As many garden aficionados might tell you, not all stepping stones are created equal. Some stones are used to create an informal pathway through a garden, which has the advantage of being quicker to install than a more intricate brickwork pathway. For particularly luxurious gardens with water features, large boulders may be brought in for use as a stepping stone bridge across the water.
Types of Garden Stepping Stones
There are three main varieties of garden stepping stones, the first being the humble poured-concrete paver. These stones come in either simple square or circular shapes and are sometimes moulded into semi-ornate decorative configurations. The second type of garden stepping stone is the handmade glass and concrete, or stone composite, stepper. These composite stones are popular among gardeners looking to customise an existing design. These are inlaid with coloured glass and sealed with resin for a safe and decorative walking surface. The last and most difficult to work with are the large boulder-style stones used to traverse water features such as small ponds. These need to be particularly heavy so that they don't shift under the weight of someone crossing the pond.
Using Stepping Stones to Build Other Garden Structures
With a little bit of creative hammer work, garden paver-style stepping stones can be split into blocks for use in other applications. The best stone to use for this application is the square simple concrete moulded paver. To break one along the line desired, simply stack one on top of another, with a portion of the top one overhanging the edge. Place a cloth on top of the part overhanging the edge and lean heavily on the counterbalancing end of the paver stone. Gently strike the cloth-covered area with the top edge of a sledgehammer, which should be enough to break the stone smoothly along the overhanging edge, creating a rectangular concrete block. By using a number of these blocks, a gardener can construct a terrace or border for flowerbeds, a design which is both decorative and extremely durable.
Garden Stepping Stone Layouts
In terms of using stepping stones, the layout should be spaced according to the average distance between steps of the people most likely to use the garden, which in most residential applications are the gardeners themselves. Another approach, which leads to a better-defined pathway and a more professional landscaped look, is to closely pack a series of stepping stones to create a more tightly knit pathway. For an added touch, use smaller stones to form a border around the larger stones that create the bulk of the path, and fill in any gaps with gravel to prevent weeds from growing up through the cracks and hiding the pathway.
Water Feature Layout Considerations
When designing a water feature for use with functional stepping stones, consider digging holes for the stones themselves and placing them before filling the pond. Using a concrete anchoring method similar to that of a fence post allows for greater stability and reduces the likelihood of the stones shifting over time. Another advantage to setting up the stepping stones before the pond is filled is that it is easier for workers to move the heavy stones without the added obstacle of water.