Garden writing lifts me up.

Six-on-Saturday – Life of Stones

As you can imagine, now that I’ve come to think of it, I never really thought about it like that.

Come to think of it, I’ve never really thought about it like that. Stones, rocks, big and small. Millions of years old, they’ve seen a hardy winter or two and many have been split by the scorching sun.

I’ve got a fair selection of them in the garden, brought in from Cappagh. Hundreds, if not thousands, were removed from ditches and brought here by the trailer-load. Before that, they came from further afield, along with the ice-sheets fifteen thousand years ago, when winters were real winters and moss was just a pipedream. Nowadays, they add structure to my garden. Want to read along to find out more? But first an Agatha Christie quote:

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention … arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.” – Agatha Christie

Come to think of it, I’ve never really thought about it like that. I’m beginning to repeat myself, so I’ll skip briskly onwards…

1. Trial & Lots Of Errors

In 1985 the back garden was a flat patch of grass, and ever so slowly we changed it. It’s no longer grass and no longer flat. Because there are high walls on three sides, my architectural brain sought a solution. Stone was brought in, somewhat like the Egyptians building pyramids. The neighbours agreed that I was stone mad. Rockeries were imagined, planned, measured and built along most of the western side and shorter on the left.

This is the west-facing front of the Sunny Rockery. As yet, I’ve not fully mastered the selection of plants here but it’s not a problem. There is a long narrow section at the base for annuals, so the stone becomes a backdrop.

Three levels

2. Several Rebuilds Later

When the building of these rockeries was finished, they were completely bare. Stones are essentially bare, especially the ones that gather no moss. The task of planting began in earnest, and soon I realised how easy it is to put a wrong plant in the right place and vice versa. Over the years, both rockeries have been cleared to soil level twice, and one to ground level. Agatha was right. All that work was done to save myself some trouble, I think.


Here, facing east again, the campanula and alchemilla are perfectly happy, while several fuchsias have thrived on top.

3. Planning Ahead

After I retired in 2013 I began to plan for reduced mobility. There was a time when I could lever myself up and jump down, but my prowess was fading by two percent each year. It got to the point that large perennial weeds grew at the most inaccessible back corners. Stone the crows, they seemed to have a brain that outwitted the poor oul ex-teacher íar-mhúinteoir.

Old as Methusaleh.

Further along, the Heuchera are perfectly happy. They get some sunshine until about midday and that’s enough.

4. Winning

Nowadays, I’m winning! Careful Accidental selection of plants has helped to kill two birds with one stone: 1. Shrubs have matured to fill the height required and 2. Ground cover plants stop most weeds. Yes, I did finish a minor remake of the rockery beyond the acer/apple tree. Both problems above will have been solved next year. In the meantime, I’ve an opportunity to move a few pots there as temporary guests.

Joe’s Rockery

A broken terracotta pot on top serves as home to many insects, while the limestone wall takes on gorgeous mosses and lichens. If I had a cat, it’s likely it would find shelter under the fuchsia when the sun starts splitting the stones. Perish the thought.


5. Seaside Effect

Two years ago, I came across some driftwood at the beach, a mere 500 metre stone throw away. I took it home and found a nice spot for it. Since then, I watch out for stones that I feel would blend within with this Sea Scene, and only recently I’ve started to group potted grasses here. My record for skimming stones on lapping waves was seventeen, at a time when mobility and skill were at their peak, but I’ll not seek to rediscover the past here.


We put in some solar lights a few years ago, but this one gave up the ghost. Really, we should just replace it, but it reminds me of an abandoned lighthouse. It never brought that to mind until right now, I suppose because I’m looking at the photograph and writing about the sea. As you can imagine, now that I’ve come to think of it, I never really thought about it like that.

6. Full Monty Suntrap

The sunny rockery has also had its two major revamps, and a third in March 2016. I (we) removed it, reduced it and rebuilt it on three levels. Membrane was laid, plants put in place and loose gravel added.

I have added more plants since then, but it’s a pain in the neck to clear the loose stone back, cut the membrane and get a decent hole dug. Thankfully it is now complete. I don’t think a further revamp will happen. If I’m tempted, I shall fight the urge as vigorously as my two percent downward momentum will allow! I’d end up stone dead!

Sunny Rockery

I’m very pleased with this area, and have only one small addition in mind. I’ll put trellis on the wall and get a selection of climbers. I’m thinking of clematis, jasmine and some rambling roses. I’m concerned about putting roses there, because I’d likely need to get back there regularly for dead-heading. I’m very open to specific rose suggestions.

Every Stone Has A Story

That’s six, so I’ll leave it at that. If you like this article, you’ll be able to find many many more by visiting The Propagator. For sure, you’ll find all the updates there, even if this Life of Stones isn’t your thing! I’ll be back again next week. Slán go fóill.

The Week That Was

Not garden-related, this is merely to keep a record of events for future reminiscing.

  • Cornwall has been returning to normal after the G7. Normal means miles of caravan and campervan tailbacks.
  • Guinness, food & ráiméis in the garden until 9pm in good company.
  • Daytrip together to Dublin.
  • Dementia is a killer. It’s hard to watch an alert scholar fade so fast.
  • A real bummer that my electronic gears failed as battery was at zero. On the hottest day of the year I had to abandon our planned 100km spin after less than a kilometre. So just 70 this week and 150 today.
  • I think I’ll contract out watering the pots.
  • I’ve been learning Canva, and finally reduced my new logo down to two.
Logo #1


0 thoughts on “Six-on-Saturday – Life of Stones”

  1. I like a nice rockery myself and you are in rockery heaven! Lovely stones and a lot of hard work. You definitely deserved the glass (or three) of wine. No synchronicity this week, unless I have missed something. Have a good one!

  2. I really like all your stones. The moss gives them so much character. The rockery redo is wonderful. I admire your tenacious ability to do such a project. Happy gardening.

    1. Many thanks, Lisa… For reading & leaving a comment.
      I feel that now is the time to relax and enjoy it all… until the next project! Standing still is a kind of moving backwards! 😜

      1. It’s good to know there are people in Cornwall. From the pictures of the G7 in the news, I thought no one lived there and that’s why it was chosen for a summit.

  3. I have a collection of stones and rocks from my travels back in the day. Future geologists will be very confused to find bits of Mount Washington along with Welsh beach rocks and white Jerusalem stone. But i love them all and each has it’s story.

  4. So glad you sorted out the glitch, otherwise i might have missed this post! I am so impressed with your rockery and stone wall, and it was good to see its progress in photos. It is amazing! I am so tempted to try and construct one, but would not know where to get such an interesting selection of rocks! I especially like the moss-covered ones! I also like the old clay pots used in the bed in amongst the plants. I love using Canva – quick and easy digital greeting cards, especially if you leave things to the last minute, like I do. I too created my logo for my second blog (Miggles Photoblog) using Canva. I like both your logos, but the one with the tree is I think the best!

  5. I didn’t see your post this week Padraig, but I knew you wouldn’t miss a Six on Saturday, going on previous performance. Stone adds an interesting element to the garden, I do like your collage of the individual stones, and can see how the rockery has evolved to look like it belongs there now. I will look into Canva…

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Sel. The glitch is now sorted.
      Two friends recommended Canva, and I tried it twice. The third attempt is working out well.

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