Posts in Garden
Dowsing for Genesis

Basically, wallers are spare-parts jobbers. The loose pieces of indigenous stone they collect and parcel out are really nothing more than the duft of earth’s crowning mantle. In rare cases, bedrock, stone’s “birthmother”, is present on a building site and can come into play as a defining element of a dry stone design.

Read More
Slate Bauble

Upon completion, the Bauble perched on its temporary base in the sugarhouse woodshed for three months while the adhesive that held it together cured.

Read More
Landscape and Lasting Friendships

When they bought the old farmhouse in the early eighties the town road passed within eight feet of the front door. Robin and David Key were willing to overlook that serious drawback because they were in love with the ancient apple trees, the gurgling brook and the wealth of wildlife on the property. All of that was outside the back door just beyond a precipitous drop in the landscape. The retaining wall I would soon build to create a level backyard was the first in a series of dry stone projects we took on together over the following thirty years.

Read More
TCLF Garden Dialogues: Artists in Residence: Vermont

A fourth generation of the Key family has begun to ramble Winhall Hollow. Pond and stream, woods and fields, are the wider setting for their active home and garden life. Into the mix comes long-time friend and dry stone specialist, Dan Snow. He has constructed numerous stone features on the grounds around their house and barns. Stone from the property has been used to fashion steps, patios, retaining walls and fences. Robin Key’s landscape design has seamlessly woven a contemporary aesthetic into the historic fabric of the Hollow.

Read More
The Isosceles Stone Wall

Even without the silhouette of a crosswalking pedestrian or leaping deer, road signs with a triangular outline convey a message of caution; warning the traveler to be aware of what lies ahead. The sharp angles draw attention because they represent sudden change. Survival of the human species has depended on the ability of individuals to recognize signs of change and to adapt quickly to new situations.

Read More
The Holy Well

Excavation of the hillside spring revealed layers of geologic stratification. Top soil lay on coarse gravel over pure sand on top of clay hardpan. The design called for ground water that trickled out of the sand layer to be trapped in a hollow under a half-shell overhang. Recycled slate from building foundation ruins and cobbles from a gravel pit were combined to shape the dry stone installation.

Read More
Piling Pumpkins

There are steps along the way to completing a project that deserve celebration. Yesterday the north wall of the “pumpkin seed” garden fence was topped out at its eight foot height. While clambering around on ladders and icy boulders is exhilarating in its own way, I’m glad to be finished with this stage of the work. Left to do on the fence is the final course of coping stones and filling in the break in the wall line that’s been used for loader access to the garden’s interior.

Read More
Building the Ruminator

In the beginning the idea was to make it a solitary object out in the field north of the garden. I had visions of a compost carousel with four pie-shaped stalls. Then it was a long barrow-shaped affair with tractor ramps to the top of the bins. I knew little about composting but I was having lots of fun with modeling clay imagining the construction of a dry stone Ruminator. Scale model making is an enjoyable pursuit that helps develop spatial acuity. The process of shaping clay is slow enough for deliberation to take place and fast enough for a form to observably emerge. Results unfold in an organic fashion.

Read More
Swept up in Stone

The autumn 2014 issue of Garden Design magazine is a beauty to behold. In its newly re-conceived subscription-only, advertisement-free format, the magazine is like a coffee table book with sumptuous photographs on every page. My thanks go out to the Garden Design staff for including my work alongside that of many talented artisans, to Lindsey for a clear and compelling article, and to Gemma and Andy for the truly splendid photography.

Read More
Lillehammer Art Museum Sculptured Garden

Continuing on the subject of sculpture gardens, here’s a nice example I saw yesterday outside the Art Museum in Lillehammer, Norway. Created in 1992 by Bard Breivik, the sculptured garden is a cascade of stone and water. It begins serenely on flat ground at the height of the space. There, a screen of vertical granite slabs encloses a dry courtyard, a green lawn is bisected by a flagstone path, and the water course begins by spilling from a granite monolith into a long, stone trough. The water descends in multiple streams through a series of channels to a reflecting pool at the bottom of a steep rockery. Breivik’s sculptured garden is a good example of art that interprets nature without imitating it.

Read More
Dedication of the BMAC Sculpture Garden

During my working life I’ve shifted freely, back and forth, from artist to dry stone waller. Whatever the final outcome of any work, it’s been the making that I’ve liked the best. With ‘Rock Rest’, I enjoyed the creative process so much that I built the piece twice; once in my Dummerston stone yard and once here beside the museum. The stone was initially collected from a steep slope on a wooded property in Townshend. It lay there for twelve thousand years after being plucked from the ledges by the last ice age. In ‘Rock Rest’ I’ve attempted to simulate the natural process that turns bedrock into loose stone. I’ve always been fascinated by the way stones separate from one another but lock more tightly together as they slide apart.

Read More
What's Love Got To Do With It?

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.

Read More
Rock Rest

Three days this week were devoted to dismantling and reassembling a sculpture titled ‘Rock Rest’. The piece was designed and constructed last December at my stone yard with the intention that it would eventually be installed at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s new sculpture garden. On Sunday I numbered and catalogued the 50+ stones in the piece and transported them, by five truck and trailer loads, seven miles to Brattleboro. The stones were spread out across the parking lot in preparation for placement in the piece.

Read More