Gardening Know How - Stonescaping in the Garden

This interview was published on July 18, 2017 on the great blog Gardening Know How. You can see it and much more - click here

Q & A with Jan Johnsen, author of ‘Spirit of Stone’

Share Article    

Jan Johnsen is a well-regarded landscape designer, author and teacher with a passion for plants, rocks and beautiful gardens.  Jan is a co-principal of the design firm, Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, in Westchester County, New York.  Jan’s book, Heaven is a Garden, (published by St Lynn’s Press, 2014)  is now in its third printing. In her new book, “The Spirit of Stone: 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden’, (St Lynn’s Press, 2017) she celebrates this natural material and highlights its many uses in the landscape.

1.      Why do you have a soft spot for hard rock?
Rocks are plentiful where I live in the Northeast. Growing up here, we kids would paint rocks, stack them, climb them, and dig them up.  So it is a natural progression to use rocks as an adult in the garden! We have a lot of  them so we might as well learn to cherish them.

2.      Why is stone often an overlooked player in a landscape?
So many of us just see the plants in a landscape. But the walks, walls, and steps are often fashioned from stone. Many times, the details of the stonework is just as lovely as the plants. I am calling attention to the rocks so that they take center stage along with the plants.
3.      How does your book help us add personality to our landscape with stone?
In The Spirit of Stone I offer many ideas for adding rocks into the landscape. For example, a single standing stone in a plant bed can add some drama and contrast to luxuriant foliage and flowers. Or you might add a stepping stone path through a wide  plant bed to lead the eye and also help with getting in there to maintain.  These additions can indeed add personality to an outdoor space.

4.      How many styles of rock gardens are there and which style is your personal favorite – any why?
There are so many styles of rock gardens these days: Modern sculptural rock gardens, ‘hill and crest’ rock gardens that are set into a slope, Japanese-inspired rock gardens that have a ‘zen’ feeling, and cottage rock gardens that feature a blooming field of color.  It seems there are as many styles as there are gardeners! My fave is the Japanese-inspired rock garden. I love the peace and minimalist approach.

5.      What is one of the best examples of stonescaping you have ever seen?
Great question! I think Innisfree in Millbrook, NY –a public garden- has many  fascinating natural rock features. Some incorporate water too. I always tell people to visit Innisfree and to bring a picnic!

6.      What advice do you have for wannabe stonescapers?
Try it! Start small and work from there. And wear gloves and use a tree cart or similar to move rocks around. Do not lift rocks by yourself – that is the best advice.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

Hi there! I would love to hear from you....

Popular Posts of all Time

Angelface Blue and Dark Violet Angelonia - a Flower that Keeps Giving

'Purple Smoke' - The best Baptisia

Getting in the 'Flow' by Gardening

No-Fail Tips for Turning Hydrangeas Blue!

Repurposed and Recycled - Creative Ideas for Garden Design

My one day Class Wednesday April 16 in NY - Jan Johnsen