When I moved into my home in 1990, I was left with a large amount of crushed stone (4 to 5 inches deep), set on top of many feet of sand that surrounds my house. It was probably some kind of drainage thing, thought up in the 1950’s when the place was built. I never liked the look of it across the back of the house, so I came up with a decorative solution that works for me.
The first issue I had to address was to eliminate some of the excess crushed stone that was kind of overflowing onto the sidewalk. I took off a few inches of it to form a level surface between the house and walkway. I also kept it a bit lower than the edge of the sidewalk so it would be contained.
I knew I wanted to plant something in that long narrow space that was void of any real soil, got really hot in the afternoon, and was constantly drying out. I came to the conclusion Sempervivum Hens-and-Chickens would be my best bet, since they are really drought tolerant. The only issue was that there was no kind of soil for them to grow in. My solution for that was to rake back the crushed stones, dig down into the sandy layer, and plant / insert two large plastic pots in the spaces that a tree or bush would come in and fill them with earth. My one other issue was that I had to site the pots, not in the center of the space between the house and sidewalk, but back further toward the house. When it rains, water falling off of the edge of the roof would over water the Hens and Chickens and they would drown.
After inserting the pots in the ground, I went to a local well stocked garden center and found Delaware Stones. Delaware stones are kind of large and have at least one flat side per stone. I initially purchased one bag to see if what my mind’s eye envisioned could be turned into a reality.
Next I measured the space from the house to the sidewalk in a few locations. It varied from 56 inches wide closest to the deck, to about 53 inches further down by the back yard/garden gate. After that I had to decide where to start forming the first pointed end of the first diamond. I took a measuring tape and measured out from the house 28 inches and stuck a bamboo stick in the crushed stones at that spot. Twenty eight inches is one half of the 56 inches of space nearest to the deck. I then took two bamboo sticks and laid them on the ground, one starting at the back walk of the house, and one at the edge of the sidewalk at about the same place, and brought them together at the middle of the space marked at 28 inch by the bamboo stick. That formed the first half of the diamond pattern I was planning on creating in the crushed stones. (Look at #1 in red on the illustration). Using the sticks as guides, I dug the trenches with a hand trowel and inserted each of the Delaware stones flat side up into the crushed stones, just leaving their flat tops exposed. I worked out from the 28 inch center mark toward the house, and then from the 28 inch center mark toward the sidewalk.
After forming the first half of the diamond, I then started on the second part. I laid two bamboo sticks on the ground, one at the edge of the sidewalk where I just finished making one part of the diamond, and one by the house where I had just finished making the other end, and brought them together to form the second half of the diamond. I then measured out 28 inches from the house to where the two sticks came together to make sure they came together at exactly 28 inches.(Look at #2 on the illustration in blue). After that I started again planting stones from the center of the diamond, the 28 inch point, working toward the house, and then toward the sidewalk until I completed the first full diamond pattern. I then worked on the second diamond and all the other consecutive diamonds, repeating the two steps until I had finished making them all. Because the width of the space varied, as I made each consecutive diamond, I continuously measured out 28 inches from the house for each diamond’s points so the center points of all the diamonds would line up with each other as they progressed along the sidewalk.
To complete the look I was going for, I found River Rocks. River rocks are smallish and have rounded sides. They come in bags of mixed colors with purple, burgundy, tan, gold and gray being the most popular. I sprinkled them around in the centers of the diamonds and patted them into the crushed stones a bit to add extra visual interest and to introduce another size of stone to the space.
Upon completion of the project I was happy with the results, but my biggest fear was would it survive the Winters here in this part of upstate New York USA zone 5-4? With the freezing and thawing, the ground has a tendency to heave. I am pleased to say that the whole thing stood right in place, and hardly any of it has moved in all the years since I have installed it. Other than throwing back a few River Rocks in Spring, that have migrated from the center of the diamond to the crushed stones in Winter, everything stays in place. I do want to say ..Here and There I have to weed the space. Even thought it is made of crushed stone on sand, hardy weeds and some flower seeds germinate in the space.
I really like the overall look of the stone pattern. It adds a kind of Old World feel across the back of my house. The imbedded stones provide a lot of visual texture and are something that you rarely, if ever see in my neck of the woods.
I hope this post was inspirational to you. I made diamond patterns, but you can create swirling shapes, zigzags, boxes, star bursts, etc. The sky is the limit as to what your imagination and mind’s eye can come up with. You could also try incorporating different kinds of materials into the rock garden space. So all I have to say is Have fun creating your Rock Garden.
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