West Valley stone artist and gardener Ron Sell has managed to merge his two interests by creating stone tables and sculptures within his 4 acres of spectacular landscape.
He and his late wife, Linda Knutson, had been collecting rock for fun for many years. They called it “rock rescue,” finding usable stones in landfills and along road banks where slides threw small boulders into traffic lanes.
These stones now make up the many paths, patios and works of art that add so much to their garden.
Four stone tables are featured in Ron’s garden, two near the entrances to his house and two in more remote sections where visitors can discover them unexpectedly. A common hosta, which can blend together when planted among more showy flowers in flower beds, can be the star attraction at any of its tables. And a delicate moss or orchid can be seen up close for the first time.
With a little help from a strong friend, you can build one for your own landscape. (Or you can use lighter lumber or even an old wheelbarrow as a table, although they don’t have the permanence of stone.)
Ron recommends using limestone or sandstone for the legs, which he sets in concrete to make his plant tables strong. The tops of the legs are adjusted so that they are level with each other. Table tops are 2 inch thick white Wilkinson stoneware or red toned Arizona Rose Flagstone. Their lighter weight and regular thicknesses make it easier to work. It ensures that all edges of the table and legs look natural with no visible saw marks, and they are held in place by their own weight.
Unlike the majority of the rocks in his garden and in his artwork, the stones for his tables are purchased from commercial stone suppliers.
For readers who want to create their own plant tables, Ron lists the following tips:
• Use a carpenter’s level to make sure the legs are the same height and are level with each other.
• If you want to irrigate your creation with drip irrigation (recommended), drill a hole in the table top large enough to insert a microtube. Pierce it where a leg will obscure it if possible.
• With the top in place, arrange the weathered branches or roots and interesting stones in a nice pattern.
• Fill around the stones and wood branches with purchased high quality potting soil. Do not use soil in your garden as it will likely not have enough organic matter to retain moisture and will surely contain weed seeds.
• The next step is to weave a micro drip pipe through the ground and connect it to the micro tube coming from the hole in the table. Be careful not to bend your line.
Now the real fun begins. Ron selects his plant species with care, using unusual dwarf plants that are difficult to appreciate if not planted closer to eye level. Some specimens can be found in the best nurseries in the valley, while the internet may be needed to find the perfect rare plant that inspires you. And if you spot a new plant specimen that you want to show off, it’s a cinch; no need to stoop or crawl.
Some examples Ron used include dwarf hostas, saxifrage, confreres, hens and chicks, ice plants, ferns, and tiny perennials. Ron does not use annuals in his tables. Perennials give them a permanently aged appearance and rarely need to be replaced.
If you have chosen to use drip irrigation, the watering will be done automatically. Otherwise, make sure your sprinkler irrigation adequately covers the table and forms a fine mist that does not dislodge your soil.
Once you’ve completed the rewarding steps above, you’re pretty much done forever. If a weed seed has blown, you just pull it out as you walk past. If a flower is wilted, remove it.
Your new art tables will become a central element of your garden, guaranteed.