SG588: How to Creatively Use Stone in the Landscape with Jan Johnsen

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On today’s show, I welcome award-winning designer Jan Johnsen to the show to discuss her book - The Spirit of Stone - in which she presents a beautifully photographed, inspiring guide to 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden: from practical steps, paths, and garden walls, to naturalistic dry streams, inspired rock gardens, and Jan’s personal favorite - reflexology paths.


Jan has 30+ years of experience in landscaping and this comes in quite handy because she’s worked with quite a bit of stone during countless installations over the years. Designer, author and teacher, Jan Johnsen, is particularly interested in the relationship between outdoor space and its effect upon our peace of mind.  The Spirit of Stone examines stone from both the aesthetic and functional perspective.

Jan’s e early experience with stone began during her college years, working for a landscape firm in Kyoto, Japan. In fact, Jan's carried that experience with her through life - showing a loving appreciation and sensitivity to Japanese influences in gardening. It’s something I especially admire about her.  

Awarded a 2014 Association of Professional Landscape Designers award, Jan studied landscape architecture at the University of Hawaii and got her horticultural training from a Versailles-trained French gardener at Mohonk Mountain House in NY. Her design firm is Johnsen Landscapes & Pools.  Jan taught at Columbia University and currently teaches at the NY Botanical Garden, where she won ‘Instructor of the Year’.

Jan loves to share her insights in the beneficial effects of gardens and gardening with others. Her new book, The Spirit of Stone celebrates this ancient material and its use in our landscapes.

It’s a beautiful book - Jan took all of the photos - and that gives you an idea of the number of installations she does with her Landscape business.  

As Jan likes to say, "Natural stone, that most ancient of materials, adds an authentic touch to an outdoor space that nothing else can match. While plants may temporarily steal the show, a low stonewall, solitary standing stone or dry stream remains unwavering through the years."


Isamu Noguchi, the designer and artist, summed it up best, "Any gardener will tell you that it is the rocks that make a garden. They call them the 'bones' of the garden.”

The Spirit of Stone is an essential idea book for anyone looking to add dimension and resilience to their landscape - the tips and photos will inspire designers, homeowners, gardeners,and stonemasons alike.

Miriam Goldberger, the author of Taming Wildflowers, said this about The Spirit of Stone: "Celebrated garden author and landscape designer, Jan Johnsen has sifted her sophisticated natural stone expertise into a clearly written and companionable guide to stone gardening success."  

And here’s this great compliment from Fran Sorin, the author of  Digging Deeper:

"The Spirit of Stone is overflowing with both inspiration and instruction on how to use stone creatively in the landscape. Jan focuses in on the soulfulness, authenticity, beauty, and practicality of stonework in an outdoor setting. Filled with practical tips and outstanding photos, The Spirit of Stone is a delightful celebration of the versatility of this solid, durable rock." -

As a speaker for botanical garden show audiences, Jan loves to share her insights on the beneficial effects of informed garden design. Her unique approach — incorporating ancient practices with contemporary ideas — is entertaining, inspiring and informative. Jan presents her popular illustrated slide talks at major flower and garden shows across the U.S.

Jan is also the author of Heaven is a Garden - now in it’s third printing. She has a blog titled Serenity in the Garden.

Jan’s landscapes have been featured in This Old House, Landscape Architecture, NY Cottages & Gardens, Wallpaper, East Coast Home, Westchester Home, Westchester Journal News, Westchester Magazine, Woman’s Day, Redbook, and many more.

With that, it’s time rock and roll - with The Spirit of Stone’s Jan Johnsen.

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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