“You’ve got rocks in your head.” So said my family and friends when they found out the top thing on my Christmas list is a pallet of Arkansas stone. Again. It was the top item on my list a couple of years ago, also. I built terraces and laid paths in the woods garden with it, but one can never have quite enough rock. There are still places in the paths that wash out in heavy rain, and a few well-placed flat stones will cure that.
Of course, if I hadn’t been messing around building raised beds and paths, I would not have changed the drainage dynamic on the hill, and there would not be an issue, but there it is and now I need to fix it. Besides, it’s an excuse to get more rock.
But for once the snarky remarks are true; I do have a head full of rocks. From the time I was a little girl sitting in the driveway of the Michigan house where I grew up, sorting out colorful agates from the quarry gravel, and plunking them into a Mason jar full of water so I could see the pretty colors, I have been obsessed with rocks and stones. As an adult, I dragged my children down New Mexico’s gullies and arroyos, hunting Apache tears, petrified wood, opals and agates, in the process creating a rock hound of my older daughter. We decorated gardens, made collections, and every time we moved I picked them all up again and we hauled boxes of rock across the country until they finally found a home around our fish pond.
But the obsession doesn’t stop. Jim and I have rock hounded all over the US; in North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, filling our Airstream trailer and pickup with hundreds of pounds of stones—many of which have gone into our collections or were cut and polished to use in the wire wrapped jewelry I create—but most of them have gone into a small dry creek which bisects the woods garden, where they form a background for the wildflowers and mosses that grow there.
Our own Ozarks are full of rocks, as anybody who has ever tried to sink a shovel into the soil here will testify. Besides all the interesting minerals that came out of the lead mines (you can see examples at the Mineral Museum in Shifferdecker Park in Joplin); sphalerite, lead, calcite, dolomite, pyrite et al, there is an amazing variety of fossils, Mozarkite, (a pink stone that polishes beautifully and makes wonderful jewelry), lots of mineral eggs of various sizes, and tons of just plain rocks. But even the plain rocks can be interesting. Some of them are real characters, with their lines and folds creating faces that make you think you are being watched by the spirits of the woods! Then there are the “holey” stones, with holes going all the way through, which, if you look through the hole and squint just right, you are supposed to be able to see into another dimension.
Or this guy? Boo!
A rock party!
Local calcite crystal
Fossil sea animal
Rocks are wonderful in any garden. Not only are they useful for houses, patios, walls, walks, benches and steps, there is a beautiful contrast in the solidity of stone and the softness of plants that lends serenity to a landscape; a fact that Oriental gardeners discovered thousands of years ago. In the Japanese garden, an entire culture is built around their careful placement.
We use them in the natural garden, the biggest ones we can find and haul home. Quite often good sized stones can be found at construction sites, they might be free for the hauling if asked for nicely. There are a couple of stone yards in the area also, where you can buy almost any kind or size of rock you want-which is where the afore-mentioned pallet of stone on my Christmas list will come from. We can’t, unfortunately, handle huge boulders here and I confess to severe rock envy when we see them used to effect in other gardens. Those big ones will just have to live only inside my head for now!
"You will find something more in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you that which
you can never learn from masters."
"I love to walk the limestone cliffs
in search of fossil stones.
To read the story of time long past
Writ in dusty bones.