Landscaping Rocks and How We Use Them

Rocks used in a landscaping project add a feeling of timelessness to our design. They were there before us and they will be there after us. Take full advantage of any natural rocks you have in your garden, especially if you are in an area where the rocks were left behind by the last Ice Age. All too often garden and landscape designers rip out huge rocks, smooth with the patina of age or thickly covered by years of lichen and moss, when they could be used to tremendous advantage in the landscaping scheme. If you are luLandscaping Rockscky enough to have great outcrops of rock in your garden, keep those ancient rocks where they are and build your landscape around them. At the very least, keep most of the formation and remove the bits that make your design impossible or would detract from the overall effect. If you are lucky enough to have a rock formation in your yard, it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

If you need to bring in rocks, try to get ones that have already been weathered or smoothed by water. Raw rocks from a quarry are much less suitable for landscaping purposes as they have sharp jagged edges and a raw, new look (this can also be dangerous, particularly if you have small children). Shaped, cut rocks are of course very suitable for building walls, seats, terraces, sundials, patios, arches, and other constructions, but that is a different thing from the use of rocks in landscaping.

As a general rule, if you are introducing rocks, rather than using existing outcrops, bury at least 50% of the volume of the rock. The Japanese, who are the world's masters in the use of rocks in garden design, often bury as much as 70% of the rocks' volume, to give an illusion of something truly gigantic. Japanese gardens are some of the world's most renowned, and the stunning visual effects created by their designs are duplicated (or at the very least attempted) all across the globe.

Using Landscaping Rocks In Grass and On Your Lawn

You can break up great sweeps of grass by the smooth and rounded backs of enormous rocks – it gives the feeling of huge sea monsters in a green sea. Large winding curves across the lawn are great, but feel free to experiment with other designs. Keep the grass mown short right up to the rock – this can take a certain skill but the overall effect is well worth it. If the vegetation is allowed to grow tall around the rock, it introduces a contrasting factor into the landscape in an area where the only contrast should be between the smooth grass and the smooth grey or blue surface of the rock, and the shadows which are both in it and thrown by it. It also gives an impression of sloppiness, a designation which no respectable landscaper wants. Keep other contrasts for the perimeter of the lawn, where you might plant a row of, for example, white barked birches with a wild flower meadow beyond.

Rocks in a Flower Garden or Flower Bed

The use of rocks as part of the contrasting textures and colours of a flower garden can be stunning. These rocks, unlike those in your great sweep of grass, should not be bare and shiny at all. They should be thickly colonized by a rich tapestry of mosses and lichens. If you have natural outcrops which are already so colonized, use them as part of a rock garden design or plant a flower garden around them. The situation of the outcrops will decide whether they should be part of a wild flower meadow, or whether, being close to the house, they should be part of the design of an informal flower bed.

If you are bringing the rocks in, the mosses will take time to give them their aged and weathered look. You can speed the process up by filling any little hollows in the rock with soil and planting in these pockets any of the vast array of mosses that exist.

If you live in a suburban area, you may deem the mossy, dirty rocks inappropriate for the setting. This is fine, trust your own good taste and judgment in this regard - intuition is usually correct when it comes to creative design.

Using Landscaping Rocks in Water

Few of us are fortunate enough to have a natural rocky waterfall in our garden and contrived ones very often retain a gauche, embarrassed air, as though knowing they are not the real thing. Obviously, if you have one, the landscape is made and you need do no more with the rocks – the waterside planting is another matter!

All of us, however, can make enormous use of rocks in still water in the garden. Again, the masters in this art are once again the Japanese. Great boulders in the middle of ponds to form islands on which a miniature landscape is planted is one of Japan's lasting legacies to garden designers. A line of rocks placed in the water as stepping stones would, perhaps, to western eyes seem just exactly that, but to Japanese eyes they are a flotilla of little ships on their way to the island, or turtles swimming across the strait.

Perhaps you don't have a water pool of sufficient size to use rocks in this way. That doesn't mean they can't be useful as a part of the landscape. You could line an entire small pool with rocks to make it look like a mountain stream bed, or build a single small island in the largest section of the pool. Lining the edge with rocks, if done properly, can create a nice effect as well - a sort of "watering hole" type of look. Be creative, the adoption of symbolism or imagination can lead to a whole new dimension to the use of rocks in the landscape.