By Jill Morgan published
Unbeatable in terms of natural charm and longevity, stone garden wall ideas can make a huge impact on the look and feel of your outdoor space. Whether it’s to create a contemporary feature wall, add rustic appeal or take on a more supportive and practical role retaining a slope or creating privacy, these designs can be a large and costly project, so are well worth getting right.
Take time to consider exactly what your plot needs. Are you simply replacing or upgrading an existing wall or is this project part of a complete redesign? Is the new stone garden wall simply aesthetic to divide off a cosy seating area or perhaps guide visitors to the front door? If it is, there are plenty of different materials and styles to call upon. From real or composite stone cladding, local dry-stone walling or neatly hewn and processed blocks, each material will add its own character and can be used in many creative ways.
Alternatively, you may be looking for more structural retaining wall ideas to provide support and retain the weight of a sloping site – in which case it’s likely a professional landscape designer will need to be called in. Materials with the correct weight bearing and permeable credentials are another consideration and need careful assessment before the order is placed.
15 clever stone garden wall ideas to create a stunning feature
Whatever the shape and size of your plot, a stone garden wall will boost its style credentials. From smart, contemporary cladding, majestic gabions or rustic dry stone walls there are endless options to explore and inspire.
1. Build in some curves
Introduce movement and fluid lines into your outside space with curved garden wall ideas. Rough and jagged Purbeck stone naturally interlocks without the need for mortar if thoughtfully stacked, and can make elegant, sinuous shapes to divide seating areas from plant packed borders.
Highlight the mellow honey tones and textures of your stone wall by opting for similar materials and colors for your garden paths and paving.
2. Mix stone clad walls with seating
Want a versatile outdoor entertaining are that’s also warm and welcoming? Then why not combine mellow stone cladding with rich timber. Perfect for creating a rich toned and cozy vibe, this winning combination of materials packs a punch in the smallest of spaces and looks stunning when lit up at night.
'This garden doesn't get a lot of sunlight,' say the designers at Vu Garden Design and Landscaping, 'therefore we opted for earthy tones and colors to create a warm atmosphere. This involved using elegant Italian porcelain, mint sandstone cladding, Sapele hardwood benches along with weathered steel panels and charming copper lights.'
Building seating into your garden wall is also a brilliant space-saving measure. By using the structure of your wall to provide the necessary support for your floating seating, it means the benches don't require legs. This allows you to see underneath them and helps to enhance the sense of space on a small patio.
3. Echo the color of stone in your planting
Highlight the beauty of your stone garden wall ideas by enhancing them with them with some of the best plants for garden walls. Light and airy plants shapes – think fennel, verbena bonariensis, angelica and towering alliums – all lift the gaze and showcase their blooms beautifully against the textured stone. A series of standard trees with smooth silvery grey bark is another simple but oh-so effective idea. Beech, birch, weeping pear and olive trees all work well and add a statuesque feel to the space too.
Another design trick is to select foliage that picks up on the color and tone of the stone, to create a sense of continuity and blend the boundaries in with the garden design. Bronze, toffee coloured and burgundy heucheras provide a punch of year-round color in rich shades that often reflects the traces of tin, copper and basalt found in rock. Different types of ornamental grass such as carex, feather reed grass ‘Karl Foerster’ and miscanthus sinensis ‘Red Cloud’ also work well and add texture and graceful movement against the rugged stone.
4. Show off stone in all its glory
Celebrate the natural beauty of stone by showcasing its contrasting forms. From smooth, honed and sawn edged slabs to gabions filled with freshly quarried rock there are endless types to choose from, each with their own distinct tone, markings and texture. A simple way to create a stunning design is to stick to one particular stone type and play with its various forms and finishes.
In this strikingly contemporary front garden wall by Yorkshire Gardens, local stone has been used to neatly fill gabions which create a sculptural and high textured contrast to the matching stone paving.
'Rather than randomly placed stones, the stones in our gabion walls are packed with interlocking stones,' explains designer John Brennan. 'This not only makes the wall easy on the eye, but far more sound and stable.' Arranged in a tidy ‘L’ shape the stone-filled blocks subtly guide visitors to the front door without blocking sight lines.
5. Plant up a stone wall with native ferns
Creating stone garden wall ideas that appear to have been there for generations requires care and attention to detail. As well as creating a stunning feature that’s full of character it can quickly become home to insects, tiny mammals and wild birds, encouraging biodiversity and pollinators to flourish.
'In this project, we created a natural wildlife garden using sustainable materials and biodiverse flora,' explains landscape designer Amir Schlezinger of Mylandscapes. 'The stone was reclaimed from an old farmyard and was used to retain the existing gradient and made to look as if it's always been there. We introduced a broad palette of native plants too. Within the wall, which is shaded, we left gaps in the stone for crevice planting of ferns, Campanula and Ajuga. Once established in the first year by additional watering, this naturalistic planting is low maintenance. Using a semi-dry wall technique, construction was swift and cost-effective.'
If you want to create a similar look in your plot, there are plenty of tips on how to grow ferns in our dedicated guide too.
6. Highlight falling water with a stone feature wall
Stone has an important part to play, even in a contemporary style space. Adding natural tone, texture and a timeless feel it makes a stunning feature against crisp rendered walls, lush tropical foliage and minimal furniture and features.
For maximum impact take the less-is-more approach and use it in a prominent but single area. In this city courtyard, design company Positive Garden has used multi slate cladding to create a striking garden wall water feature idea with an embedded water blade. The result is tranquil and mesmerizing with the water revealing the slate’s unbelievably rich variation in color.
The secret to making a stone product work in such a modern design lies in the detail, as specialists London Stone explain. 'Natural stone cladding, whether slate or sandstone, benefits from natural variation and can therefore help to create a rustic, weathered look in more traditional schemes. However, the clean cut lines of the manufacturing process mean that it is also perfectly at home in modern gardens.'
7. Retain a border with stone-filled gabions
Retaining walls are key to terracing steeply sloping gardens and can become striking features too. There are plenty of options available and these vary widely in cost, planning and installation.
Stone-filled gabions are a handy solution as not only are they strong enough to support hefty banks of soil, they look attractive and crucially let rainwater filter through. Gabion sizes typically range from 1.6ft to 6.5ft (50cm to 2m) wide baskets and can be made from rigid welded mesh or flexible woven wire.
8. Make the most of a stone wall’s retained heat
Besides their enviable good looks, stone garden walls can also help tender and tropical plants thrive. Whether it's semi-tropical blooms such as hibiscus, agapanthus or ginger lily or soft fruits from warmer climes (think figs, peaches and nectarines), growing plants in the shelter of a stone wall that stores and radiates heat from the sun, will encourage root development, production and shoot growth and help flowers to bloom and fruits to ripen. Something the Victorian kitchen gardeners knew a great deal about.
In the northern hemisphere, south-facing walls capture the most warmth, but just be mindful to keep young plants well-watered though, as tall walls will cast large rain shadows.
9. Incorporate wildlife features in a stone wall
Why not use your stone garden wall ideas as an opportunity to encourage more wildlife into your plot? This beautiful dry stone wall has been cleverly designed to incorporate a series of bug hotels to house insects and pollinators throughout the year. The surrounding wildflower planting will entice insects to their new home, while also serving to soften the hard landscaping ideas.
Warmth from the sun will be retained in the stone wall, helping the succulent garden planted on top of the garden boundary to thrive.
10. Add rustic charm with a dry stone wall
A highly skilled and age-old craft of building dry stone walls takes time, patience and plenty of muscle power to perfect but help is at hand if you want a similar result without the expertise.
Many stone specialists and paving companies have ready-to-lay walling blocks available, so you can build new garden structures or disguise unsightly ones.
One of Paving Direct's most popular products is the iconic Cotswold stone. 'Our Cotswold Cottage Walling is tumbled natural sandstone block that is designed to be used to create traditional garden walling,' says the Paving Direct team. 'It can be laid unbound when used for smaller ankle, and pony walls, and bound for walls higher than waist-height. The tumbled finish gives these blocks a time-worn aged appearance, making them ideal for a rustic aesthetic for raised garden beds, retaining walls, parapets, and terraces.'
11. Keep it sleek with reconstituted stone
If you prefer the look of contemporary stone garden wall ideas with a more uniform finish, then artificial or reconstructed stone blocks are for you. Perfect for low maintenance gardens, they are cheaper than natural stone as these products are made by mixing ground aggregate with binding agents such as sand, resin, cement, that are then cast in moulds create ‘stone’ blocks.
Extremely durable, thanks to the various compressing and drying processes, these products are easy to work with and can form sturdy walls with plenty of character. Top them off with matching coping stones for a smart, designer finish.
12. Terrace a tiered plot with stone-filled gabions
Virtually immovable but also rather attractive, stone-filled gabions are becoming more popular in style-conscious gardens. Long loved by professional designers, they offer endless structural and creative possibilities, particularly when it comes to tiered gardens. The stone they are filled with can also be tailored to your personal preference to suit your garden scheme.
This bold design by Yorkshire Gardens is super inspiring, as designer John Brennan explains: 'Gabions were chosen as they are both structural and decorative and don't use any concrete which is great for sustainability. Speaking of sustainability, the stone used to fill the cages came from a nearby quarry and the fact it was sourced locally was the main reason for choosing it.'
'The garden itself is very small,' adds John. 'It spans only 42ft (13m) from front to back with a rise of 13ft (4m). Gabions are a gravity wall system and as such require a lot of space. The larger more structural baskets are a metre cubed which corresponds to around 3 tonnes of stone needed to fill them. The limited, evergreen planting was fitted in around the gabions and was mainly used to act as a natural barrier to the large drops.'
13. Contrast rugged stone with contemporary materials
Blending old and new features in a garden takes skill and careful thought, but we love how old and weathered stone walls can work beautifully alongside contemporary planting and bold, modern structures.
Garden designer Amanda Broughton had precisely this challenge in a recent project. 'We loved the quirkiness of an existing limestone curved wall and arch. The warm colors of the stone perfectly complemented the new porcelain paving, and also gave a nod back to the original house style. Dark grey metal arches match the new window and door frames used in the house, connecting the old with the new.'
14. Frame a living wall with stone cladding
Bring some drama to your patio or outside space, with a feature wall showcasing stone cladding and a living wall panel. A feast of natural textures, it’s a display that will look good all year round without taking up valuable floor space.
Designer Tom Howard used this method to add character and interest to contemporary outdoor kitchen ideas in one of his recent projects. 'Living walls can be a great feature, as they help to break up an otherwise boring boundary and are useful for greening up spaces that are too small for normal beds and borders. They do require some type of surround though, to hide the sides of the troughs. Here a concrete block surround has been built with the living wall in the recess. Slate tiles have been used to add another texture and color that complements the planting.'
Vertical garden ideas like this are ideal for small spaces such as courtyards or balconies where you want to make use of every inch of available growing space.
15. Cheat the look with stone veneer
If you want to bring a playful and contemporary edge to your stone garden wall ideas then opt for a stone cladding product. There are many different looks available in smaller sizes, making them lighter and easier to handle so DIYers can feel confident in achieving a professional finish.
'Grey continues to be the color of choice for garden features,' says the team at landscaping specialists Marshalls. 'A product like Stoneface is designed to be attached to existing walling, and smaller projects can be done as a DIY job and provide an impressive but quick update to a tired space. You can also use the walling to create raised beds or planters, and to add built-in seating areas to your garden.'
Want to save money and construct your new garden wall on a DIY basis? We've got plenty of tips to get you started in our guide on how to build a garden wall.
How can I grow plants in a stone garden wall?
One of the charms of coming across an age-old drystone wall is marvelling at the plants that have made it their home. However, if you are building a stone boundary from scratch, how can you achieve the same look?
We asked avid plantswoman Sarah Raven for her thoughts. 'Start by making sure there are no perennial weeds already in the gaps in the stone wall. Either remove them by hand or use a weed killer if necessary. Then simply mix your chosen seeds with a little compost, or take small seedlings, and push them into the crevice in the wall with a little compost, and water lightly until established. That's it – they will fend for themselves!'
Plants such as thyme, aubretia, marjoram, lavender, chamomile, erigeron (Mexican Fleabane), sedum, saxifrage and ferns are all good options for growing in stone walls.
What can I do with a stone garden wall?
Stone garden wall ideas can be designed to serve a number of purposes within your plot, depending on your needs. What's more, the natural textures and colors of stone will help the walls to blend into their surroundings.
In a sloping site, stone walls can be an ideal way to design more usable areas within your plot, for example retaining a bank of earth so you can can create a flat patio area in front of it.
They can be an attractive way to create zones within your garden, too. Low walls can help to separate paths or a lawn from your flowerbeds, while taller stone walls can make for effective garden divider ideas to screen areas of the garden from view, which is particularly useful if you don't want to reveal your entire garden vista in one go.
Stone walls can also be a practical way to ensure privacy from neighboring properties, or to create more sheltered spots in your plot. A pretty stone wall alongside a patio or seating area can protect it from prevailing winds and ensure you have a more comfortable and usable outdoor entertaining space.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. There was never a moment at their house when they weren’t weeding, pruning, planting or harvesting cucumbers or dahlias from the lean-to greenhouse. Her Grandad’s shed was a place of wonder, and she can still recall the musky smell. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey and spends much of her time writing about them too. A typical long-thin town garden it features favourite flowers along with the odd veg plant and the usual assortment of toys, bikes and… oh a couple of guinea pigs too.
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