Guest Rant: Rich Pomerantz Builds A Wall


On the theory that our readers should have occasional relief from my dreadful work with a camera, we’ve asked photographer Rich Pomerantz to do a guest rant for us. Rich’s book Great Gardens of the Berkshires has just been published, and it features delightful and inspiring private gardens, as well as the institutional heavy-hitters like like The Mount. Pomerantz_2
Tom Gardner’s wall

Like many visitors to well made gardens, I sometimes see things when I am photographing gardens that I think could be adapted for my own garden. I had such an experience when I visited Tom Gardner’s garden in Richmond, MA, to scout it for Great Gardens of the Berkshires, my new book with author Virginia Small.

Tom is one of those people who does nothing in half-measures. His garden is to a great extent about color (any flower that dares to display a bloom that clashes with his mustard color house is ruthlessly ripped out), but it’s also a shameless display of extraordinary masonry: fieldstone walls and terraces that must be passed through to get to the gardens that wrap around the house. There is an element worked into some of the walls that caught and held my attention – his candle boxes. These are relatively small insets built into the undulating walls, each maybe 10×10 inches, sporadically spaced around the patio. I just loved them.

Rich Pomerantz’s garden

So the year after I first saw Tom’s walls, my wife and I decided to tie together my downhill studio garden to our uphill deck and kitchen garden area, by creating a two-level patio with undulating stone walls into which I just had to incorporate – you guessed it – candle boxes. Although I have yet to put candles into them, I have a small special variegated agave in a pot in one and an antique stone hammer in another.

I showed my stone mason some images from Tom’s garden and away he went. Too late I thought it would have been really cool to have had him build these spaces in other shapes, like maybe an arch, or even a circle, since the circle is a design theme of our garden. Maybe in the next wall we build…..


  1. So that’s how you build a niche in a wall. Good information to have as I continue to build my wall over the winter. I have also tried putting in shelves that protrude out of the wall. The proper stone is everything.

    Now for picky. It sounds more like Rich had a wall built.

  2. I love stone walls and these are beauties. Candle niches – what a great idea. Too bad we’re finished rock wall building – and you can bet we’ll never take ’em down and do it again, just to add candle niches, square or otherwise.

  3. Candle niches or a protruding stone boulder that can be used as a step, a sitting stoop, or a side table.
    That’s the wonderful vocabulary of stone.

    I shall never tire of working with or admiring the craftsmanship of other stone crafters.

  4. I love stone walls; even tried building one when I lived and gardened in Kentucky. Your article and pictures have inspired me, perhaps I’ll give it another try.

  5. Lovely adaptation of what inspired you! If you would relocate that large container (nasturtiums?) it would really show it off!

    We will certainly incorporate spots for votives when we get to “editing’ our stone fence in the woods. Reminds me of stone chambers (positioned for the Solstice)with spaces for candles inside.

  6. Christopher, yes, I totally had these walls built by a professional stone mason. I did not have the equipment to dig the footings (one of which had to be dug by hand near a 75′ maple that shades my house so as not to cut the feeder roots) nor do I have the expertise or time to do this large job. I did personally build a much smaller retaining wall 8 years ago when my studio was built, it took me all summer to build what is approximately 1/5 of the walls as we had in this job. It is miraculously still standing! We used similar looking stone for these walls so it all ties together visually.

  7. Rich if I could afford me a good stone mason, I would certainly have one. The walls I am building are headed into the second year of construction. I hope eight years from now they are still standing. I’m doing my best, following the recipe for a sturdy dry stack stone wall.

    The good news is it isn’t to late to add a candle box. A great idea. Thanks for sharing.

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