My very own standing stones


I have been a bad blogger recently; opening the garden to the local garden club meant I had to try and catch up with the weeding. Perhaps it’s just as well the NGS are not involved – can’t imagine how bad I’d be if they were!

Anyway, time to catch up with some of the things that happened over the winter, and which have made a real difference, giving the beds in the bottom garden a real point and focus. And not plants, either. Standing stones.

stones under construction

As you can tell from the lack of growth, we put them up a few weeks ago. I’d been hoarding some appropriately tall slates, but even so some were not tall enough as P assured me that at least a third needed to be in the ground. We were left with two huge ones and five smaller strips, maybe originally intended as risers for stairs.

Perhaps it’s not surprising I’d end up with standing stones of one kind or another; I am, after all, by training an archaeologist. And I live in an area littered with megalithic monuments, from the huge and unique double cairn behind the school to the lines of individual stones marking a trackway running into the hills. Aside: I know someone who farms up there, and one foggy morning he was driving carefully along when a woman loomed out of the fog, hugging one of the stones. He pointed out that there was a much larger stone hidden in the mirk just up the hill, but she said that the one she was wrapped around had the ‘power’. Evidently, as he said afterwards in the pub, size doesn’t matter…

Admittedly my stones are not 4,000 years old, admittedly they’re rather smaller, admittedly they are in the wrong material – slate. But we did spend ages fiddling about, getting them into some sort of alignment:

stone lines

and thinking about what plants they would frame and what would look best against them. Oh yes, and what might be already in the ground and hidden when P started digging (answer: weeds, so that’s OK).

Now that the plants are beginning to spring up and bulk out, I can see that the decisions were about right. One set, these big stones,


will have an agapanthus in front of them (er, in front when you look at them from this angle, and the giant but dead pheasant grass in the bed behind them has gone now). Mind you, there was another agapanthus roughly here which seems to have vanished, so it may not only have been weeds which were disturbed. Tant pis ou tant mieux…

Overall, I’m pleased. They do exactly what I hoped they would, seeming to pull the middle bed and the bottom bed together and give them a focus – the other beds all have something, whether it’s a gable end or a stone wall, and I now realise that this was what these two beds lacked. Worth saving all the odd bits of slate from the depredations of people who thought they’d work better as steps.

garden with stones

And I’ve just realised they’re a bit difficult to spot here. Big ones, no problem. The trio are just behind the ginkgo (bright green leaves) and the others are in the shade of the acer. They’re even more difficult to see here because of the reddish cast of the tree. Slate comes in different colours,

slate colours

(thank you, the National Slate Museum, Llanberis – great place, fascinating), and while most of my scavenged stones were grey-blue local slate, some were the almost pinkish purple-red – ‘Vivian’ it says – of slate quarries further north. Completely coincidentally, they needed up closest to the acer, where they look just right. And in front of them will be the bright acid green Euphorbia schillingli (the stones will be visible through it from the most usual angle). Should work. Hopefully.

(And in the list of colours above, I’m not sure what to make of ‘green and wrinkled’. I guess that was a pretty accurate description of us once the slates were up. It’s done now. And so are various joints. Joints of the body, thank you!)



12 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, that is such a good idea, how lovely, though it sounds as if you might need the other kind of joint to help you recover 😉 That pair of big stones is particularly enchanting. Next step a moongate?!

    1. kate says:

      Wouldn’t that be lovely? I fell completely in love with a Moongate when I was working at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (briefly, and in another life), and they have a fabulous reconstructed Chinese courtyard. I used to retreat there for some peace and quiet…

  2. Christina says:

    I like the way the two larger slates look like they have faces looking at each other, or is that just me?

    1. kate says:

      They do, don’t they? I’d not thought of that – largely down to one of my male ‘friends’ assuring me that they were hips. Couldn’t get the image out of my head, but I’m going for another look now!

  3. Cathy says:

    How lovely to use ‘found’ things in the garden like this – they will really draw the eye to the beds they are in and will look even better when surrounded by foliage ps nice to know that the slate on our kitchen floor could be ‘Coch Galed’ slate if only it hadn’t come from India! 🙂

    1. kate says:

      They definitely work, really seem to complete those two beds, and I’m looking forward to seeing them with plants growing up. The trio should have a Bishop of Llandaff dahlia in front, but Madam dug it up repeatedly just after I’d planted it out and I think it’s sulking (don’t blame it). Dog headstones, perhaps. Grrrrr.

  4. Anna says:

    The standing stones are a brilliant touch Kate and look as if they have always been there.

    1. kate says:

      Can’t think why I didn’t do it earlier – always the sign of getting something in the garden right, I think. Now what can I do in the middle garden, I wonder?

  5. VP says:

    They look just right and a wonderful nod to where you live. We loved our visit to the National Slate Museum, such an interesting place.

    1. kate says:

      It’s wonderful, isn’t it? We were there ostensibly ‘spinning in public’ last September (for Worldwide Spinning in Public Day, yes, it originated in the States) and I spent more time photographing the Museum than telling people all about working with fleece. Oh well.

      Maybe that’s where the idea came from? No, we’ve been collecting slates for longer…

  6. VP says:

    Hubby’s day was made because Helen Willetts was in the cafe with her new baby & she kept smiling at us because we’d recognised her but didn’t encroach on her family time. The whole place was fascinating though – especially the slate splitting demo. I had a go and was rubbish at it.

    1. kate says:

      Now had it been Derek (Wales’s very own Weather God) I’d have been equally thrilled (!)… I didn’t try that; I was, after all, supposed to be demonstrating spinning. Er, and eating cake.

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