Stone and rock offer practicality and beauty when designed into the garden.

Stone and rock are vital to this landscape designCredit: Photo by Jane Gates

If you want a decorative yet low maintenance garden, consider using natural stone and rock in your landscape design. Not only are there wonderful choices in colors, textures and sizes of different stone material, but you can improve your drainage and soil stability by designing it where it can be functional as well as beautiful.

Basic ways to use natural stone and rock can be divided into flooring, walls, fill and special focal points. It can also be used in the construction of outdoor rooms and other permanent features (hardscapes) like waterfalls, pools, seating, stairways and more.

Natural stone is available in cut pieces like blocks, thin slabs like flagstone, chips, gravel and sculpted pieces. Larger pieces are perfect for laying flat for flooring or for the treads on stairs. They make excellent stepping stones and pavers when used individually. Or they can be fitted closely together or set with gaps that can be filled with gravel, grass, low ground-cover plants or sand. Smaller pieces can be designed with different hues to make colorful mosaic designs. Thicker stone slabs or blocks can be assembled for driveway or patio floors or stacked for walls. Rock pieces can be tumbled for rounded edges. Round stones can be mortared together and thin pieces can be piled in layers.

To accent a landscape design, use individual rocks as boulders or create rock groupings. They can be arranged as special features or used as general décor in garden areas. If you want to use rock in your landscape design, try to limit yourself to one or two kinds of stone rather than introducing too many confusing textures and colors. The same goes for gravel. Stone in ¾ inch size gravel comes in different types producing varied colors that you can lay out for different effects. You can even find smaller stones in the form of pea gravel. Pea gravel will provide a softer surface for walking, but can kick out of bounds easily.

Stone gravel can be used to cover open surfaces, fill between larger materials or can be scattered over soil surfaces as mulch. Gravel mulch is attractive in cactus and succulent gardens or Southwestern themed gardens. As mulch, it is an excellent choice for succulent plants as it helps keep the plants from rotting at the soil line.

The ways you can use rock and stone in designing your landscape is only limited by your imagination. Look at other landscape designs and check out some public parks and arboretums to see how some designers have used rock and stone in designs. Then adapt the best designs for your own landscape space.