Isn’t this a lovely cobblestone walkway! Ray and I were thrilled to discover it on a brief visit to Luxembourg in 2015. Leaving our little tour group behind, we ventured off on our own. We explored the old town via narrow side streets and eventually found a hidden gem of a park filled with ancient chestnut trees and perched on the edge of a walled cliff overlooking the Petrusse valley.
I fell in love with this stone pathway as it meandered throughout the park and it really reminded me just how enchanted I have ALWAYS been with rocks of any shape or size.
Small wonder rocks have become such a backbone of our landscape here in the country! They’re an abundant free resource on our stoney ground and I’d consider it a red letter day if I drove a shovel into the ground and did NOT hit a rock of some description. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. 😀
There are endless ways you can incorporate stone, rocks and boulders into your garden design. To give you just a few ideas let’s take a peak at my own backyard and I’ll show you my top 5 favourite ways to landscape with rock.
TOP 5 WAYS TO LANDSCAPE WITH ROCK
- STEPPING STONE PATHWAYS
- GARDEN BED EDGING
- FEATURE BOULDERS IN GARDEN BEDS
- FIRE PIT DESIGN
- POND EDGING
1. STEPPING STONE PATHWAYS
Most of the flat stones you see in the above picture were found in the bush line surrounding our yard.
Larger Tyndall stones used as stepping stones in other parts of the yard came out of a trench dug from our house to the road when we had underground power installed on our property. In particular, one massive Tyndall stone boulder was hauled out of the trench by the contractor’s backhoe, dropped on the ground and “CRACK!” it cleaved into numerous large flat pieces.
I did a happy dance when that happened!!
It’s heavy work and somewhat time-consuming, but to create the flagstone pathway you see here is very simple:
- place the pieces where you want them to go (like dry-fitting)
- move them around until you are pleased with the pattern
- trace the shape of the rock with a knife or any garden tool that allows you to cut into the ground or turf around it
- remove the rock once you finished tracing it and begin digging out the dirt underneath
- place the rock in the newly dug hole and check that it is level with the surrounding ground as much as possible (because stubbed toes are not much fun)
- adjust the depth by digging wherever it is needed to ensure the stone does not wobble when you step on any part of it
- secure and solid underfoot – that is what you are aiming for
Whether you create walkways or flagstone patio areas within your landscape – no worries – the same process will apply.
We just completed the patio area under our grape arbor this summer…and what you can’t see in this picture are all the lovely creeping and woolly thyme I planted between the stones. I transplanted them from other flower beds and am excited to see them eventually spread their way throughout the whole area. They don’t mind being walked on either…and you’ll ❤️ the scent they release when you do!
Next year I will be putting a bistro table and chairs here for a nice shady place to hang out on hot summer days. A string of twinkly lights and some flower pots flanking each end for inviting scent and colour should complete the picture perfectly! (there might be a water fountain somewhere in the back of my mind for this area too…but don’t tell anyone!!🙊)
2. GARDEN BED EDGING
Whenever you dig a new flower bed you always want to make sure there is some kind of barrier between the bed and the turf otherwise grass will creep into your bed. In this case, the new bed I created above is level with the lawn and I didn’t want a full blown rock wall rising above that level. This also makes it easier to run the lawnmower alongside it!
We have rock walls (which I’ll tell you about in a little bit) along the two foundation beds next to the house, so I wanted a slightly different feel and look here along the edge of the vegetable garden. Always looking for a way to be resourceful, I made use of a stack of Tyndall stone bricks given to us many years before by a friend after he dismantled an old fireplace surround.
The stones made a perfect edging!
This is the full blown rock wall I mentioned earlier. We have two rock walls along the front of our house – and the one you see in the picture above has quite the story behind it! It is slightly different today, with one larger boulder at the bend that ‘surfaced’ during garage construction several years ago.
Flashback 15 years or so and you’ll see us having just completed the addition to the little 480 square foot house we started out with. Being a gardener you can imagine my excitement at having placed 20 yards of garden soil around the foundation of the house – eager and ready to plant!
How on earth do I keep the soil in place though?!
Enter the Longman family. My sister, Pat, her husband Gerry and their three kids – my beautiful niece, Maeg, and my nephews Michael and Connor arrive for a fun late July visit from Calgary. All hands on deck so to speak.
Something about sitting around a fire pit with friends or family that gets the creative juices flowing – we’re relaxed, laughing and ZERO stress to stop the ideas from bubbling to the surface.
“Let’s build a rock wall!!”
I mean a BIG pile of boulders and rocks from all around the property…tucked in the bush and half buried in the ground. Wherever we found them…we excavated and/or dragged them to the front of the house. One boulder at a time we built that wall…it was hot – we were sweaty – and a blue plastic super slider was our best friend that weekend.
We hooked up some rope to the slider…then man-handled a boulder onto it. Strapped a couple of able-bodied family members to that rope and ‘HEAVE!!‘
Long story short…the rock wall is gorgeous and hands-down one of my favourite projects simply because of the wonderful memories it evokes every time I look at it. As you can see from some of the pictures below when the plants start doing their thing…the rock wall ‘almost’ disappears…not quite, but close!
TIP: You can plant succulents in nooks and crannies of a rock wall – alpine plants, or creeping thyme…it’s great fun tucking little gems in here and there 😀
3. FEATURED BOULDERS IN GARDEN BEDS
Now it’s one thing to use human power and a super slider to move medium sized boulders – its an entirely DIFFERENT prospect moving 1/2 ton boulders into position in flower beds. It’s just NOT happening!
Years later, all that changed for us when we were finally able to get a little Kubota tractor. Our rock moving adventures kicked it up a notch baby! 💪🏽
You can see from the picture above that we placed three large boulders in the new front shrub bed. All of those rocks had to be ‘found’ and ropes wrapped around them and pulled out of their hiding places. My Dad and Ray did most of the bull work and I directed where and how they were placed. It took some maneuvering but they really ‘anchor’ the feel of the plantings in this bed now – LOVE it!
NOTE: You can just see the ‘Fort Parker‘ fence in the background…in a previous post I shared a story about our different vegetable garden iterations throughout the years – if you are curious!
Some garden design advice – I found odd numbers placed strategically in a flower bed seem to feel balanced and right – BUT – never do anything because someone says that’s how it SHOULD be! Follow your intuition and what feels right in your own gut…this is your garden, so let your personality SHINE!
The wonderful thing about using rocks and boulders in your garden beds is they have such a strong year-round visual impact. Whatever the season, they impart a natural and rugged beauty that enhances any greenery growing around them…and honestly, you really can’t go wrong when you bring them into the life of your garden!
4. FIRE PIT DESIGN
The comfort, safety and story-telling which takes place by firelight is almost irresistible. It draws friends and family together like nothing else and I’d hazard a guess that it is the beating heart of most of our backyards.
Creating a fire pit with rocks and boulders is almost a perfect fit for a relaxed country setting like ours. In fact, the one you see above was already existing when we bought our property 20 years ago and apart from a few split rocks that we replaced, has remained unchanged ever since.
The only caveat to placement would be to ensure you have plenty of ‘head room‘ above it – free of overhanging trees branches. That kind of goes without saying doesn’t it? I said it anyway 🤓
Of course…the 4-legged family members can’t resist relaxing by the warmth of a fire pit too!
5. POND EDGING
The pond is by far the largest garden DIY project we’ve completed in our yard that incorporates rocks and boulders. You’ve got to cover the pond-liner with something and WHAT is more naturally found at the edge of water than stone?! (sand perhaps…but I live in Manitoba – not California)😊
All of the rocks you see lining the edge came out of the hole that was dug out for the pond.
The landscaping here is dominated by dry stacked stones placed around the perimeter of the pond in order to cover the liner and build up the waterfall. We used rocks in the center of the pond to provide a focal point for our little brass duck (thank you Alix!) and also a lovely place for the fish to find shelter when they need it.
If you haven’t yet put a pond in your yard I couldn’t recommend anything more than this – it is PURE JOY to have the sound of water, reflective qualities and beauty so close at hand in your own backyard!
This list of how to incorporate rocks and boulders into the garden landscape is so small…the creative uses in truth are limited only to your brilliant imagination. Endless!💚
How I built my pond!
A beautiful water feature will enhance your garden landscape and invite magic into your own backyard...it's easier than you think!