New England Stone Walls Tell a Story


We’re famous for our stone walls here in New England. Many of us have them on our properties, but often you’ll find them in our woods as well or see them alongside our interstates as you drive by–remnants of long ago homes or farms that no longer stand.

When I was doing my yearly weeding of my slate walk last weekend, I noticed the lichen on the stones. This year, there’s so much yellow, it almost looks as if we painted them with paint that has now weathered off.


But notice something else (once you finish looking at the lichen in the above 2 photos). I also realized that the walls contained my “gardening history,” so to speak.

In the top photo is a tiny succulent that escaped from a container long ago. I no longer have the container or the succulent, except in this stair crevice.

The next photo shows my begonia grandis alba. This still does come up in my yard, but it has sown itself into the wall as well. I love that.


Here’s sedum Angelina, from a nearby planter.


This creeping lysmachia came from a planter years ago. Now it pops out of the wall and the steps at random intervals.


And this is a blue campanula. It pops out of the wall in 3 places. I had it growing up on top, but the Spoiler hated it so he had me compost it. The plant apparently had other ideas, and popped out through the wall. I always think of this as the plant that thwarted the Spoiler!

So that’s my garden history in my stone wall.

4 thoughts on “New England Stone Walls Tell a Story

  1. The Chatsworth Lady June 14, 2019 / 12:32 pm

    The prior owners of this house used pieces of slate to construct ‘walls’ around six raised planting beds about a foot high, which means of course sections are often in some kind of semi-collapsed state. I suspect that the problem is the material: a real STONE wall is no doubt both high and heavy enough to keep itself intact, even when plants happen to invade the spaces. I’ve always been curious about whether mortar is used between the stones or not. The previous owners slapped some in between a few stones but for the most part they seem to simply have been laid one atop the other; a not very sturdy construction, for sure. I’m sure a REAL low stone wall would have been much better!

  2. gardendaze June 14, 2019 / 1:17 pm

    Our stone walls do collapse here too, for a variety of reasons–chipmunk nests are one of them, and frost heaves are another. This wall is over 60 years old. I am told by neighbors that it did come down once and was rebuilt with some kind of fabric behind it (if I recall correctly) to keep the soil from washing through and out. But no mortar. Stone wall construction is truly an art. Done well, it’s a thing of beauty. And done poorly….well, we’ll not talk about it.


  3. tonytomeo June 15, 2019 / 2:50 am

    I built a very nice retaining wall at my former home, only to get it dismantled by a neighbor who wanted the stone when I was not there!

  4. gardendaze June 15, 2019 / 5:32 am

    I am sure, once we are gone, all of my gardens will be rototilled back into lawns. It’s very discouraging to see what new owners do to the houses in my neighborhood now! I hope my walls will at least fare better, although the plants will no doubt be herbicided into oblivion.


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