Planning the Yard

I have been asked many times how the garden came to be, how did I plan it, what did I do?  I will try to explain it here. 

My husband used to laugh at me, sitting in an old blue chair in the yard sipping my tea.  I would sit there and plan a garden, build it up, then find the faults and start all over.  He would walk by saying "Now I know how Disneyland started" and we would laugh. 

The garden has been built so many times, and torn down - all in my head.  I would sip my tea and review each garden in my head, some were to hard to build, to complex, oops, that one was ugly....  and so on.  Until finally, some consistent shapes and structures started to take form. 

Structure and Maintenance

Structure is important.  This is what will be seen in the winter, which lasts a long time in Montana.  Creating interest, and color against the drab colors of winter was an interesting challenge.  I like raised beds.  Raised beds would give the yard some interest in the winter.  Keeping the flowers in beds would help with maintenance.  Weeding is not my favorite past time. 

I talked with a guy who was an architect for Disney for awhile.  He actually bought a piece of land I used to own.  As he was looking at the property to buy, he commented that there was to much of one material - wood, and not enough metal.  I had never considered the balance of materials in a garden.  With this garden I wanted a balance of rock, wood and metal.

Wood vs Rock

Time and time again I have watched friends create raised wooden framed garden or flower beds.  Then five years later, the wood has rotted out and they have to redo it, but they never quite get around to it, so it sits there.  Then, one day, they go take the whole thing apart and move on to the next hobby.  I love my flower gardens, have no intention of doing all that work only to tear it down in five years.  That is when the plants are just really starting to grow!  If I tried to replace the wood siding in permanent flower beds, it would be a massive amount of work.  I am lazy.  I will work very hard - to only do a job once.  

Rock walls have many positive attributes.  In addition lasting longer, they add color in the winter time.  We usually have about 6 - 8 inches of snow on the ground in the winter time.  Or the world is full of browns and grays of plants in winter attire.  As long as some of my walls were higher 6 - 8 inches, I would have color.  (The rock here is glacier till and comes in lots of great reds, grays and greens).  By having higher rock walls, the paths would be outlined in the winter which would lessen the tripping hazard. So far rock is looking like the material of choice.

Another advantage is that I could work on my edging idea.  A friend of mine has a wonderful flower garden.  She had been laying down blue roof shingles as an edging around her garden. It was an interesting idea, but her main goal was to keep the grass out. She was trying to figure out how to stop the grass roots from traveling under her edging.  Grass roots do not go down very deep.  Above ground they only reach out 6 - 8 inches.

Any thing worth doing is worth doing right.  My idea was to add a rock edging to the base of the rock walls.  If I dug a trench down 5-6 inches and made the footer about 10 inches wide I could deter the grass. The edging would help deter grass roots. I could run the lawn mower over the top of it, and get the edge of the yard - no weed eating. 

And the price was right - I had piles and piles of rocks, and all the farmers around me had piles of rocks.  I knew I could have as many rocks as I wanted - for free.  I could buy broken bags of mortar over time and build my rock walls up.   


The Test of Time

I bought books and books of rock paths and rock walls.  In my research I learned that adding wire to the back of the rock wall would add time to the life of the wall.  If I remember correctly, my rock walls could last 20 years or more.  So in addition to gathering up rocks and mortar, I gathered up old pieces of wire fencing I could fold up and embed in my walls.

On a side note here, do you know that any good rock is worth moving at least 5 times? 



  1. Pick it up and put it in the back of the truck to take to the house
  2. Remove it from the truck and pile it up at the house
  3. Move it to the flower bed temporary placement while planning
  4. Move it to add the mortar and put it in place
  5. Place the rock.

Maybe I should have gone with wood?