by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
A lot of time and care are put into the plants of your landscape but don’t forget the non-living features of the yard. While your plants may be the focus of your design, hardscape provides structure and serves as a framework holding the landscape together. Click here for some Watters Pinterest ideas for using rock in the yard.
What separates exciting mountain landscapes from the ordinary is the creative use of stone, pavers, and retaining walls. Their artful use brings out the beauty of your plants, accentuates your home’s appeal, and increases property value. Rocks are friends to a landscape, but not always easy to use in creating a design.
For many homeowners, a boulder at a driveway is a good start. But the possibilities are limitless, held back only by your imagination and pocketbook.
Patios and Rocks – Extending patios is one of the most rewarding hardscape projects for Do-It-Yourself homeowners. Decide whether dry-stack pavers, flagstones, or rocks are best for you and the project. Determine if mortar is needed to secure the patio in place.
Whether made of gray concrete, decorative stone, tile, or some other material, patios are a wonderful way to tie the indoors to the outdoors. They lower maintenance and cut down on water use. They are a compelling alternative to lawns as they extend into the yard creating courtyards, play areas, resting and entertainment spots with outdoor furniture. Soften large stone patios with large resort-size pots overflowing with colorful flowers and shrubs.
Raised Beds – Wood is so 1990’s unless in combination with the impact of boulders or tumbled retaining block. Wood products have a lifespan of several years, maybe a decade, then quickly rot and need replacing. Rock boulders and concrete retaining block last a lifetime with minimal maintenance. Colored concrete retaining block is in style and immediately updates an old home.
Walls of Stone – Walls have many uses, from dividing street from the lawn, lining driveways, marking property lines, and enclosing vegetable gardens. Many of us live on steep mountainsides and need walls of stone to prevent erosion and to terrace the property for proper planting.
Round rocks are not as stable as flat rocks or retaining blocks so they require the use of mortar. Larger retaining blocks are engineered to simply stack up to 3′ in height without the use of mortar. Check with the manufacturer for exact specs for your project.
Size and Shape as Factors in Rock Selection – For all of your rock work, the size and shape of your stone will be central to achieving the desired look and feel. It’s essential to choose your hardscape carefully, so I recommend meeting your landscaper at the rock yard to handpick large boulders.
Natural stone is not the only possible choice as a building material for retaining walls. Lovers of the natural look may not like the look of cinder block, but prefer natural stones or roughed-up retaining block. Large retaining block is far easier to use and less expensive. It easy to transport and deliver, relatively inexpensive, and easy to install professionally or by yourself. For all of these reasons, retaining block is popular with homeowners, even though it lacks the impact of natural rocks. Go directly to the source here in central Arizona; that’s Yavapai Block and Precast.
Rock & Water – Stone fountains are a striking way to use rocks and water in combination. There is something magical about the combination of rock and water in a landscape, and it doesn’t have to be a large fountain to make a big statement. Simple rock fountains can have a significant impact on a small property.
Landscapes on a Solid Path – Stone walkways can be pleasant, but they can also be a bit monotonous. Carefully chosen stones and how they are used can add an attractive variety of texture and design. For instance, cobblestones are charming but because of their uniformity, they can result in a ho-hum walkway. Planting a small ground cover in the cracks between the cobblestones is an excellent way to break up the monotony.
Flagstone, on the other hand, is a building material that has a lot of variety because of its irregular shapes and colors. Plants look good growing between the cracks of flagstone walkways and patios.
See picture ideas from local gardens and more from Watters Pinterest Board.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners here at Watters Garden Center.