Incorporating Stone into the Landscape (Ideas and Tips)

Elements of a Garden Featuring Stone:

The ultimate garden that featured stone would include: rock outcroppings, stone retaining walls, specimen boulders, rock transitioning into stone veneers on structures like a house, and a flagstone patio. It would also include: a stone pathway, stone steps, furniture benches and tables made from stone, stone sculptures, and a water features stream, falls and a pond comprised of stone.

Rock Outcroppings:

Rock outcroppings make it appear that the rock being placed into your landscape has always been there. Plan for a overall lineal directional pattern when designing the layout of a outcropping. (see fig. 1) Think of a larger geological formation that is below grade and only its tips, shelves and weathered exfoliation are the only parts exposed. (see fig. 2) Study basic geology books and look outdoors to determine what a natural outcropping of stone/boulders appears in the mountains, this will provide a good visual for designing your own rock formations in your garden.

Stone Retaining Walls:

Creating elevation changes always help a garden’s character. Stone walls are ideal for terracing and retaining, gardens, planting beds, and turf areas.

Walls can range from large boulder, holding a house on a hill, to a blocky field stone, a freestanding wall, to a thin strip flagstone along a garden path.

Shorter walls from 6″ – 18″ look the best with thinner or smaller stones for giving a layered appearance. Block, wider stones are appropriate for walls 18″ – 4′. With walls over 4′ mortar and larger rocks should be used.
Divide taller walls into shorter terraced walls if possible

Specimen Boulders:

The term character or specimen are used to determine individual rocks with unique qualities or traits that are are most frequently used focal or high traffic areas for optimum viewing.

For individual boulders it is best to bury the bottom ¼ to ½ of the stone. This gives the appearance that the stone has always been there. It looks best if the sides of the rock do not allow shadows to occur. (see fig. 3)

Place specimen rock in curves of walkways, corners of driveways and sidewalks, and other spots where it will look like the rock was there first, and the other elements were designed around the rock. Use odd numbers and different shapes when using rocks in groups. (see fig.4)

Rock Transitions:

Use bigger pieces of flagstone or slabs to define transitions or threshold between spaces or from patios to pathways. (see fig. 5) Applying stone veneers (rock applied vertically on walls so surface or face of stone is exposed) on the bases of houses and on concrete walls helps to blend the rustic landscape with the structured architecture of a house. Setting boulders along the base of walls and at the corners of the house makes a nice transition from the landscape to the structure. (see fig. 6)

Flagstone Patio:

The advantage of a flagstone patio, whether you’re capping a concrete slab or setting the stone in sand or soil, it that they can be as formal or informal as one wishes. Flagstone is a great material due to its durability, character and the variety of colors and textures available.

Dimensional cut stone is probably the easiest type of flagstone to install because of its modular shape. Irregular shaped flagstone is a less expensive option, but can be time consuming to install. (see High Plains How To: Flagstone Patios and Walkway Installation)

Stone Path and Steps:

Paths, like patios, can be as informal or informal as one desires. Paths can be made of flagstone pavers, larger flagstone slabs, or gravel. Most paths are edged with a material such as a flagstone strip stone to keep the material between the stones contained. Stone steps are always a nice feature in a garden. They can be easily installed using flagstone slabs for the tread portion of the step and a strip stone for the rise portion. (see fig. 7)

Stone Furniture and Sculpture:

Stone tables and benches are always enjoyed. They, along with stone sculpture pieces in a garden, are often he topic of conversation and interest. Sculpture is a nice final touch to any garden.

Stone Stream Beds and Water Features:

In nature, rocks and boulders of all sizes are found in streams and rivers. When emulating a stream bed or water feature in your garden, make sure the larger boulders are set at the bends in the stream. This gives the impression that when the flow of water was carving out the path of least resistance it went around the large boulders.

Fill the stream with smaller rocks that may have settled at its bottom, and medium size rocks along its edges which might have been forced to the side over time. (see fig.8 )