Stoneyards are noplace for sissies. It's all frontloaders and dump trucks and huge piles of rocks and stone dust. They're dirty and dangerous. Nothing has a price on it. There are no recognizable salespeople. So how does a do-it-yourselfer ever get stone for their garden? They put on their heavy-toed shoes and long pants, grab their heavy gloves, and kiss their family goodbye as they leave the house.
Kidding! No, it's really do-able, and I'm here to ease the pain. These photos are from Jack Irwin's stone yard in Rockville, MD. As intimidating as it is, it's actually the best of the bunch, at least the bunch of three stoneyards that I've sampled, so listen up.
First, I suggest going when they're not too busy, like weekday afternoons. Their only weekend hours are Saturday morning and that's a busy time, so this might be a good time to call in sick at work. When you arrive park, go inside and ask if there's anyone to show you what piles you should be looking at and what the prices are. Then get back in your car and drive onto the scale that's next to the building - yeah, you're a trucker now, dude. They weigh your car going in, then again going out, and calculate what you owe.
I've actually had very friendly and patient sales help at Irwin's, even when I was buying a little of this and that. He took me all over the lot and gave me lots of direction about what stones would work on what projects, helped me load it all into my car and sorted it out for me at the scales.
So yes, stoneyards can be ugly and noisy, but the displays out front remind us of how gorgeous the results can be. Stone really does make the garden. (If you're rudely keeping track of my proclamations you'll remember that last week I said conifers make the garden. And next week I may say it's hanging baskets -- but don't bet on it.) Bottom line - plants look better when combined with stone.
So get up your courage, grab a friend who owes you big-time, and take the plunge.