Building a Stone Patio for a SerenityGarden

Diane had only been in the house for a couple of months when I went over to look at the project. She took me to a side of the yard and we looked inside a small fenced in area. She said, “I want a serenity garden here where I can sit and sip my coffee and relax with my thoughts.”

I assured her that this would be possible.

She asked,“Where should we start?”

I thought about it and replied, “How about a stick of dynamite?”

The "before" picture for the serenity garden

It was going to take a bit of work to make this site “serene”

We moved all the furniture, ornaments, and small plants out to the carport to be dealt with later. A lot of roots needed to be dug up in the area where the patio would be built. A trip to Willow Creek Nursery was called for. We were able to pick out a ton or so of some really good looking flagstone.

Hand picked flagstone for a patio project

A ton or so of select flagstone for building a patio.

I played around with the flexible forming until I got a shape that I really liked. Diane and I had discussed building a separate landing under the swing but I liked it better making the landing a part of the patio. The plastic forming material is wonderful. Expensive but wonderful. We used to have to build the forms with one by fours or pieces of masonite that had to be ripped to size. I was lucky a few years ago when a cement guy needed beer and had the forms but no money. He gave me a great deal on them and I have used them for a number of projects.

plastic forming material for masonry projects

I love the bendable plastic forming material.

The forms should be laid out carefully. Water is the boss of the project and the patio should fall (slope) about 1/8 of a bubble to the lowest point. The cement is mixed just right so that it is just the right stiffness to react properly with the stone and the rubber mallet. We have to watch out for high places that we call “toe stubbers.”

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We don’t worry about the joints until the rock is laid. Here is the first section

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

The main tools for the first part of the job are a trowel, a rubber mallet, and a two by four. The two by four is laid from one side of the forming to the other. This is the item that makes the difference. Careful attention should be paid to smoothness.

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

Here’s a stopping point for the day. The rocks are laid but all of the joints are open. It is time to “pour the joints” but that is a job that needs to be started of a morning. The mortar has to dry to exactly the right consistency before finishing and if we start on it in the afternoon it may prove to be a long night.

flagstone patio almost completed project

The patio should sit overnight and then it will be time to “pour the joints”

The next morning we use a thing from the cement company that looks like a cake decorator bag to pour a properly wet mortar into the joints. The cement will mound up over the rocks as in the picture below. We keep checking the consistency of the joint material and when it is just right, we cut it off to the level of the rocks with a trowel. It takes a bit of practice.

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

We want stepping stones from the carport to the patio. The level has to be just right and I found out long ago that a guy has to be very careful when he lays out stepping stones for a lady. Also, I’m going to set these stones with mortar so they won’t wiggle and it would be difficult to move them later. I worked with it until I was satisfied.

Stepping stones laid out just right for a lady to walk on

It takes a lot of care for a guy to lay out stepping stones just right for a lady to walk on

Since the patio is down hill from the gate just a little bit we use the level, the two by four and mortar mix to make everything come out right.

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

The stepping stones are satisfactory. The project will look different after the compost is added.

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

When the joint mortar is just right the edges are finished with a special tool. This step makes it look almost professional.

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

 

This is the part I really like. I refer to it as a “blank palette”.

new patio ready for landscapingTime to remove the forms, add compost, mulch, and plants

We took out all the small plants and then got out the motor pruners and did a good job of pruning and shaping the larger bushes. I wanted to get this cleaned up before putting in the compost.

A good time to trim the shrubbery

A good time to trim the shrubbery

I love the compost part. We hauled three pick up truck loads before we had enough. Then we raked and shaped until I was totally satisfied.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

The planting part was easy. I didn’t have to purchase many plants—I just had to put the ones we took out back but in the right place. Diane had bought pansies, dusty miller, and some dianthus. She thought the finished planting was a bit sparse but I assured her that it would grow out just right. Over planting would not foster serenity.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we'll straighten the swing a bit first.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we’ll straighten the swing a bit first.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember, Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz is now available in the Kindle Store

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robert
    Oct 19, 2013 @ 21:29:12

    John I have done enough stone work to know the truth of what you say. Flag stone is easier than random stone and makes the job go better. Bob

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply

  2. Connie
    Oct 20, 2013 @ 07:55:35

    Looks great, John! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply

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