Alex and I visted the zen garden at the Museum of Fine Arts, where we hoped to gather ideas and gain inspiration for our own garden through mindful meditation.

Unfortunately, the zen garden was closed. We could peer inside by climbing onto a concrete railing and clinging to a metal fence, but it was impossible to meditate in this awkward position. However, I managed to take a few snapshots so we could study them later.


L: Zen Garden. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wendy Chao.

I arbitrarily set a budget of $500 for the whole project, not knowing if that was a realistic figure. We searched for a source of small stones, just like the ones we saw at the Museum. We needed at least 1250 pounds of rock to cover 125 square feet of the garden. Home Depot had crushed marble for around $75/ton, but it just didn't have zen-garden appeal. Looking online, I found that landscaping suppliers carried river rock, which had the right look, but was way too expensive: $1000-$1500/ton. We briefly considered pilfering buckets of pebbles from local beaches, but transporting the necessary amount would probably cause at least $500 in damage to Alex's Saab. I was relieved to find A.A. Will Materials, a landscape supply in Stoughton, MA, that sold riverbed rock for the amazing price of only $28/ton. We enthusiastically drove down to Stoughton to scope it out.

Alex (dressed for the occasion) arrives at A.A. Will. The woman in the background mistook Alex for an employee.
A.A. Will had every kind of rock you could imagine, from 1/4 inch "rice stones" to giant boulders weighing several tons.
New England fieldstone, used to construct stone fences around old farms. We picked up a few nice lichen-covered ones for our stone groupings.
There were huge piles of sand and gravel, as well as pebbles from 1/4" to 2" in diameter. They allowed us to take samples of each kind of rock.

At last we ordered two tons (4000 lbs, $56) of 3/4" riverbed rock from A.A. Will, enough for both my garden and Michael's next door. I also bought 40 feet of aluminum Brickstop edging ($80) to separate the rock bed from the patio bricks, and to prevent the bricks from sinking into the ground. Delivery cost $120, which brought the total to just over $250. With Michael chipping in for his share, I still had more than half of my budget left for the rest of the project. Nice!

Our next task was to find some large, interesting-looking rocks for stone groupings.

NEXT: Scholar Rock Acquisition >>


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