A dry stone wall in the garden is not only decorative but also provides an important habitat for beneficial insects. Here you can find out what you should consider when planting a dry stone wall.
Dry stone and natural stone walls have a long tradition in garden design: In the past, they were used in particular to demarcate cattle pastures, for terracing, or to secure a slope. Today, however, they are a popular design tool in horticulture. But the plants are not only impressive in terms of appearance. Did you know that natural stone walls are also of great ecological importance? With the right planting, the dry stone wall not only turns into a real eye-catcher but also offers numerous beneficial insects a suitable habitat. We give you five tips on how you too can create an impressive dry stone wall in your garden.
What is a drystone wall?
A dry stone wall is a garden element for the optical structuring or delimitation of the garden area or for the attachment of slopes. Due to its visual charm, natural stone is primarily used as a building material. Therefore, the term “natural stone wall” is often used synonymously with the term “dry stone wall”. The difference to the conventional garden wall is not in the material but in the construction of the drywall. In this case, the layered stones are neither grouted nor glued in any other way. The open joints of the natural stone wall can therefore be equipped with suitable plants so that the wall is a frequently used design tool in the garden.
Planting dry stone walls: Our 5 tips
1. Suitable plants for the dry stone wall
Anyone who wants to plant their dry stone wall quickly realizes that not all plants are suitable for this. In fact, only plants that are hardy, drought-tolerant, and extremely robust are considered. Succulents such as stonecrop ( Sedum ) and houseleek ( Sempervivum ) are therefore particularly suitable for planting a natural stone wall. However, not all dry stone walls are created equal: while free-standing dry stone walls often dry out quickly, those that come into contact with the ground (for example to secure a slope) are significantly more humid.
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That is why they can also be overgrown by the cushion bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana ) or even small species of fern. Blue pillows (Aubrieta ), carpet phlox ( Phlox subulata ), and speedwell ( Veronica ) grow very well in sunny places on the wall. Here you can even plant Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis ) or thyme ( thymus ), which even benefit from the warmth that the heated stones give off at night. In shady areas, on the other hand, you should rely on lark’s spur ( Corydalis ), Waldsteinia ( Waldsteinia ), or cymbal herb ( Cymbalaria muralis ).
But the height also plays a role: only robust varieties like the mountain stone herb ( Alyssum montanum ), which can cope with drought and temperature fluctuations, feel comfortable on the top of the wall. In the base area, on the other hand, it is important that the plants are stable and flat-growing, as is the case with star moss ( Mnium ornum ), for example.
2. Prepare dry stone wall
If you want to plant your dry stone wall, you should pay attention to a few things during construction. Ideally, the plants should already be used when the wall is being built, as experience has shown that they will grow and thrive better this way. Some nutrient-poor soil is filled between the joints and the plants are placed in their new location. Nutrient-rich soil or humus, on the other hand, are not suitable for the dry stone wall, since most plants for the rock garden have a low nutrient requirement. If you want to plant your dry stone wall afterward, you should make sure that enough space is left for the plants when the stones are piled up. We recommend joints that are about two fingers wide.
3. Procedure for planting a drystone wall
The right time to plant a drystone wall is between March and September. However, spring is considered particularly suitable, as the plants are just beginning their growing season. If you would like to plant the natural stone wall afterward, you should first fill the joints of the dry stone wall up to halfway with a permeable and nutrient-poor substrate. A soil that is too heavy or rich in nutrients is not suitable, as most plants for a drystone wall are sensitive to waterlogging and too high nutrient concentrations. The suitable substrate is to be poured loosely into the joints, this works particularly well with a small shovel or spoon.
Now you can start planting: Insert the plants horizontally with the root ball as deep as possible into the joint so that they have a good hold. Fill in the free areas with a substrate. With larger plants, it may be necessary to divide the perennial beforehand so that it fits easily into the joints. It is best to use a sharp knife for this.
4. Maintain drywall planting
After planting the dry stone wall, the plants must be well watered once. A garden hose with a hard water jet is the wrong choice here – there is too great a risk that the water will wash the earth out of the joints. Instead, you should work with a watering can or a garden shower to be as gentle as possible. In the first two years of standing, the dry stone wall should be poured every now and then so that the plants can establish themselves well. After that, however, the dry stone wall usually no longer needs any maintenance. In fact, most plants in the drywall will do best if left alone. A watering can with water only be necessary in particularly dry times – otherwise, you hardly need to pay attention to the natural stone wall.
5. Dry stone walls as a habitat
Even if it is hard to believe: The natural stone wall is an important habitat for all kinds of animals. Insects are particularly fond of the dry stone walls. Many species of wild bees, as well as bumblebees and wasps, use the free cracks as shelter. At the same time, the dry stone wall also offers them a good supply of food with insect-friendly plants. If you want to give the beneficial insects a little more help, you can create a bed with insect-friendly plants in the immediate vicinity of the dry stone wall. But not only insects are happy about the dry stone wall – common toads and green toads like to use larger gaps as hiding places. The dry stone wall represents one of the most important survival spaces for the now rare sand lizard. In old natural stone walls with particularly large gaps, you can even see birds nesting.
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