaic. A dry stream is an example of a relief. A labyrinth is an example of a mosaic. It can be fashioned into furniture, such as tables and benches.

Q: Which is your favorite type of stone and why?

A: Every type of stone offers possibilities to create. The key is to recognize the assets and liabilities of each. By working around their weaknesses and taking advantage of their finer qualities every stone type can be appreciated and used to best effect.