Sustainable Sanctuary

Design: Carolyn Edsell-Vetter

Goshen Stone

A goshen stone retaining wall, steppers, and native plantings integrate an existing patio into a backyard slope.

This Waltham client connected with A Yard & A Half through our affiliation with the Northeast Organic Farming Association. He had already started to develop his back yard as a habitat for birds and pollinators and wanted its redesign and construction to be consistent with organic principles.

The small brick patio was in good condition, and we agreed that we wanted to preserve existing materials where we could, but also to soften and enlarge the seating area. Using goshen stone, a dark, shiny local schist from central Massachusetts, our craftsmen built a low seating wall abutting the patio.


Flagging of the same material created an informal extension to the brick patio, flowing up steppingstone steps to the lawn. Fragrant thyme and creeping sedum were planted in the joints between stones.

We pruned and supplemented the existing woody plantings, adding native perennials and shrubs to provide a succession of forage for pollinators, as well as berries and seeds for birds. Evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses, and flowers with persistent seed heads like echinacea and rudbeckia provide winter interest. Many of the plants, such as salvia, monarda, and lavender, also have medicinal or culinary benefits.