Category Archives: Popular Posts

Garden Arbors and Gazebos

Our Gazebo

We built our own gazebo, and it has become a favorite spot in our yard. The gazebo was made with log poles and cedar shingles. Pete created the design, and he got a bit of help from friends and family to raise the structure. We spend a lot of time out there now, drinking our morning coffee and listening to the gurgle of the waterfall in the pond. After the gazebo was built, we discovered that it looks almost exactly like the one on the cover of this book – I guess it’s true that great minds think alike. 🙂

Our Gazebo

Our Gazebo

Garden Structures and GazebosBuilding a garden arbor or gazebo from scratch is a fairly involved process, but it can be done if you have the tools and the time. It also helps if you have more than one person to work on the project.

If you’ve never built a gazebo before, it really helps to read a good book on the subject before you start. (We have several on our shelves). Some of the prettiest books will give you fabulous ideas for designs, but little or no help with actually building the gazebo. Others, like this one, will actually give you the plans and show you how to build the structure.

We chose a rustic look for our gazebo because it sits at the back of our yard, and is framed by the large trees you see in the right of the photo. With the trees behind it, and Dianne’s wonderful garden in front, it looks like it’s been there forever.

Our Arbor

We took a video of Dianne’s honeysuckle growing over the arbor that frames our back gate:


How to Form a Concrete Slab

Concrete Slab for Patio

How to form a concrete slab: create a backyard patio, a garden walkway, or the foundation and floor for a small outbuilding.

A concrete patio or walkway can add beauty and usability to your garden. And with the new colors and stamping patterns, you can pour a concrete slab that blends beautifully with your garden’s design.

Pouring a concrete slab is a fairly straight-forward project. Build a form, pour the concrete, level it, and let it cure. But, as always, there are fine points that must be understood in order to create a concrete slab that will last, and look the way you want it to.

How to form a concrete slab

The best way to learn how to form a concrete slab is to work beside someone who has experience – especially if your skilled worker is willing to help you out with your own project. The second best way to learn is to find a good book. The ones we’ve listed above include the instructions for building forms and pouring your concrete slab, and they also offer great design ideas.

Here are the basics of pouring a concrete slab:

1. Remove all vegetation in the area, and remove the topsoil down a few inches.

2. Spread gravel over the area to act as a base for your concrete slab.

3. Build a form, using 2×4’s or plywood. Pound in stakes on the outside of your form, to prevent the poured concrete from pushing the form apart. Pound your stakes in lower than the form, so the top of the form can be used to level the poured concrete.

4. Place concrete reinforcing wire above the gravel inside the form. You will need to raise it above the gravel several inches.

5. Pour the concrete inside the form, and level it.

6. Allow it to cure.

Patios: Plan, Build and Maintain

Patios: Plan, Build and Maintain

If you’re building a large patio, building on a slope, or if you are using your concrete slab under a small building, you will want to review your local building codes for specifications. It’s also a good idea to find a good book on the subject, and to have an experienced helper. If you plan to buy pre-mixed concrete, make sure you have everything ready when they’re scheduled to arrive – the truck can’t wait for you to build your forms.

Your local rental store should have concrete mixers available, if you choose to mix the concrete yourself.


Concrete Stepping Stones

Hand-made stepping stones can create a beautiful walkway.

Concrete Stepping Stones

Concrete Stepping Stones

Our own garden path stepping stones were made from molds we made ourselves, and feature a fern leaf detail. Now that our garden has matured, the small ground-cover plants are beginning to soften the edges of the path to the gazebo. The mold was made with 1xs lumber, and the design was added by pressing a leaf into the concrete when it’s beginning to thicken, but not yet solid. As the stepping stones age, they look more and more organic, and fit in well with the rest of the garden.

Some people make stepping stones the way we make our concrete leaves, but instead of curving them naturally, they lay the leaf out flat.

Stepping Stone KitYou can also get kits to make your own, like this mosaic leaf stepping stone kit we found on


A birdbath is a garden water feature that your feathered friends will enjoy, too. Actually, any water in your yard, from a sprinkler, a backyard pond, or water fountain will attract birds and other wildlife. Most birdbaths are specially designed to be shallow enough for the birds to wade in, and many bird baths are on pedestals to give the birds a break from your neighbor’s cat.

Make Your Own Birdbath

You can make a beautiful birdbath yourself using a concrete leaf. To see how to make the leaf itself, go to our tutorial. To turn it into a birdbath, just put it on a pedestal made of concrete or wood, or sit it in among your flowers and add water every day. Be sure to choose a leaf for your mold that will cup into a slight bowl shape, so it will hold plenty of water.

Bird BathAny birdbath will attract more birds, and keep the mosquitoes away if you make the water move. You can do this with a slow drip or mister, which you should be able to find at a garden supply store.


Garden Ponds and Fountains

Pete recently finished his new garden pond. He learned how to design and build a pond at a workshop given by a local contractor.

The pond has a rippling stream that winds through rocks found in the nearby Cascade mountains. Dianne will be adding even more plants to the edges of the pond, so it will blend into the surrounding landscape.

If you can’t find a pond building workshop near you, perhaps your local water garden supplier offers classes. You can also learn the art of backyard pond building from one of the excellent books that are now available.

On of our favorites is Simple Gardens for Indoors and Outdoors, by Dorcas Adkins.

Pete’s New Pond:

Pete and Dianne's New Garden Pond

Pete and Dianne's New Garden Pond

New! Find water garden supplies in your area.

Articles on Garden Ponds, Fountains, and Birdbaths:

How to Make Concrete Leaves – Natural Decor for Your Garden

Have you seen large concrete leaves decorating fountains and gardens? Photos of these unusual sculptural accents are showing up in all the gardening magazines. You may have wondered how they’re made. We (Pete and Dianne Havekost) are now providing an illustrated tutorial to show you exactly how to make your own concrete leaves. They are quite expensive if you buy them at a garden store, but it isn’t difficult to make your own.

Gunnera Leaf Made With Concrete

Gunnera Leaf Made With Concrete

Pete has been working with concrete for years, and Dianne is an interior designer who’s design skills really shine in the garden as well as in the home. It was natural for us to go home and start making their own concrete leaves after we saw one on a friend’s deck. We had no instructions to go by, so we “did it by feel.” We’ve sold concrete leaves locally to be used as garden accents and in fountains. We have also donated several concrete leaves to fundraising auctions presented by the Young Ambassadors gymnastic group in Tacoma, WA, where the leaves were a big hit. Others have been given to family and friends as gifts.

Throughout the site you’ll find ideas for using concrete leaves in your garden decor. Be sure to visit our other pages.

How to Make a Concrete Leaf for Your Garden

To make your own concrete leaf, follow the instructions below:


You will need a table at a comfortable working
level. You can build a temporary table out of sawhorses and a piece of plywood. Be sure to set it up in the shade, in order to prevent the concrete from drying out too much in the sun.

Choose a leaf with nice vein patterns in the size you want. You can use a small leaf or a huge leaf – It’s up to you.

On your table, build a sand mound about the size and shape of the leaf you’ve chosen.

sand pile for casting concrete leaves

Cover the sand with thin plastic to keep the sand out of your work.

cover sand with plastic

Cut chicken wire the approximate shape and size of your leaf.

cut chicken wire to fit

Lay the chosen leaf face down (back side of leaf should be up)

place leafe face down on plastic

Put a fairly thin layer of concrete on the leaf. Then fit a precut piece of chicken wire to the back of the leaf.

add concrete to leaf

Put another thin layer of concrete on and finish
the edges.

Cover with plastic and allow to cure slowly. If the concrete dries too quickly, it may crack or be less strong. If it is very hot outside, you can mist the concrete before covering it with plastic.

cover wire with concrete

When cured, peal leaf off concrete – and it’s done!

cured leaf removed from mold


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