Thursday, December 22, 2005

Stepping Stones

By Christina VanGinkel

I love garden decorations, almost as much as the flowers and plants that make up the garden themselves, so when my youngest son made me a cement stepping-stone in school about two years ago, (That I will cherish forever I might add!) I became obsessed with finding more of these decorative additions to use in my gardens and to create new walkways. They not only look great, they have an actual purpose, and that is always a plus with anything in my life!

The one he made is a mosaic of a dolphin leaping out of a big wave. Made out of cut glass, set into cement, he both designed and handcrafted it. It was made by placing pieces of cut glass into a mosaic, which made up his design, into the bottom of the mold, then pouring his cement over the finished design. When he took it out of the mold, the design was then on top. He made this particular one in a middle school art class, so though it might sound a bit on the complicated side, other than taking the time to lay out the design, he said it was really quite easy to make.

I have seen stepping stones made from a variety of materials, but my favorites are made in much the same way that this first one I received was, or out of natural materials including slabs of wood and found rocks. I also love the ones that are made of an artificial material but look like stone, but each has a single word or short inspirational phrase etched into it, such as love, joy, life, laugh, or peace.

To make your own from slabs of wood, choose a wood such as cedar that will last a long time naturally, then choose to either leave the slabs in their natural state, or finish with a sealant that is both waterproof and that will not alter the look of the wood more than you want it too. A bit of caution though: Do not seal the wood in a shellac that is going to be slippery when wet. If you are anything like me, after a rain is one of your most favorite times for a stroll in your garden, and a slippery pathway is the last thing you want, not to mention a slippery walkway when you are out watering!

So imagine my incredible delight when I discovered a whole array of stepping stones and walkway molds at Outdoor D├ęcor, linked right here from iGardeners.com. With their available molds, I could essentially create any stepping stone I could dream up. They also have what they refer to as a walkway mold, which allows the user to create a complete walkway and not just a random path of stepping-stones. By creating a walkway in this manner though, instead of using pre-made bricks or pavers, you can essentially personalize the walkway in any manner you choose.

One unique stepping-stone that they had was so unique that IO had never seen one like it elsewhere. Made of cast iron, it is a floral design, called a Fleur de lis, and is stunning. I can picture several of them leading up to a small table where I can sit and enjoy a cup of tea in the early morning light, or a glass of wine as the sun sets.

Another set that they had appealed to the kid in me very much. Made up of three separate pieces, it was a hippopotamus, and when the pieces are placed in order, it appears as if the hippo is swimming just beneath the surface. These could be placed in the traditional sense of other stepping-stones, or placed in a very shallow pond, giving the illusion of depth to an otherwise shallow body of water.

If you enjoy getting out into your garden, walking the pathways, and want to lend a bit of style or a touch of character to your otherwise plain paths, pick out a few stepping stones in a fashion that will add to your garden's overall look. On the other hand, make your own for some one of kind steps that will be admired by all who walk within.

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