How to Build a Rock Wall Planter

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RH:  Today we’re heading up into the mountains just outside of Boulder Colorado.  The view is truly spectacular.  Ann Blonston has a house up on the mountain at about 7,500 feet.  She wants me to help her build a dry stack stonewall planter for her flower garden.  So, here we go up into the high country.  Hey, Ann!

AB:  Hey, Ron!  I heard you pull up.

RH:  Oh, wow.  What a great place you’ve got here.

AB:  Welcome to Boulder.

RH:  Well, thanks very much.

AB:  Let me show you the best part of this place.

RH:  The best part?

AB:  Yeah.

RH:  There’s more to come?

AB:  Oh, yeah.

RH:  Wow!  Look at this.  Lucky you.

AB:  Isn’t it something?

RH:  Now this is what I imagined Colorado to be.

AB:  There you go.  Now let me show you where I want to put the garden wall.

RH:  Okay. 

AB:  I thought I’d like to put the garden bed over here because, we have a short growing season.

RH:  Okay.  So you get plenty of sun here.  Well, the rock got here all right.

AB:  Yes.

RH:  You know, the first thing I’d like to do is some layout work.  Do you have a garden hose?

AB:  Right over here.

RH:  Okay, let’s grab that.  I’m going to lay this down.  You just kind of arrange it there in whatever curved shape that you like.  After Ann decides on the shape she wants, we use spray paint to mark the outline of the new wall.  Now we can put the hose away.  We’ll need a flat surface or foundation for our wall.  So, Ann and I smooth out a strip about 12 inches wide inside the paint line.  The good news is that the palette of rock for our project was delivered close by.  A good idea by the way if you’re planning a project like this.  The bad news is we still have to restack the stones next to our soon to be wall.  This is very interesting stone.  Is this local?

AB:  Yeah, that’s called Colorado sand stone and it’s quarried in Lyons, Colorado about 30 miles North of here. 

RH:  I love the way the lichen is still on here.

AB:  Isn’t that nice.

RH:  I think we’ve got enough of these down right now.  So, we have divided up all the stones here into three piles.  The largest stones back here, medium sized ones in the middle and the small ones up there on the front.  I want to start with the large stones.  Those are going to form the base of the wall.  We’re going to distribute those evenly along the line here.  Before we begin though, we’ll compact the soil using this tamper.  Compacting will help prevent our wall from settling unevenly.  Okay.  All right.  Let’s just start with this guy right here.  That’s a nice one.

AB:  You want this touching?

RH:  Yeah.  I think it can actually touch there.  There you go.  This one here?

AB:  Yeah.  I think that’s  a good one.

RH:  All right.  Where were you thinking?

AB:  Right here.  So it will cover both of these.

RH:  Okay.  Right in here?

AB: Un-hunh.

RH:  Oh, that’s nice.  That’s very nice.  We want to start crossing joints like this with larger stones to sort of tie the wall together.  There we go.  Now, we’re filling in with these medium sized rocks here.  This is what’s known as a dry stack wall.  There’s no mortar in here.  We can only go up about 18 inches on a dry stack wall, we’re at about 14 or 15 right now, without either putting in a concrete footing or making the wall really deep, two to three courses. 

AB:  Okay.

RH:  Because the weight of the stone itself will actually cause it to sink. I have a thought here and that is, why don’t we make the top of the wall right here, level with the deck.

AB:  Okay.

RH:  Then carry that level line right across this way into the hill.

AB:  Okay.

RH:  That sound all right to you?

AB:  Yeah.

RH:  Okay, good.  The top couple of layers in our wall are made using the smallest rocks.  Now, this is a line level right here Ann.  The line level attaches right to this straight at that end of the deck over there it’s tied off and then it’s to that stake down there.  So, this will make sure that the top of the wall right here is both at the right height and is also level.

AB:  How does it look?

RH: It looks good.  Ann has assembled a brilliantly colored selection of flowers for the nearly completed planner.  Well, now for the fun part.

AB:  Yeah.

RH:  Do some planting.  The wall is all done here.

AB:  It’s great.

RH:  Before we actually put the dirt in though, I want to install some of this.  This is called landscape fabric or weed cloth and just pull it out.

AB:  Okay.

RH:  Just pull it out.  Keep going.  There you go.  So, the idea here Ann, is that we want to put this on the back side of the wall to keep any weeds or grass from growing through the wall.  We can actually tuck it up underneath some of these rocks right here.  It can take a whole lot of dirt to fill a planter this size so, we first toss in a few rocks.  They’ll also help with drainage and there are plenty of them around the property.  Okay, rocks are in.  Time for some topsoil here.  Well, Ann, this is your area of expertise.  Tell me a little bit about sort of the design here.  We’re just going to set these in first, right?

AB:  Un-hunh.

RH:  For placement?

AB:  We want to get an idea about the color distribution and the height distribution before we start planting so we don’t end up replanting.

RH:  Higher plants to the back?

AB:  Higher and brighter plants to the back, lower and darker plants to the front so they don’t get lost in the background.

RH:  Are these plants native to Colorado?

AB:  I’m not sure they’re native but there were all grown in Colorado because they have to really . . . they have to prove themselves in our climate.  What that means is that we have a wide range of temperature night to day.  This one is creeping thyme.  Smell that.

RH:  As opposed to fleeting time, right?

AB:  Exactly.

RH:  Oh, my gosh.  It’s nice.

AB:  Isn’t that swell.  So, what will happen with this is that this is one we’ll put toward the edges so it will cascade.  Remember we talked about our nooks and crannies.  We want something to cascade over the front.

RH:  So, maybe you know . . . somewhere like in this?

AB:  Yeah.

RH:  Yeah.  This one here Ann . . . Together, Ann and I, dig and plant and dig and plant some more.  You know what, if I do say so, we did a pretty nice job on this.  This was just a bare corner this morning.

AB:  This is so beautiful.  I can’t believe we did it today.

RH:  The rock and the lichen, I love this.  You know, I don’t usually use this kind of tool but, I actually enjoyed it today.

AB:  I’m glad you came.

RH:  Can I add this to my collection?

AB:  No, give me that fork back.

RH:  Enjoy!

AB:  Thanks.

Learn how to build a stacked rock wall planter; includes details on working with stone along with tips, materials, and tools lists.

Ron's next stop is in Boulder, Colorado where he visits Ann Blonston's beautiful mountain home. This house, situated at an elevation of 7200 feet, has an outstanding view of a National Park. It is no wonder that Ann enjoys entertaining out on her deck. She has asked Ron to come and help her construct a dry stack stone wall and planter box from Colorado sand stone, quarried in Lyons, Colorado just 30 miles North of Boulder. This type of stone border is unique to the Boulder area and will help create an inviting pathway from the front of her home around to the side deck.