Too old?

My wife tells me I am too old to be moving boulders without assistance. Often, her resistance to projects derives from her insistence that no more lawn be converted to garden, but I think she sort of likes this small addition, and today her concern is for my nearly sixty-six year old body rather than a hundred square feet of grass.

The nearly finished boulder lined planting area, with a variegated fatsia transplanted as a temporary placeholder until a weeping witch hazel arrives. Gravel will be placed between boulders and the lawn, and small leafed, creeping somethings will fill crevices between stones. Within a year cascading Japanese Forest grass, shrubs and perennials will partially obscure and soften the boulders.

She suggests that we hire a few able bodied fellows to move the bulky, granite boulders into place. I insist that moving ten three hundred pound rocks is awkward, but nothing more than a bit of soreness will result. Twenty and thirty years ago, larger boulders were moved to retain slopes around ponds and patios (below), but no matter my delusions of eternal youth and fitness, I must proceed carefully. My wife doubts my judgment, with some good reason.

Boulders retain the lower edge of this small pond.

In fact, as new plantings go this is considerable effort for minimal effect. But, a witch hazel with pendulous branching (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Lombart’s Weeping’) has already been purchased (for early autumn delivery), and once an idea jumps into my feeble little brain, I must act before I slip into my more typical laziness. I envision the branches of the witch hazel pruned so they cascade and wind between boulders. It is likely the area will someday prove too small for the spreading shrub, but that will be easily remedied by cutting out another section of sod.

This stone patio was constructed so that boulders retain the upper slope. I prefer the slightly sunken patio rather than one at grade on the upper slope that must be retained on the lower end. This patio is several paces above the new boulder wall and planting area, and soil filled gaps are planted with sedums and an assortment of native ferns and coralbells.

This planting is not so simple as placing boulders, then planting. The lawn must be dug out, then the slope excavated so that boulders are sunken partially into the grade. A trench between the boulders and lawn will be filled with river washed gravel since this inevitably channels rainwater on a slope, and the excavated soil is graded to secure the boulders and to level the area to match the existing grade. This, I suspect, sounds more complex than it is, and here is hoping that tomorrow I am not hobbling about, at least not so anyone will notice.

Boulders retain the sloped edges where steps lead to a narrow pond crossing and a second stone patio.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. willowmanvt says:

    Hello Dave I’m 78 and still moving boulders to stop the town from destroying my garden with their trucks. I have top admit though, my Kubota tractor does most of the work; but I still have to use a crowbar to get the positioning just right! Warmest regards Michael

    Sonia and Michael Dodge Vermont Willow Nursery 1943 Ridge Road N Fairfield VT 05455 [email protected]


    1. Dave says:

      It’s good to stubbornly do things you’re told you shouldn’t do.

  2. Linus says:

    Which Fatsia is it? Spider’s web or camouflage (Murakumo Nishiki)?

    1. Dave says:

      This is Spider’s Web.

  3. Bonnie C. says:

    My dear mother, rest her gentle soul, was an avid gardener AND an avid garden rockhound. Built several rock walls for her lovely gardens on Long Island, as well as an entire jetty to keep sand from escaping their beach. The garden rocks & boulders all came from vacation travels, & she knew where every single one had originated. I’m amazed that my father’s back as well as the trunk of the family car survived it – lol!

    Where do/did you get all those lovely rocks & boulders, Dave?

    1. Dave says:

      We have a Missouri quarry that brings these in, I think from Wisconsin.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        So you’re buying them then? Do they come from Meadows Farms?

  4. Dave says:

    Yes, they’re from Meadows, but only stocked at my place, the Landscape yard because these are much too large to be stocked in a garden center. I chose the smallest ones I could find.

    1. Linus Chen says:

      Which location of Meadows Farms is considered the landscape yard?

  5. Dave says:

    There are two locations in the Chantilly, South Riding area. One is our garden center and corporate office, the other, a 23 acre site a mile west, is the Landscape office and nursery.

  6. Lovely stone work. So inviting…I want to walk those paths.

    1. Dave says:

      Just before I did the latest boulder project our oldest son remarked that he needed to start adding boulders to his much younger garden. My concern is that he’ll want me to move them for him. I am a bit concerned that some of the very informal stone paths in the garden are shifting and stones are wobbling over surface roots. The first thing I must warn visitors is watch your step.

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