Choosing the right rocks for your garden
Natural stone is among the most long lasting and beautiful additions to any garden. And there are six factors that influence the visual appeal and practicality of using rock in landscapes, and ways they integrate into your property
Does it fit in?
There are hundreds of different types of stone, and your choice must work properly with both the details of your house and your landscape. The most commonly found rock for landscaping come from water ways which makes them rounded, grey and offer little detailed interest. In comparison, an iron stained boulder with patches of lichens and moss suggest it's been in the new location a long time. Where rock or masonry is used for on-site construction, try to maintain the same local look and feel with imported boulders in order to create a more cohesive design.
Keep it local
Rocks are heavy! The cost is not for the rock itself, but for hauling it from the source to the new location. Obviously a local source will be far less expensive and if natural rock is already in your garden bringing in a contrasting colour rock is not advisable. Not only will it fail to look natural, the difference will be visually displeasing. Rocks should resemble what already exists, so that the new and old can blend.
Keep it in scale
The scale of the garden, and that of the entire property contribute to deciding the right sized rock. This is where a professional's experience becomes useful. The most common error is using undersized boulders because the weight of larger ones makes them expensive to deliver and place. This is false economy. In the long run, if the scale is wrong, the rock fails to show your designer's efforts to their best advantage. Where large boulders aren't possible use a multitude of modestly sized ones that can be arranged in a creative way.
Accessibility and placement
The experimentation required to reposition boulders for the perfect look, takes manpower. The weight of boulders is always underestimated by homeowners, and sometimes inexperienced designers. It's enough to cause serious cost overruns. There's also a risk to paving, vehicles and structures if heavy objects are not handled safely. For this reason, make sure the contractor you choose is experienced and insured for large rock work.
It is rare to find just a boulder by itself in nature. Rocks tend to exist in groups of varying shapes and sizes, linked by the same parent material. This is where the rules of the Japanese garden come into play to help your contractor create successful constellations of boulders that resemble natural rock outcroppings. A boulder worked into a group of smaller, "helping stones", results in a more beautiful structure.
Boulders don't sit on top of the ground - they are nestled into it. Each boulder will have an attractive feature, which is often discovered after studying the piece. And it is this angle, which should be positioned for viewing. The remainder can be planted into the ground to anchor it physically and visually.
Planting and nesting
The way boulders and helping stones are arranged can create planting opportunities, just like in nature. Plants grow at the edges of boulders for protection from the elements and to access moisture. Surround the boulders with closely spaced low-lying ground covers or strategically placed smaller grasses. While rock is the focus, it is the plants you choose that enhances your style.
Nesting a boulder is a technique used in Japanese gardens, but it's also ideal for more natural gardens. Your goal is to plant the stone so it appears to rise up from your vegetation. Nesting is a good way to make stones fit in around rock waterfalls and near patio edges where the base of the stone may be disfigured by mortar. It's also a problem solver for gaps or to disguise piping, foundations and irrigation heads.