Craft your own rock mosaic

stone mosaic
You’ll never go wrong with a spiral. It’s visually pleasing and impossible to mess up.

Crafting a rock mosaic could be the perfect garden DIY project. You can fashion the piece to fit into any sized outdoor space and they fold nicely into any garden style from classic to cottage to kooky. No special supplies or skills are needed and the learning curve is easy and fun. The process is actually calming, like garden craft meditation. The patterns create attention-getting focal points and because you are creating with rocks – nature’s baubles – no matter the design, they always naturalize easily into their surroundings.

The rock mosaic in this example is not a stepping stone, though it is solid and stable. The rocks are set in a two-inch sand base and then essentially grouted with sand. It’s helpful to site the mosaic slightly higher than the area around to prevent water from pooling on it.

Gathering stones
If you have access to a free supply…lucky you! If not, bags of river rock (1–2”) and river cobbles (2-3”) are inexpensive at landscape supply stores. You will want at least two contrasting colors and rocks of roughly the same size and shape. You may have to purchase extra bags to get what you need. The flatter the rock, the better. An oval pill shape is ideal, though ultimately any rocks will work. Mexican beach pebbles (used in the example) are perfect, though they are a little pricey.

Siting your mosaic
Consider placing it alongside a flagstone path or sidewalk as an eye-catching accent and conversation starter. Positioned to the right or left of a gate or entrance to house makes a nice home emblem and nestling one in a perennial border creates a focal point. They’re perfect in rock gardens. Surrounding the mosaic with creeping or mounding plants, such as impatiens, creeping sedum, ajuga weed or creeping Jenny further naturalizes them and softens their edges.

Design and placement
You’ll never go wrong with a spiral. It’s visually pleasing and impossible to mess up. Whatever your design, contrast is key. Lay down the first spiral using a dark color rock, placing the rocks vertically, belly to belly, pressing the stones together as you go. Leave enough space within rows of the first spiral to place a second spiral in a lighter color, laying the rocks horizontally on their bellies. You can lay both spirals at once or lay one down, leaving space for the second. Whichever process you use, be sure to press and pack the individual rocks against each other. This is what makes a sturdy mosaic. Contrasting rows of vertically and horizontally placed rock create a solid infrastructure. If your rocks vary in size, place them so that one edge is even—align left your row of rocks rather than center justify them. Note: Do not fret if you need to start over one or more times…you will get better with each attempt.

Finishing the mosaic
Using a piece of a 4×4’ wood post, press all sections of the mosaic to set all the rocks at the same level. If your feet are large enough, stepping on them gently works as well. Pour sand over the mosaic until 1 to 1 ½ inches of rock shows and smooth the sand with a broom or paint brush. Using a garden sprayer or your thumb over the end of the hose, mist the mosaic evenly, with enough water to get the sand to settle. Once the water has dissipated, check for any stones that are below the sand and gently nudge them up. Repeat the sweeping and misting process if necessary. When the mosaic has dried, you can rub the rocks with a cloth soaked with oil, to polish the rocks and add a sheen.

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