Landscape & Hardscape Ideas

Rock the garden: whimsical stone displays to add fun to your outdoor decor

Add some impromptu sculptures and spots of color to your garden and patio with these simple projects. Decorating the patio with small details brings a sense of wonder and serenity to your outdoor space. Fortunately, there are some very easy and inexpensive ways to do it. Here are a few ideas to try.

Mood-lifting Messages

Remember pet rocks? The painted-rock trend is back, but this time we are painting inspirational messages and intricate designs instead of silly faces. In a trend that is sweeping the country, groups have formed to make and distribute painted stones around town in hopes to brighten someone’s day. In Havertown, PA, the town commissioners and a group called Delaware Valley Rocks dedicated some park space for a rock garden meant to “inspire creativity and positivity.”

Build up the bubbly karma in your own backyard by hosting a painting party. Lay down some tarps to protect those pavers and have a few pictures on hand for reference. A supply of smooth rocks from the craft store is easier to paint than rocks found in the wild. After the paint has dried, seal the stones with a sealer rated for outdoor use. Tuck individual stones throughout the garden or line them up on a garden wall. Guests will be delighted with the pops of color and mood-boosting messages.



Trail Markers or Cairns

A well-worn tradition within hiking culture, a cairn is pile of stones arranged in a pyramid, dome or column. Typically used above a mountain’s tree line, a cairn stands out as a man-made structure that marks a trail for hikers. A cairn tucked into a corner of the garden or even as a central, eye-catching piece adds a sense of outdoor adventure to your space. For a traditional trail marker, find some rocks that are a lighter or contrasting color than your pavers or your garden’s base. Cairns are meant to stick out, so go bold. Start with arranging the stones in a circle and filling it in. Stack up smaller circles as you work upwards. For safety’s sake, keep your cairn at a height of less than three feet.


Stone Vignettes

Some stones come in shapes that remind us of other things. Oblong stones can be turned into a baby footstep with tiny toes. A line of them along a walkway would be a cute addition to a garden. Perfectly round stones can be arranged in planetary order, with smaller pebbles making the concentric rings of Saturn of Jupiter. No paints or tools are necessary for this project. Let your imagination roam and think a bit outside the box.




Concrete Stepping Stones

A long-time favorite of grandparents everywhere, the handprint stepping stone has never gone out of style. Quikrete concrete mix is combined with water and poured into a store-bought or handmade (or cardboard, etc.) mold and left to set-up. Gloves help keep a little one’s hands clean when pressing into the concrete. Decorate the surrounding concrete spaces with faux gems, shells or pretty pebbles. If handprints aren’t your thing, gather up a few pebbles from the craft store and arrange them in the drying concrete in a mandala-like design. You can also put the pebbles in the mold first and carefully pour the concrete mix over them. When dried, flip the whole stepping stone out of the mold and marvel at the magic. Make several stepping stones, each with different designs, to form a whimsical path to a secret part of the garden.

Try It

As that ultimate adventurer Amelia Earhart said, “There are two kinds of stones, as everyone knows, one of which rolls.” The best thing about these projects is they are free or almost free to try. Keep whatever works and line flowerpots with the rest. The sky’s the limit. Get out there and rock your garden.

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