Cairn Garden Art: How To Make A Rock Cairn For The Garden

Cairn Garden Art: How To Make A Rock Cairn For The Garden

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Creating rock cairns in the garden is a great way to add something different, yet appealing, to the landscape. Using cairns in gardens can provide a site for reflection, as the contrasting colors and shapes of the stones create a calming, peaceful feeling.

What are Cairns?

In simple terms, a rock cairn is just a pile of stones or rocks. Cairns have been used for thousands of years. In ancient times, they served as an intricate form of art, as small rocks were precariously balanced on top of smaller rocks, artfully constructed with no tools or mortar to hold them together.

Cairns have also been used as monuments or to mark a burial site. England’s Stonehenge is an example of a famous cairn. Today, they make popular markers along hiking trails.

Cairns Garden Design

Decide on the best location for the cairn. You can place it in a peaceful, wooded garden or an open area where growth is sparse. Remove weeds or turf where you want to build the cairn and smooth out the soil with a rake.

Cairn garden art can be conical with each succeeding layer becoming smaller, or they can be columnar. The cairn can be as small or as tall as you like; however, garden cairns usually don’t exceed the height of the builder.

How to Make a Rock Cairn

Gather a variety of large, flat rocks to form the base of the cairn, then stack the stones in a pleasing arrangement. Use care, as a sturdy base will allow you to create a taller cairn.

You can use a single, large stone as a base, or several smaller stones. Often, it works well to use large or semi-large stones, then use smaller rocks to fill in the spaces between the stones. Place the stones close together in a locking pattern.

Once the base is in place, add the second layer of stones. Place the layer so the edges of the stones are staggered with the stones of the first layer, similar to building a wall with staggered bricks. This general pattern will make your rock cairn more stable.

Continue to add rocks to the cairn. If there are wobbly spots or a stone doesn’t settle securely against the layer below it, add smaller stones to act as stabilizers, shims or wedges. If it helps, you can place a few of the stones on edge.

You can experiment with round stones and interesting shapes, but flat stones are easier to work with.

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Got too many rocks in the garden? Most of our gardens have stones and rocks that we could do without. Our gardens here at TGG are full of them. Hauling them away is backbreaking and expensive! Whether you have just a couple pretty rocks, or are practically living in a stone quarry, here are some great ideas for using rocks in the garden creatively! (Shoot, you may love these ideas enough to actually bring stones into your garden!)


8 Stone Cairn Garden Statue - Happy Gardens

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8 Stone Cairn Garden Statue

Find your zen with our meditative 8 stone cairn garden statue. This piece, which is made from unique river stones, is fascinating while remaining understated, making it a great gift for just about every garden lover. It looks great near flowers, walkways or even on patios and porches. Like all of our statues, this item is individually handcrafted and built to last.

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Cairns Garden Design

Decida a melhor localização para o monte de pedras. Você pode colocá-lo em um jardim tranquilo e arborizado ou em uma área aberta onde o crescimento é esparso. Remova ervas daninhas ou grama onde você quer construir o monte de pedras e alise o solo com um ancinho.

Cairn garden art pode ser cônico com cada camada sucessora se tornando menor, ou elas podem ser colunares. O monte de pedras pode ser tão pequeno ou tão alto quanto você quiser no entanto, os montes de jardim normalmente não excedem a altura do construtor.


The Zen of Rock Balancing

As it turns out, you don't need sleight of hand or even mud to design gravity-defying cairns. You do need a bit of patience, though, and a knack for "knowing the rocks," according to Michael Grab, a land artist who has been balancing rocks since 2008. He builds his sculptures with rocks from the natural landscape, usually alongside water.

Rock balancing is an internationally recognized craft Grab has been invited to design sculptures at rock balance festivals in Italy, Costa Rica, and Boulder, Colorado, where he spends most of his time. He writes about the different types of rock in each location: the vividly colored granite and sandstone in Boulder Creek the uniform limestone in Ottawa the powdery, rounded rocks in Portonova, Italy the bubble-like forms in Cattolica, Italy, where "rocks were much harder, and therefore more forgiving to balance," writes Grab. "They also consisted mainly of an orange color in the stone, which beautifully contrasted the blue sky."

After selecting the rocks, Grab studies their surfaces. As he writes:

"The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of 'tripod' for the rock to stand on. Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another."

The next step, he says, is to "find a zero point, or silence within myself." Grab speaks about rock balancing with a calm fervor that verges on holistic mysticism. He finds a reflection of the world in the balanced rocks, which are “precariously sturdy, mysterious, and fragile.” To hear Grab talk about it, with its emphasis on zen focus and precise form, rock balancing could be the new meditation, or the new yoga, which begs the question: Who is holding the form? The artist or the rocks?

An interview with Michael Grab, in which he discusses how he began and several of his public performances, is here.


Watch the video: What is the Difference Between a Rock Stack and a Cairn on a Hiking Trail?