How do I turn a few rocks into a desert or rocky shore?

I asked this in another thread of mine in a different forum then realized this question is better in this forum, so please excuse essentially the same question twice (the other thread is in the correct forum, so you know). I had learned from a tutorial about a year ago how to make a few grass blades and turn them into a lawn, but have forgotten how to do this and cannot find that tutorial anymore. I have recently learned a fair amount about Cycles particle systems for making fur, yet how to make mesh objects into a particle system eludes me at the moment. I see what I am looking for in the Crystal Turtle project, except I need both a rocky surface like that and a stretch of desert sand. A little help, please.

Objects can be set as a group, and then with setting up a particle system for Hair, you can set it to use a vertex group that you weight paint for the objects to appear. Name the Group in the draw panel, and paint your weight group and name that in the length/clump/etc.

Okay, I tried a simple scene with a plane (subdivided & subsurf & plain material), made 3 small icospheres in another layer and gave each a different colour & material, then put them in the same group (in the object panel, wrong panel?), gave the plane a particle system (hair) & created a vertex group & weight painted the plane, then added the group in the particle system vertex group panel (in the density slot). When rendered there are lots of little “objects” on the plane, but they look stretched as if the hair length settings are affecting them (trying to turn them into hair), and the colours & materials I assigned are not shown, they are rendered in plain white (the only option for render material is the one I gave the plane). Do I have to UV unwrap & texture paint each icosphere?

I am experimenting to see if I can find the answers, but can sure use some tips.

No, you don’t need to unwrap and paint - the particles should have a setting in the system for using their material. Also try using random scale and rotation, and increase the scale in the particle settings.

Okay, will try that.