When you think of the word ‘landscape,’ you think of plants, right? For any project, especially curbside or at the entrance of your property, you endeavor to create the right mix: trees for height, canopy, and anchor, shrubs for depth and dimension, select perennials, cheery annuals you change out seasonally. But what if instead of creating that massing of plant material at the center, the eye level of your design, you used large rock instead? And planted around it. One boulder–or two or three–can provide every bit as much interest as all those specimens and be a real focal point for your design. I didn’t create the landscape for this home, but I love the impact of natural stone incorporated here. The plants grow up, over, and around the rock, and there’s still room for seasonal interest.
A mature landscape area often loses depth and scale because plants grow. That shrub you admired when you bought it can outgrow its allotted space in just a few seasons. The bloom cover you so love is now eight feet in the air, not three. Those beautiful glossy leaves now tend to turn their backside to you. Which means you have to pull it out and start over every few years. A rock won’t do that to you. It remains as reliable as the day you brought it in and rested it under the trees.
And a large rock is also a good staging area. Does a certain vine attract you? Plant behind or alongside your rock and let it grow and scrabble over the top. And that froth of blooms you get annually is nice against the color. You can add a bit of middle ground height behind it, like these cannas, to give your design depth, and pull the eye up. Next to the boulder are grasses and daylilies, their lance-like foliage a contrast in growth form. Plus, they provide dependability, as do all perennials. They’re also hardy, which may be necessary; stone tends to radiate heat in thewarm months.
Once it’s all in place, you’ll perform a bit of maintenance on these plantings as they nestle in with the rock. But you save your energy for seasonal plantings right up front. Annual color pops when it is featured with stone.
And another good idea about combining rock with plants is that you can adjust the size of your design according to the space. If you wish to use the same idea in a courtyard or create interest in a lackluster corner, just size down your rock accordingly, and use the same mix of (downsized) plants. You can have this combination in full sun or shade. Another good thing about stone in the landscape is that stone doesn’t have a list of requirements to grow.
As always, I encourage you to think of new ideas for your landscape. Ideas that will give you pleasure and maybe a bit of a thrill when you turn in your drive. Natural rock can be as exciting as any plant recommended at the nursery. Just place it, use it as a complement to your favorite plants, then stand back and admire your work. And that chunk of granite or sandstone won’t get thirsty or overgrown or need maintenance. How nice is that?
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen