The word ‘natural’ gets tossed around a lot when planning landscape. We remember to avoid designing with straight lines–except on the edge of the property– because straight lines don’t occur in nature. We know to incorporate regional and native plants when possible into the landscape because those plants are naturally hardy. And it feels natural to design using the existing slope of a property, rather than bulldoze and flatten. So why not take it that one step further and explore uses of rock, flagstone, or decorative stone, to add dimension, texture, and even cool bits of color?
You’ll find carefully stacked flagstones for sale at nurseries, big box stores, and at rock yards, and it’s fun to explore the options in terms of color and size and type of stone. Flagstones are already cut to size and uniformity, and cry out for use, not just for patios, but even as whimsical designs, such as this sunburst pattern, in the turf.
Find a stone with an overall color you like, but don’t avoid those flagstones with veins, striations of color, or splotches. Remember, you seek a ‘natural’ effect. Then think of a geometric design for your stones, and an unexpected place to put it, which will be noticed and appreciated. Figure out the size of the space you have and calculate the number of stones you need, and get them delivered.
Installation? Any landscape team can do it for you, but you can also do it yourself. Many big box stores offer weekend classes on installing landscape stone and making walkways from it. You won’t need much more than a leveler, measuring devices, and builder’s sand to create a flat surface for the stone to hug, and a helper (for toting and working flagstones into place). You want your flagstones to be flush with the ground, so you can mow right over your design.
Tired of typical border edging? Try narrow strips of rock laid out to follow the lines and curves of your beds, or to define where turf stops and areas are left natural around existing trees or landscaped plant groupings. You can mow over your border, and the stone softens the edges, and makes for a serene transition.
Take nature in stride by using flagstones for steps leading up or down in your landscape. Why use poured concrete, when you can place stones for a staircase effect? They hug the sloped terrain, make for sinuous curves, and feel as if they’ve always been there. Unlike cement.
You don’t have to build Stonehenge to get the full effect. The natural contrast between the cool stone and the warmth of plantings is easy to see, and easy to implement and install. And it’s another way of infusing your personal touch into your surroundings.
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Find him on the web at chrisholsen.com.