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.

The Faerie Garden

We recently completed a project in Fairview, North Carolina with our friend, garden designer Mardi Letson. Called the Faerie Garden, the project involved adding a new wall to an already terraced slope to create a children’s garden and play area. The terrace wall features a handful of niches that house the homeowner’s collection of glass insulators. To me they resemble arrow notches, because the tight curve of the wall makes me think of a castle tower or battlement. The focal point of the kids garden is the Pixie Table, which is bedazzled in marbles. Also nicknamed the Toadstool Table, it sits near the center of the garden and creates a gathering space that looks out on spectacular views of mountains and rugged farmland.

This drystone retaining wall supports the faerie garden.

This drystone retaining wall supports the faerie garden. Its tight curve echoes an ancient castle battlement. The niches house glass insulators- or are they arrow notches?

The Pixie Table is the focal point of the Faerie Garden.

The Pixie Table is the focal point of the Faerie Garden.

Small niches in the stone wall house the homeowner's collection of glass insulators.

Small niches in the stone wall house the homeowner’s collection of glass insulators.

A granitic gneiss drystone wall built in Fairview, North Carolina.

A granitic gneiss drystone wall built in Fairview, North Carolina.

The final phase of the project involved replacing the bottommost terrace, which was starting to collapse.

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.

Weaverville Nature Park Stonework

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville.

We built this wall and sidewalk in Weaverville at the Downtown Nature Park.

Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed this wall and sidewalk for the Town of Weaverville’s Downtown Nature Park. My boys and I take frequent walks there looking for bugs and snakes and tree frogs, so this was an exciting opportunity to make public work that I’ll get to enjoy.

The wall is a two sided, free-standing structure. Except for the seating cap, which is mortared in place, the wall is all drystone. It’s a very labor intensive approach to building a retaining wall, but I know well how kids will run and jump and scramble along the wall. We wanted to make the most durable and sturdiest product we could. I think it’s pretty too.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

We built this wall and sidewalk in Weaverville at the Downtown Nature Park.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

Drystone wall and path in Weaverville, North Carolina.

The pathway is also laid dry, over crushed stone. We used very large pieces, to give visual impact and to make the surface very, very stable. We used a wide variety of stone types, to give it different colors, patterns and textures. All the stone is sedimentary, which generally makes good walking surfaces.

Van accessible parking area with a drystone sidewalk.

The stone sidewalk fades down to the same level as the asphalt, creating an accessible parking area at the Downtown Nature Park in Weaverville, North Carolina.

The stone sidewalk fades down to the same level as the asphalt, creating an accessible parking area at one end of the new parking area. I like the abstract shape formed by the stone against the asphalt. That last section is a parking area for a van that can just pull up parallel to the stone sidewalk.

Seating wall

Stone sitting wall built in Weaverville by Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Haw Creek Wall

Haw Creek Wall

Granitic gneiss quarried in Fletcher, North Carolina is used to make a sturdy and beautiful drystone retaining wall in Asheville.

Materials used for the Haw Creek Wall

The Haw Creek Wall, as we call it, is a drystone retaining wall in the Haw Creek neighborhood, in the eastern parts of Asheville, North Carolina. We’re using Hooper’s Creek, a granitic gneiss quarried in Fletcher, NC as our primary building stone. It has all the toughness of granite, but it also possesses an unruly grain. It is hard, sharp, and tough to work, and it makes the sturdiest and most beautiful walls.

Haw Creek Wall

Looking down a drystone wall we’re building in Haw Creek.


Read more about Retaining Walls.

Flagstone Patio Panorama

patio and bench wall panorama

Panorama of sitting walls and flagstone patio.

This panorama shows a flagstone patio and a seating wall we built last winter. The wall has a curve that has been flattened by making the panorama. The seating wall is drystone, with a mortared cap.
Click the image for a closer look.

Ceremonial Fire Pit II

Flagstone around a boulder

Flagstone surrounds the North Boulder. A ray of Absolute Black Granite connects the boulder to the fire ring.

We are installing rays of black granite that connect the fire pit to the four boulders. We’re cutting down slabs of a counter top material called Absolute Black. It has a leathered finish, so that it’s not slick when it gets wet. The rays are a design feature that focuses energy and attention of the center as well as create a path from the entryways- which are immediately next to the boulders- to the fire pit itself. I am cutting each one to marry to the boulder cleanly. It’s a fun and dusty pursuit. The rays run right up to the fire pit, but are held back a quarter inch, to allow the metal ring to expand when in use. I’m not even sure that’s a risk considering how thick the metal is, but better safe than sorry!

Drystone culvert

A drystone culvert allows water to escape the circular patio.

There are two culverts like this built into each section of wall. If the boulders are located at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, the culverts are placed to fill out the clock’s face. They allow surface run off to escape the central patio area during a gullywasher. Plus, I think they look super cool!

Fire pit and flagstone process

A view of the fire pit, granite ray and flagstone.

The outer path is three feet across. In this image you can see the suggestion of the outer path, two rays and the patio taking shape. Progress has slowed a bit with the holidays and some cold, cold weather. A design for the center is well underway and I’ll be buying some capstone material soon, so we’ll be ready to make hay when the sun shines.

Ceremonial Fire Pit I

Hammerhead Stoneworks has recently begun a new project, one that will keep us busy through the winter months. It’s a large ceremonial fire pit in a wide open part of the Asheville environs. When the wind blows out here, we feel it. These first few photos show the start up and our early progress. We have started by building a series of drystone walls. They are two-sided, free standing-walls that will top out at about eighteen inches, making the whole wall a very long stone bench. There are four such walls that terminate at the boulders which are located at the cardinal points of the compass.

Fire pit project layout.

Fire pit project layout.

On a large project like this, site layout is a crucial component. Everything hinges on the center point. We worked diligently to get the levels and shapes correct before we cluttered the area with stone and our tent.

fire pit and drystone walls

Free-standing walls encircle a ceremonial fire pit.

Ceremonial fire pit

Free-standing walls encircle a ceremonial fire pit.

Cold weather stone work

A car port frame laced with sheet plastic protects us from the elements.

The tent has been a huge asset. Two weeks in, I think the tent has saved us two and half working days. And even in cases where we could have tolerated the cold, we were more comfortable and able to do our best, most efficient work. It’s hard to set stone well when you’re so bundled up you can’t move your arms! It’s noisy in there on a windy day, but pop in the iPod and you barely notice.

drystone wall

A long curving free-standing wall as part of a ceremonial fire pit.

This is a close up of the first wall now ready for cap.

Drystone Retaining Wall: Before & After

In addition to providing a more rustic and artistic aesthetic, a drystone retaining wall is actually a more sustainable choice as well. In the fall of 2013 Hammerhead replaced a failing mortared retaining wall that was in an advanced state of decay. Hydrostatic pressure- a build up of water in the earth behind the wall- eventually tore the wall apart and was pushing it over when we stepped in to finish the job. Neighborhood reports vary, but the existing wall was no more than twenty years old- a baby in stone years.

A Drystone Retaining Wall Prevents Hydrostatic Pressure

We replaced it with a drystone retaining wall which will allow water to pass through the face- avoiding the damaging build up of hydrostatic pressure. We used Hooper’s Creek stone, a granitic gneiss from these mountains. It’s a favorite material for wall building because it belongs to these mountains and fits with the crazy geology of this terrain. That said, I did select sandstone from Tennessee for the steps, seen below. It’s so much flatter than the Hooper’s making it a better choice for steps, particularly for clients concerned about access as they age. We can build a very predictable and comfortable set of steps from these big slabs.

drystone retaining wall

A drystone retaining wall in Asheville’s historic Albemarle neighborhood by Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Drystone retaining wall for prevention of blowouts

A blow out in a mortared retaining wall caused by hydrostatic pressure. Build dry, by Golly!

drystone retaining wall

Stone steps and drystone wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks.


Read more about retaining walls.

North Asheville Retaining Wall


North Asheville Retaining Wall

North Asheville Retaining Wall

This large drystone retaining wall replaces an old block wall that was being slowly pushed outward by hydrostatic pressure. Located in a quiet North Asheville neighborhood, this is the largest single wall Hammerhead’s done to date, at over 300 square feet. The yard slopes quite a bit and so the wall had numerous steps in it, as the wall maintains the same relative grade as it goes down the road. This is practical too, as it ensures that the wall is never taller than 48″, the maximum allowed by code before engineering is required. The wall is built of 30 tons of Hooper’s Creek, a locally quarried granitic gneiss.

North Asheville Retaining Wall