The Secret Life of Stones

Large stones are my favorite garden elements. With a little time many interesting non-flowering plants begin to grow on a rock. Embryophytes like ferns and mosses follow lichens, which are a combination of compatible algae and fungi.

Lichens have a good hold on this rock.

Buffy, showing where bits of moss are starting to grow among the lichens. Buffy likes to gnaw crumbling limestone rocks.

One of the stones that have been in my garden longest, this one not only has several kinds of moss, it has common polypody fern and a little spleenwort. I did nothing to attract the ferns; moss was encouraged with leftover buttermilk poured on every stone.

Notice little fingers of the moss beginning to spread.

Bare rocks with fossils are interesting. Our limestone rocks underground hold many different sea creatures from the time when the coastal plain was under the sea. Imprints of mussel or clam shells are commonly seen.

Algae growing on this rock is a precursor to lichens and moss.

Water has dissolved limestone in places, leaving depressions, sometimes large enough for a birdbath. Used for a birdbath, this stone, roughly 2 feet square, has moss growing from the constant damp.

Stones are not common on the ground here. They are usually underground. You may see piles of huge limestone rocks along the side of a cleared field where they were dug out to make cultivation easier. The stones in my front beds were mostly dug in one field and hauled in.

Stones hold the history of the World. Thank you for looking at my Rocks, as precious to me as Diamonds.



  1. jennahsgarden

     /  October 28, 2009

    Your stones are gorgeous! So jealous. We don't really have that here. I love that natural look. I hope to be able to do that in my NEXT garden. šŸ™‚

  2. Steph

     /  October 25, 2009

    Wow! I am so jealous of your extraordinary rocks. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Cindy, My Corner of Katy

     /  October 24, 2009

    Nell Jean, I'm delighted that you stopped by my cyber corner of Katy recently and even more delighted to find a fellow rock fiend! Oh, man, you have some gorgeous ones there. Friends of mine bought property in Burnet this year and have promised to bring me back a large rock every time they go. I'm really excited about the possibilities that await me!

  4. Racquel

     /  October 23, 2009

    Wow you have some wonderful examples in your garden. I love the birdbath the best. I noticed some moss & lichen growing on my Sweetgum tree the other day.

  5. NellJean

     /  October 23, 2009

    Thank you all for the kind words about my precious stones, er, rocks. I have broken concrete, too. Broken concrete has tiny rocks in it, so it qualifies.

    Old bricks grow great moss too. Old bricks that are still stuck together with mortar from a chimney are another of my favs.

  6. Amy

     /  October 23, 2009

    I enjoyed your post! A lot of rocks just get thrown aside. I love them in my garden, too. I think they add a lot of interest.

  7. jeansgarden

     /  October 23, 2009

    Wow, I love the fact that you have fossils in your rocks! Thanks for sharing them.

  8. Scott & Liz

     /  October 23, 2009

    I unfortunatly moved away from my collection of large landscape rocks. I recall moving everyone of them by hand in my younger days and my back aches just thinking of it. Beautiful images, Nell Jean.

  9. teresa

     /  October 23, 2009

    I never heard the buttermilk trick. I will have to remember that. Your rocks are just beautiful. Not everyone can appreciate rocks, but they ought to.

  10. Helen

     /  October 23, 2009

    Hooray, another rock hound. I collect stones for my garden from all over whenever we travel.

    Unfortunately, my dry river of polished lake stones (some the size of bricks), is being swamped… have to figure out how to do this without its being consumed by the garden. Perhaps I need to redo it with a barrier underneath.

    Leaning against the shed in the back yard is one large, flat piece of limestone, crammed with fossils, and you've inspired me to do a better job of showcasing it.

    One rock-headed idea that I don't like is when people strand one lonely hunk-o-rock in the middle of a lawn without trying to integrate it into the landscape. We have a rude acronym for that.

  11. Kylee from Our Little Acre

     /  October 23, 2009

    I love rocks, too! Yours are gorgeous. We get ours from the fields around us when the farmers dredge them up while cultivating.

    I especially like your birdbath one!

  12. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove

     /  October 23, 2009

    I'm likin your lichen.
    Love the mossy, ferny rocks.

  13. ryan

     /  October 22, 2009

    Nice collection of rocks, especially that birdbath. The moss on the rocks here in the Bay Area just greened up after the rains.

  14. Mary Delle

     /  October 22, 2009

    Rocks need a voice to speak for them. I love the limestone and the moss and lichen. You use buttermilk to encourage their growth. I bet the fern loves it. Great bird bath rock. I'd like to be tiny and bathe there.

  15. Kiki

     /  October 22, 2009

    Super gorgeous! Wonderful photos..such beauty in nature..and so much to enjoy in the texture and lichen bits..! Lovely and interesting as always!I am a rock kindred too!

  16. azplantlady

     /  October 22, 2009

    Hello Nell,

    I love your stones (we call them boulders here). Some of the things that I like best about using them in the landscape is that they are beautiful, don't need any pruning or any water.

    Thanks for this great post!

  17. Hocking Hills Gardener

     /  October 22, 2009

    I am so glad to see that someone else loves the texture and beauty of rocks in the landscape.The one with the shell imprints is so interesting.
    You would love the location where I live with all of the rocks and cliffs around you.
    Wonderful pictures Nell!

  18. Nola @ the Alamo

     /  October 22, 2009

    That's the most perfect bird bath ever! And the ferns growing in your rocks are wonderful; you can't improve upon nature, can you? I love rocks, big one's, little one's, anything different!

  19. Rosey Pollen

     /  October 22, 2009

    Hello Nell,
    You rock , by the way.
    I love these photos of rocks you shared, I never thought of doing a post on rocks before, but this is the best showcase I have seen! We have a lot of moss rock on our property that is virtually untouched. I love hiking and discovering new surprises like trees that grow out of cracks in the rocks. It always amazes me.

  20. anartistsgarden

     /  October 22, 2009

    Another rock lover here (excluding those I have to dig out of my soil!), loving your post! My rocks don't have as much character as yours.

  21. janie

     /  October 22, 2009

    Rocks are favorites here too! We are at a disadvantage, in that no natural rock outcroppings occur here. 'They' say that broken concrete is native to South Texas!

    We either purchased our rocks, or brought them from the farm, where huge amounts of rocks are found!

    This is a great post, Nell.

  22. Janet

     /  October 22, 2009

    Love the stones in your garden! There is a giant stone in a farmer's field near our new place and I keep wanting to get a photo of it. We were hoping that the builder would find a neat one as he dug our basement…no luck!

  23. donna

     /  October 22, 2009

    I like your rocks as much as all your lovely blooms. Pouring buttermilk over the stones sounds like something Martha Stewart would do. Buffy's nose is so cute. Must be fun to walk around your land with her.

  24. FlowerLady

     /  October 22, 2009

    DH and I also love rocks. Your post was great Nell. Love the ones with fossils and of course the moss and lichen is always interesting.


  25. vrtlarica

     /  October 22, 2009

    You have some great stones! It gives a very nice touch to the garden. I didnt have any in my garden, so I brought them in my car from another place. My husband thought I was nuts!

  26. Cheryl

     /  October 22, 2009

    Thank you for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment. You are always welcome….

    You speak today of one of my favourite topics…lichens and moss….I am not an expert but I to invite these mini habitats into my garden…..there is much beauty if we take time to look.

    A beautiful natural garden you have…….

  27. Grace Peterson

     /  October 21, 2009

    Hi Nell~~ Bravo! Another rock lover. I like how rocks add an air of antiquity with their moss and lichen. They complement just about any plant they're stationed next to. I found red cinders grow moss without any prompting. I've got a bunch of them near my pond. Recently I found one that has a tiny fern starting to grow. I'm keeping my eyes open for a rock with a dip that I can use as a birdbath. Yours is awesome. Anyway, great post.

  28. James Missier

     /  October 21, 2009

    That look so lovely especially the one that look like a birdbath.
    So natural and very calm.

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