MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Makin' Mosaics: Part II


By Jim Bishop.

This is the second of a two-part series about Jim's evolving interest and skills in making garden mosaic pavings. Part I ended as Jim described the construction of gabions using several tons of rocks on his property.


After putting our garden project on hold last summer, we renewed our efforts during a cool period in August and began creating a mosaic floor for the landing. I knew I would use roof tile left over from a neighbor’s recent roof repairs, plus colored bottles, colored decomposed granite, colored rocks from Southwestern Boulder & Stone, and many of the rocks from our property.

There was no formal plan for the mosaic, but I envisioned a design something like a large Mexican Talavera tile. We drove a piece of rebar in the center of the circle and tied a string for measuring to keep the emerging design centered on the middle of the landing. As it took shape, there was a center circle of stone surrounded by six large petals, each with many curves and curlicues and highlighted with blue and green bottles. I photographed the progress, reviewed the pictures in the evenings, and made slight changes to the overall design the next day.

Slowly, the design emerged. An outer ring outlined by more roof tile and filled with rust-colored chipped rock and more blue bottles completed the landing. After looking at it for several days, I had my garden assistant, Kathy, make a few slight changes, fix some problem areas, and finally spray it with decomposed granite (DG) stabilizer—a water-based product that looks like thin Elmer’s Glue that hardens to hold the DG in place.

Custom pavers were ordered to create a hard seating surface on top of the gabions. Unfortunately, I chose a color that was too pink, so we stained the pavers a darker brown and then sealed them.


Next up was creating a mosaic pathway leading to the landing and a new set of steps to lead down into it. Many of the remaining large rocks were upended to outline the pathway and steps. Small rocks set on their side and aligned in rows were used to fill the gaps between the steps. The pathway was also laid with mosaics using more rocks and the remaining red tile. A series of floral designs were created linked by one large ‘vine’ of blue rocks and another ‘vine’ of larger rocks. At one end, where several pathways joined a medallion, a pattern similar to the large mosaic landing was built.

Finally, a new set of over seventy winding steps were built that go up the hillside that join with the landing by the shredder higher up on the hill. There is also a landing midway up the new steps with a built-in seat to stop, catch your breath, and enjoy the garden. These steps are also filled with rows of rocks and small floral designs. These steps, along with another set that was constructed last winter on the other side of the property, create a large looped pathway for viewing the native garden and terminate at the new large mosaic landing.


The mosaics on the steps turned out so well that we are now re-laying some of the previously-existing steps with rock mosaics. The dirt that was dug out for the large mosaic landing was used to create a semi-circular berm on the downhill side of the landing. It has been planted with protea and banksia that hopefully, someday, will create a floral backdrop. Countless low water plantings of aloes, cacti, Euphorbia, agaves, and African and Australian plants are currently being added to surround the landing with plants.

We are very happy with the way mosaics have enhanced our garden, and we enjoy sharing them, and our garden, with others. You can see our mosaics in person on the Mission Hills Garden Walk on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

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