One of the most versatile, easy to use and imaginative accessories for your garden is the stepping stone. From their original use as a functional yet decorative way to delineate a path through ornamental gardens, stepping stones are now considered a part of the garden. Commercially, there are almost endless themes available to suit any taste or interest, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, even 3 dimensional.
There is also the option of making your own garden stepping stones for an even more personal touch. There are ready made molds available, or you can almost any container you may have that is the right size and shape for what you wish to make; just make sure the container is the same size or smaller at the bottom, or you may never get your completed treasure out.
Normally, there are 3 types of base material used, depending on the use of the stone. Regular concrete is used most often when a stone is actually part of a pathway, and decorations, such as small mosaic tiles or colored stones are used for visual effect. Stepping stone concrete is used when a more intricate pattern (or 3-d effect from a mold) is used. It is finer grained, so there is less likely to be an air pocket in a detailed area. Finally, there is plaster of paris; it is VERY fine grained, and will hold the best detail of all; but lacks the strength necessary to hold up under harsh weather or traffic conditions. Garden stepping stones of this material should be ornamental only, and in an area protected from weather and harsh temperatures.
Decoration for these stones is limited only by your imagination. From a simple hand or paw print (name and date optional), up to a recreation of your favorite piece of art made out of shattered teacups, your inner artist can run wild. Even photographs can be used- simply put it between 2 sheets of glass and seal the edges with silicone. When using glass as decoration for your stones, it is best to place the glass in the container first, laying it out as you wish it to be in the finished product, then carefully pour the concrete over it; this way there will be no sharp exposed areas. You can also give it a different look by using colored grout between the pieces of glass. (Putting the grout on the glass may change the perceived color of the glass in the finished product.)
Flat metal punchouts are great for garden stepping stones. Wildlife, garden (or other trade) tools, and zodiac are all possible themes. Small colored stones could be used to make the constellations. Some garden stepping stone basics- make sure you can get the finished stone out of the form by lining it with plastic wrap (remember-wrinkles may show or the plastic become trapped in the stone) or using a non-stick spray; make the stone 3-4 inches thick so it can stand up to traffic; let it dry for several days before you remove it from the form. When using shaped objects (such as pebbles) where you don't want them buried in the concrete, but would like an even surface, after placing them on top of the stone, cover with a piece of wood larger than the stone and press evenly. It may take a few tries to figure out the right pressure, but the professional look will add to its attractiveness. Besides pathways, your garden stepping stones can be used as points for a sundial, to ring a tree, as wall or raised bed decorations, even tabletops or to line small pools and fountains.
It has taken time and effort to build your garden, the right accents can make it amazing.