If your outdoor living space is looking a little flat and could use a little…oomph, consider adding dimension with vertical elements like a classic garden wall made from natural stone products. Not only will a low wall help create visual interest in your hardscape setting, but it helps add depth to your living space and is ideal for shallow floral beds and landscaping elements.
We like that the garden wall can serve as impromptu seating for gatherings and that it can also help delineate outdoor “rooms,” separating dining from seating areas and giving flowers and shrubs a natural background against which to shine.
Made by nature, there’s no better complement to outdoor living spaces than natural stone, which gives hardscape projects beauty and durability. Indiana limestone in particular is an excellent stone choice as its neutral character lets it play well with other hardscape products and it brings a classic American feel wherever it’s used.
For nearly 200 years, Indiana limestone has been an enduring building stone choice in the United States, gracing the facades of iconic structures like the Empire State Building and the iconic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, which was built by an heir to the Vanderbilt family, one of America’s business titans.
Depending on how you finish it, Indiana limestone can be rustic or it can be classic. Because it’s the same composition throughout, the stone resists fading over decades, is impervious to the freeze-thaw cycles, and requires very little maintenance.
How to build a decorative garden wall
To help guide you through the process of building a decorative garden wall, we’re focusing on a recent project that used Polycor Hardscapes & Masonry Garden Wall products, cut from solid blocks of INDIANA LIMESTONE- FULL COLOR BLEND™ direct from Polycor’s Indiana limestone quarry. This is a double sided split-face wall product that comes in standard 3-inch and 6-inch heights, by 8-inch widths and random lengths.
Typically 6-to-8-inches of compacted aggregate base is required to provide a firm foundation for garden wall installations. This particular garden wall was installed over existing granite pavers set on EZBase, a high-density foam panel made by Techniseal that replaces traditional compacted aggregate-base installations, which saves up to 8-inches of excavation, and reduces time and labor. The EZbase extends 12-inches beyond the wall for added support.
Once your base is set, here’s how to construct your Indiana limestone garden wall:
1. Set lines to designate the first course of wall. In this case we came in 4” from the outside edge of the paver and snapped a chalk line, which helped keep the wall square while building this courtyard look. If not installing on existing paving, go ahead and compact and level a densely graded aggregate base for the first course of garden wall blocks.
2. Arrange the blocks according to the design. In this case, smaller pieces are mixed in with longer lengths and differing heights for a more random appearance. Begin by damp-proofing the bottom of the first course of block only — no other damp-proofing is necessary. Mix according to the manufacturer's recommendation.
3. Start dry-fitting pieces, offsetting vertical and horizontal joints when possible for a better aesthetic. Use split faced short sides to match the face at wall ends. Some ends will arrive pre-split and others will require mechanical splitting, either with a chisel or a hydraulic splitter (which is recommended). Make any necessary adjustments to the length or height using a grinder with diamond blade and/or cup wheel. After dry laying a series of blocks, begin gluing in place. Here, Structure Bond polyurethane adhesive (manufactured by Techniseal) is used, a super-strength foam adhesive that replaces traditional glue bonding blocks in just 8 minutes.
4. Once desired height is achieved, finish the wall design with 2” thick 12x24 wall caps with natural split face edges. Dry lay the caps, keeping an equal overhang on both sides. Run a sting line to the finished height of the wall to use as a guide and help maintain straightness. When ready, continue the glue up process with foam adhesive.
Take your garden wall to the next level by including a pillar feature. The extra volume and dimension of a pillar lends a visual focal point where the wall joins to it. Using the same garden wall product it’s possible to build other decorative landscape accents along driveways, walkways or property lines. Courses can be alternated with different height stones for a random pattern, or use all 6” or 3” for a consistent appearance. Top off the finished pillars with a Polycor Hardscapes & Masonry pillar cap using the same stone, or use a different color for contrast.
Here’s a rundown on how to build a pillar using Polycor garden wall stones:
1. Square up the first course of the pillar. In this case the pillar is centered on the wall. Using a Polycor 20” x 20” x 2” Indiana Limestone Wall Cap, and allowing for a 2” overhand as a guide, the pillar dimension was set at 16” x 16”.
2. Dry lay several courses of blocks, cutting and grinding the mating split faces to draw the joint together. Begin by damp-proofing the bottom of the first course of block only, no other damp-proofing is necessary.
3. Alternate courses, paying attention to corners to make sure they are lining up vertically, and chisel when necessary to align corners. After, begin gluing in place. When desired height is reached, glue and lay the pillar cap in place checking for equal overhang on all four sides.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of how to install Indiana limestone garden walls and pillars there’s no stopping you from adding them to every corner of your outdoor living space to create some depth and add some oomph! And Polycor’s historic North American quarries provide a range of stone products, like Indiana limestone - Full Color Blend, Georgia Marble - Pearl Grey and Woodbury Gray granite that help distinguish your creation from any other.
Get the details on garden walls. Download the product sheet.