Stepping stones and railroad ties are compatible features in any flower garden. You can combine the ties and the stones to create decorative pathways, or think outside the box and decorate the ties with the stones. However you incorporate them into your flower garden, both materials have a long lifespan so you can expect them to enhance your landscaping for years to come.
Stacked railroad ties can create a border for your flower garden, but the creosote that covers the wood can be toxic. If you plan to use railroad ties in your flower garden, cover the soil with thick landscape plastic before you install the railroad ties. This will help prevent the creosote from seeping into your soil.
You could also decorate the deep brown railroad ties with stepping stones for a more interesting garden border. Painting is not an option, thanks once again to the creosote, but you can attach the stepping stones vertically to the stacked railroad ties as if you were hanging a plate on a wall. Many stepping stones are 2 inches thick or less, and decorated in a variety of garden-related themes. Brace the stepping stones along the front of the stacked railroad ties with plate hangers or bent nails to create a more attractive border for your flower garden.
Create pathways in your flower garden with railroad ties and stepping stones. Line the pathways on either side with the railroad ties; remember to place the plastic over the soil first. You could stack the railroad ties for a more imposing path, but one row of the thick ties will work in most cases.
Arrange the stepping stones down the center of each pathway as a guide around your flowers. The decorative stepping stones will also add color and dimension to your flower garden. Fill in the area around the stepping stones up to the railroad ties with small landscaping stones. Select a stone color that coordinates with the stepping stones and the railroad ties. For example, white rocks provide a beautiful contrast to the deep brown of the ties and will also work well with the stepping stones, if they are colorful. If your stepping stones are the color of concrete, select landscaping stones with color to provide the contrast. River rocks, slate chips or red lava rocks are good choices.
Whether your flower garden is expansive, requiring many different pathways, or a small plot where one path will do, the combination of the railroad ties, landscaping rocks and stepping stones is a visually pleasing addition.
If your flower garden is at the base of a sloping hillside, create a retaining wall with the railroad ties. Decorate the face and the tiers of the retaining will with stepping stones placed vertically, to break up the expanse of deep brown. You can also place stepping stones horizontally on top of each tier along the retaining wall. Hold them in place with nail braces or screws, as glue will not adhere to the creosote-soaked ties.