The Spirit of Stone by Jan Johnsen takes a look at stone from both the aesthetic and functional perspective. The author uses her own 30+ years of experience in landscaping to share hardscape ideas for home gardeners. Boulders can be used as decorative accents, flagstone as pathways, and gravel as a zen garden. But before Johnsen gets to any of that, she explores an almost spiritual connection with stone.
Chapter 1 reads like a satisfying interview, tying details to ancient cultures, beliefs about stone and the power nature holds. She references artist websites, showing large- and small-scale projects celebrating natural stone that has been transformed into artwork. It’s worth looking up these references along the way.
The book shifts to a more practical approach to landscaping, with diagrams of how to anchor rock retaining walls or how to put down a proper decomposed granite walkway. Some of her projects require a professional, but the savvy DIY-er will benefit from many of the step-by-step instructional pages as well.
Projects include instructions on how to build a dry-stack wall, which is something that has always intrigued us here at Gardenerd. Wandering through Europe and Great Britain, dry stack walls are pervasive after hundreds of years, wars, and the passage of time. Still they stand. While the author doesn’t recommend attempting to build on your own, she lists a helpful reference to several societies of dry-stack builders. Hire one of these skilled professionals and take a lesson from them as they build your dry-stack wall.
Later chapters explore the interaction of plants with stone. While most of the plants suggested are for areas that get far more rain than we do here in Southern California, with a little research the author’s list of ideal plants can be substituted with natives.
The Spirit of Stone was published in February 2017, just in time for gardeners who have been cooped up all winter to dive into a new project as the weather warms up. We received a review copy from St. Lynn’s Press. If you are planning a project this season, The Spirit of Stone is worth reading before you get started. It will change your perspective on the role of rocks and gravel in your garden.