A sitting wall – and a garden border redo…

A redo of our front yard border has been on the To Do List for quite some time. In fact, it was on my mental shortlist for this year.



Spring turned into summer before I even realized it.

Summer flew by.

The total eclipse came and went.

I complained in August that I hadn’t gotten anything done this year.

Fall arrived and I decided that I needed to just do something.

So, I built a big dinosaur egg!


Ha – I wished. It is totally cool, isn’t it? We saw the big egg at our Botanic Gardens as we were touring a couple of Saturdays ago – while looking for an answer to our front border redo.

As I have mentioned before, I love a particular border at the Botanic Gardens made from block stones.


I considered this border for my raised garden bed last year. Sadly, it didn’t work out for that project. I had my mind set that I would definitely use it for the front yard border. It was perfect. It was like a mini version of a stone courtyard wall. I love courtyard walls. I love stone. A mini version seemed good because our yard is pretty small and has a lot going on.


Then, I started second guessing my decision – because there is a lot going on out there. Would another random element look just as disjointed as the current brick situation? Would the stone blocks be just too much – stepping over the line from “interesting” to “junky”?


Eventually, I decided the block thing was, in fact, just a bit too much. I was sad. I love, love, love those stone blocks…


I had to move on. I sort of moved on. My next thought was a smaller, just barely above grade version of the block stone border.

Yep. A shorter, smaller version of the stone block border was it.


Tad wasn’t sold on the idea of smaller stone block border. He wanted to look at all the options one more time.  So, we did.

Here are all the additional options we considered.

A poured concrete curb. I voted no – too urban.


A flat poured concrete border. Again, I voted no – not interesting enough.


We both still liked the idea of a “sitting” wall as the border itself – or as part of the border.

Tad kept pushing for concrete. I liked this formed concrete couch. It is a piece of functional art. I seriously considered a smaller version of this. Ultimately, it got eliminated because I didn’t want to hire anyone for this front border project.


This type of textured concrete wall always comes up as an option when we talk about outdoor projects. We both love board formed concrete and want to use it in a project. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the project where board formed concrete would make it’s appearance.


Stacked stone sitting wall? I liked it, but too “formal” for our project?


The concrete base with a stone cap was cool, but felt a bit too modern and blocky for the mountain retreat thing I continue to strive for.


We, then, stumbled upon the winner!


River rock that matches our existing flower bed material! A cut stone cap that matches some stepping stones already in the yard! A “mountain, state park” kind of feel! I liked it! Tad liked it!


This inspiration was found at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. The place is cool – quiet, small, pretty, and free to visit. It feels like a private park…

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Back to our garden in progress.

We now have our own sitting wall out front!


We built it ourselves – despite Tad initially suggesting that I call up someone to come build it.

We dug down a foot or so – carefully avoiding the sprinkler system,

Dug down one...

threw down some mortar,

Mortar base for structure...

placed a few cinder blocks for the structure,


gathered some river rocks for the facing,


applied the river rocks with some more mortar,


did some shopping for the bench top,


decided we needed a time capsule,


installed the cut stone top,


filled in some finish mortar between the stones,


decided the one end needed to be built out a bit more,


and stepped back to view our handiwork – the bench and the bird!


A view from the porch…


One step closer to feeling like our own private park…


We talked about doing the whole border as a sitting wall, but I still wanted to see the moss boulders from the front yard. We also talked about doing a step down to a shorter border for the rest of the border like this wall.


In the end, Tad decided that a flat border would be easier to mow and trim.

Keeping with the elements already in the yard, I opted to replace the brick with a buff stone.


It still needs to be set level in a mortar base, but I can already tell that it was the right choice!


Brick before…


Beautiful buff stone after…


Yep! I am hoping for a finish date by the New Year. So, check back 12/31-ish…

Landscaping – stacked stone redo…

This project cost only $5.22. I have never, ever, ever had such a low cost project in all my history of home ownership. Shocking, but exciting – for me. And, I get to cross off another project from my list. Also, exciting – for me.

Our stacked stone front planting bed was one of the first landscaping projects we did about 15 years ago. The stacked stone wall has worked out great as far as staying in place and adding interest to our front yard.  The reason I want a redo is because the grass has worked it’s way between the stones. The grass has invaded the bed quicker than I can yank it out.


Additionally, some of the other plants in the bed have decided to escape – and have been working their way between the rocks and down into the lawn.  It has been pretty messy over the last few years. This last summer was the final straw. I couldn’t contain anything. It was maddening.


If you check our To Do List, you will notice that I thought about replacing the stacked stone with a decorative form concrete wall of some sort. I thought about all of the options over the winter. I decided that I am not ready to give up on the stacked stone just yet. I still really like the stacked stone look. It feels charming. I like charming. I want to keep my stacked stone. However, I don’t want to have to redo this stacked stone again in my lifetime. The first time around I used just garden dirt to keep the stones in place. It worked great but ended up being the perfect medium for grass to invade.  I didn’t think about that first time around – obviously.


So, I researched how to keep the grass and other plants from creeping between the rocks. The best solution I thought was to use mortar between and behind the stone wall. Additional research unearthed some possible problems with this mortar method – blocked drainage, heaving and mortar deterioration in the winter, mortar cracking and deterioration with inevitable settling, and the list goes on and on. As a result, the mortar method got eliminated. The next best solution – at least in my mind – was a combination of metal edging (I hope to block the majority of the grass from moving beyond the edging), recycled concrete road base (which is not grass and plant friendly in other applications), and crossed fingers (for luck).

I unstacked my stones and dug a little trench. Pretty easy. I also got a pretty good upper body work out that day.


Next I installed the metal edging.  I then took this photo.  I was looking at the photo and realized the metal edging behind the first row of stones wouldn’t block any of the grass. The grass would crazily make it’s way between the stones before it ever reached the edging. Hmm…


So, I corrected my mistake. The edging was installed (correctly – I think) in front of the bottom row of stacked stones. In theory this should work…


My first trip to the landscaping supply yard for a couple of buckets of road base cost only $1.32. Wow – seriously low cost, and it worked great for setting my stones.


Trip #2 & 3 to the landscaping supply yard for more road base. $1.70 per trip. The second row of stacked stones were quickly and easily placed with the road base as a base – that’s why it’s called road base? 


Trip #4 to the landscaping supply yard for more road base – a $1.50 worth (the guy recognized me from a previous day – as I am the only person that has ever shown up to get concrete road base in such small amounts – four different times). I saved the large flat stones for last – as a sort of capstone. I then filled in behind the road base and stones with garden soil.


Tad helped me out with turning over the dirt in the bed and removing the grass clumps and other plant roots. He’s on the home stretch here – around the corner.


Thanks Tad. All cleaned up, ready for some compost, and on to the fun stuff – like plants.


Then, it snowed. The planting will have to wait…

Spring has sprung…

It’s totally exciting for me!  The promise of warmer weather, longer days, fresh air, and pretty plants…


Tulips to tip toe through…


The first flower of the season…


Soft and furry willows – my favorite sign that spring has sprung…DSCN4110

 Happy Spring Y’all !