Garden Stonework in Mardi’s Yard

Over the last several years Hammerhead Stoneworks has worked closely with garden designer Mardi Letson, owner of Gardens by Mardi. The images below are from garden stonework projects we’ve done in her own yard. Mardi has a wonderful sense of design and can integrate plants into stonework wonderfully. She’s very talented and very easy to work with. She is especially good at working with small spaces as is demonstrated in her own yard. Her yard is not huge by any means, but it has so many little rooms and small special places to hang out.

The Finished Garden Stonework Products

garden stonework

Dry Stone Wall in Mardi’s yard


Stone slab steps at Mardi's

Stone slab steps at Mardi’s


Dry-laid flagstone path

Dry-laid flagstone path featuring the heart-shaped rock Mardi requested

Dealing With Drainage On A Stone Patio

One way to address drainage concerns in a stone patio

One way to address drainage concerns in a stone patio

Usually it is fairly easy to ensure a stone patio drains properly. Pitch it away from the house- making sure that sub grade drains away from the house as well, and the job is done. But sometimes the patio area is captured by garden beds, sloping yards and other land forms that make it hard to get water away from the home. I have used this drain design a handful of times to provide water with a path away from the patio.
The cobblestone/trench drainage system works off water’s tendency to follow a surface. The cobbles provide rainwater runoff with numerous opportunities to flow down into the pipe below and out into the yard.
A couple of things that help to keep the system working properly.
• Make sure you have a reasonable amount of slope in the pipe. Two percent works well.
• Keep the drainage material (gravel and pipe) free of debris and soil. Water needs to percolate through. That’s why you wrap it in filter fabric and put a sock on the pipe. Use a good grade of filter fabric. The plasticy stuff big box hardware stores sell for under mulch beds is not up to the job.
• Use white PVC pipe, not the thin-wall, cheapo, black corrugated pipe contractors favor. It’s crap.
• Put the holes in the perforated pipe down. The trench fills with water from the bottom up. As soon as it reaches the height of the holes, it starts to drain into the pipe and flow out.
• Keep the daylight exit clear.

A cobblestone detail that covers a trench drain in a dry laid stone patio

A cobblestone detail that covers a trench drain in a dry laid stone patio

Here’s a cobblestone system installed. Done right, it can provide an intriguing visual design element to a patio. This particular system begins and ends with grinding wheels. In this case the patio and cobble stones are sandstone from Tennessee. Cobbles are not necessary, though they do provide increased opportunities for the water to perc into the drain system.

I have installed similar systems at the edge of patios where grass or mulch beds have created puddles or soggy soil. The one pictured is in the center of a patio that is stuck between the house and a steady rising slope.

A grinding wheel starts a cobblestone trench drain.

A grinding wheel starts a cobblestone trench drain.

In the Labyrinth

The Asheville Labyrinth under construction at the Hammerhead Stoneworks shop.

The Asheville Labyrinth under construction at the Hammerhead Stoneworks shop.

Hammerhead Stoneworks is proud to be building a full-sized rendition of the Chartres eleven circuit labyrinth for the First Baptist Church of Asheville. I call it a rendition because it’s not a replica- we are using different stones and spacing. I can’t says ours is “inspired by” either, since it is our goal to very accurately approximate the 800 year old design and dimensions; we are borrowing too much of the original to just be “inspired by.” I like rendition because it suggests to me a musical performance. This is our adaptation of one of the great works, written and performed centuries ago by gifted artists. Our rendition is our earnest attempt to honor their amazing artwork. And like any good musical performance, our rendition should have its own flavor. It will be informed by our talents, our tools and techniques, and the times we live in. I hope that someday our rendition will be considered worthy of its lineage.
The labyrinth will be all natural stone, laid dry in a bed of gravel. We are aiming for a 1/8″ tolerance on the joinery. When completed it will be forty-four feet across.

Stone Path on a Gradual Grade

In the mountains of western North Carolina, where Hammerhead Stoneworks is located, we often deal with awkward slopes. Gradual grades, like the one pictured here, are common. The best solution usually involves striking a balance of steps and landings. This walkway features several small stacks of slab steps with flagstone landings spaced throughout. It’s important to take the rhythm of walking into account. The rise and run of steps are an agreement between the builder and everyone who uses their steps. It should be predictable and within a ratio that we are familiar with. Stuttering steps- those awkward ones that are too short or too close together or weirdly spaced- drive my crazy. (A common thing here is the two inch step at the top of a run of stairs. WHY?!)
Of course, there are other variables as well. You want to steps to fall naturally into place along the slope. If your steps are too far ahead, then you have to do a lot building up with retaining walls to support the steps. Likewise, if you get too far into the slope, there’s a lot of digging needed and you may have to install some sort of edging to keep the soil and mulch off the path. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but often, by taking the time to pay attention to those details in the design phase, you can have a stone path that has a natural rhythm, is safe and easy to walk and is strong and durable. Like this one in the pictures!

Stone path and steps

Drystone pathway with steps. Balancing bench in the background.

stone pathway and steps

A view of the stone path and the mountains

stone pathway

Tennessee sandstone pathway with steps slabs and site boulders

Sunflower Mosaic for Frankie

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

This mosaic patio was created for my friend Carmen. She needed something to cover the muddy space just outside the doggy door that leads off her porch. Frankie, the puppy in the picture, is an enthusiastic digger and was tracking in altogether too much mud. I had wanted to try a sunflower design in stone and this seemed like a good opportunity.
Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

The seeds are Mexican beach pebbles anchored in concrete. I cast that piece in an retired plastic flower pot. The rest of the stone is laid dry on a bed of crushed stone and sand. The background is Pennsylvania stone and the flower petals are sandstone from Tennessee. I might simplify the design if I were to revisit it. There’s a slight “S” curve on the petals that required more time for cutting and shaping than a straighter line might have, though if it were bigger, that curve would be easier to cut.

North Asheville Stone Patio and Steps

dry stone wall and steps

A drystone retaining wall supports a set of carefully stacked steps. This is an overview of a recent Hammerhead Stoneworks project in North Asheville.

This is a recent Hammerhead project, a patio and wall combination to create a exterior space at a home in North Asheville. We used sandstone from Tennessee, one of our favorite stones for tight walls and flat floors.

A favorite detail of this project is the set of steps that emerge from the face of the wall. It’s all dry laid- no concrete or mortar. The design offsets two walls, providing support for the steps. This creates the effect of a single wall that is pulled apart to reveal the steps. I love the look and like how sturdy they are.

stone step emerge from dry laid wall

This is a close up of how the steps emerge from the dry stone wall. Super sturdy, clean lines- how Hammerhead rolls…

Dry stone wall detail

Detail of a section of drystone wall built by Jonathan. Part of a patio/wall project in North Asheville.

Stone cut for downspout.

Detail showing where the downspout plunges through the patio surface. There’s a marble we found on site tucked on the right side there.

Faerie Garden At Dusk: photos by Amelia Fletcher

Here are a few more images from the Faerie Garden in Fairview, North Carolina. These images were taken one evening by Amelia Fletcher. Thanks Amelia for sharing the images with us!

Detail of an illuminated glass insulator in a niche in a drystone wall

Detail of an illuminated glass insulator in a niche in our drystone wall. Photograph by Amelia Fletcher

Drystone wall

The Faerie Garden is a drystone wall with several niches for glass insulators. It’s in Fairview, North Carolina. Photograph by Amelia Fletcher

Stone terraces

A full view of the terraces leading up to the Faerie Garden. Hammerhead built the bottom and top walls in this photograph by Amelia Fletcher.

This image shows the whole hillside. We built the bottom wall and the top wall, where the Faerie Garden itself really resides. In this image you can see the little table on the top level. The many terraces between were already there and are mortared walls of Hooper’s Creek- a big reason why we used that same stone ourselves.

Black Mountain Patio

We just finished transforming this Black Mountain backyard from a ragged old deck with drainage issues into a dynamic living space with a fire table. Over the course of the last year we have been using larger and larger slabs of flagstone, but keeping our very tight tolerances for the joints. The results are more like a floor in terms of level and walking comfort than the typical concept of a patio, which is often as much filler as stone. All of the work here is drystone, except for the fire table, which has some refractory mortar in the fire brick for stability. I’ll post about that when I have some good images of it in use.

Getting started on a large patio.

Getting started on transforming this backyard in Black Mountain.

Big flagstones in a patio in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

A panorama from above the Black Mountain patio, from above

Black Mountain patio completed

We transformed this Black Mountain backyard with a patio and fire pit. Many of the flagstones are huge and all the work is laid dry.

A large patio is supported by a tightly fitted retaining wall.

This crib wall supports a large patio in Black Mountain.

Pebble mounted into a larger stone.

A pebble mounted into the face of a small boulder.

Recent project: Fire pit with boulders and a big patio

Panorama of a recently built patio and fire pit.

Lacey the lab puppy is concerned with my high vantage point as I take this panorama of a recently built patio and fire pit.

We recently completed this large patio and fire pit project in Atlanta. We built the whole patio here in Asheville and then created a detailed map of how the stones went together, before loading it on pallets and freighting it to the job site. It took us two and a half days to fix a slack grading job, reassemble the patio and build the fire pit. They were long days of hard work and great fun. The hosting house had a pool table, which was a nice bonus. This was very much an experiment, but I feel like it worked so well and we learned so much, that we can start offering our particular styles of flagstone patios to areas outside of Asheville.

Stacked wall fire pit with boulders

Stacked wall fire pit with boulders

A backyard fire pit with walls stacked around boulders.

A backyard fire pit with walls stacked around boulders.

Building the fire pit

Building the fire pit