Give a perfectionist a pile of rough old walling stone and a straight string line, and watch him squirm.
A little over a week ago I took delivery of just such a pile of stone. I’ve been dreaming of, and fretting over, this wall for what probably amounts to years. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford really good stone, and the challenge was to hit the point of greatest value – the best outcome at an affordable price.
Part way into the dreaming phase I was offered a heap of old bluestone for nothing, but rejected it on the basis that I didn’t think I’d be capable of doing anything fun with it (too consistent in size, much of it in that clunky bluestone-pitcher proportion), and that by the time I loaded and unloaded about twenty trailer-loads by hand, the whole thing looked like false economy.
So I bought, and now I’m building. It’s sort of fun. It’s getting funner. Starting out, you’re just not sure what to expect from the stone, and how much time you should spend over every decision of placement. You soon grow comfortable with a time/outcome balance, knowing that you could do a little better if you spent a lot more time, but that’s always got to be kept in proportion. I’m breaking down walls of perfectionism while constructing seriously imperfect walls.
The best bit, so far, has been the placing of plants into the wall during construction. In this I’m following advice from Gertrude Jekyll’s Wall, Water and Woodland Gardens, in which she recommends tilting the stones backwards slightly to direct water in (hardly ever possible with the berserk stone I’m using), and planting during construction.
As is so often the case, I’m not using what I’d really want to plant (most of which would be either too expensive, would take too long to procure, or isn’t commercially available). I’m using what I have on hand, and what’s been easy to come by. I have a few things sitting around in pots here, and a quick dash to the local school fete turned up a nice little box of appropriate stuff.
It’s incredible how those little plants contribute to an immediate sense of establishment – and how quickly they come to terms with their new horizontal position and turn themselves upright. It’s all giving me stupid amounts of joy, and even when I’m busy with other stuff, I can’t help but visit the site several times a day.