High on the top of my to-do list has been to remove an area of crappy grass and replace it with stepping stones. I’ve managed to put this off for several years, but recently I saw a neighbor’s beautiful stepping stone path and decided it was time.
Do you ever have those projects where you know in your mind exactly how you want it to look, but you can’t exactly find a photo to show it or lay it out? That was this project for me. I looked through all kinds of books and magazines to see if I could find a visual to match my vision. Nothing. The closest I came was a stone patio featured on page 136 of Rochelle Greyer’s Cultivating Garden Style (fyi- I am Organic Modern!). It was close, but not quite what I had in mind.
With my dad on his way to town, I did a scouting trip to Pebble Junction in Sanford to scope things out. I knew they had tons of beautiful stone, but I needed some time to think it over before he was with me. Talk about overwhelming. There are so many beautiful choices! Colors, sizes, textures… it is almost too much!
I started by removing the stained glass stepping stone path that was in place. There wasn’t anything wrong with this, but it had been there for five years and it was time for a change. As our large privacy hedge has grown taller the shade has increased and the remaining “grass” was looking really bad. My goal was to remove the grass area completely, expand the beds, and install the stone in a large swath rather than just the single path of our previous stones.
After renting a truck from Home Depot, we made it to Pebble Junction and decided on the beautiful Arizona Rose stone. There were so many choices to pick from, but my goal was to pick out the largest stones possible so that they would be very steady and easy to walk on. We loaded up, trying to select the largest pieces possible but not up for handling an entire pallet of stone to do so, and headed home. We got home, set the stone off in the driveway and then returned the truck. I knew that this was going to take awhile to get the stones placed and we were better off to do that without the tab running on the rented truck!
When we got home to start setting the stones the real battle began. We placed them one by one, trying to leave a consistent amount of space between each for planting dwarf mondo grass. I had trouble picking stone but knew exactly what I wanted to plant between! This was our first attempt at setting the stones:
We left this overnight on purpose so that we could make absolutely certain it was perfect before filling the spaces with soil. Something about it wasn’t quite right for me. We started over.
This process continued for awhile. The photo below shows it coming together but just not being exactly what I wanted. A little too big of gaps, a little too close to the plants, and really not a good flow around the area. Huh. Even 007, our dog, was over it.
You can see in the photo above that having a direction of the stones helped to create cohesiveness. This was the start of us hitting our stride on the stone laying. I knew from our previous steps that we didn’t want to really dig them in because the frequent rains cause water to sit on the stones and algae to grow quickly. We did spend a little time leveling each piece and making sure that it had solid footing. A single bag of topsoil worked well to do all of these.
The next part for me was deciding on a plant to go between the stepping stone path. It didn’t take too long to decide on dwarf mondo grass (way easier than deciding on stone!). Dwarf mondo grass works well as a groundcover in small spaces. I have a lot of people ask me if it would work well as a lawn replacement and unfortunately I don’t think so. While it is the perfect height at about 2-3″ tall, it is very slow to fill in and doesn’t stand up well to foot traffic. The idea of planting an entire yard with dwarf mondo grass would be a very tedious and expensive proposition.
Pot by pot though, I have been adding to our stepping stone pathway. I try to throw a couple of pots into my cart each time I go to the home improvement store. You can see here just how many trips that has been! I break apart each pot and spread the sprigs between the stepping stones. They have all taken very well and are remaining the beautiful distinctive dark green color. I will fertilize them lightly soon to help encourage new growth. My vision is to have the dwarf mondo grass spill over each stone just a little, hiding the edges of each piece.
So far I think it looks good! I have learned a lot through this process though, and my suggestions for DIYers consider a similar project include:
Stepping Stone Path Pointers:
- Try to pick out the largest pieces of stone possible. This may mean multiple trips to get just the largest pieces from each pallet of stone.
- All of the stones don’t have to be on a single level, but each stone itself should be level for easy walking and maneuvering.
- Think about your plants from the beginning. What size will you be able to purchase? If you can only get your plant in 6″ pots then you need to be mindful of that when placing stepping stones.
- Leave room on the edges for surrounding plants to grow and still give you room to walk.
- Place the stones from the outside to the inside. Pick out your biggest foundation pieces that will anchor your walkway and then fill toward the middle from those ends.
Let me know if you have any other pointers or questions by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear your suggestions!