Boulders and Rock Mulches – Animated Talks With Stones

As the systems and machinery involved in landscaping have evolved, we have become better able to do more with elements long-overlooked but readily available for use. Rocks and their large cousins – boulders – are the perfect example of this.

Below is a yard whose overall beauty just about entirely consists of a marvelously expansive view of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance. The foreground is dotted with homes, also in the distance, which provide a unique perspective of various layers of depth and a somewhat mind-clearing vision of distance and natural geology.

The landscaping requirements of a home such as this insist that the view be maintained. Yet, there is still the more immediate and entirely satisfying effect of “local” – back yard – gorgeousness that always provides a landscaper with design possibilities. This couple wanted an unobtrusive but runningĀ  water feature and something other than just the standard rear yard with flat lawn and a fence.

Our solution was to provide the small water feature in a corner of the lot which would still be visible and aurally satisfying, with motion and activity and a lawn which was “different” – in this case a rolling series of small hills, studded with boulders.

(click all images to enlarge)

Rocks are some of my best friends. Let’s face it, they offer a minimum of argument over even the thorniest issues and they behave once set into place. There is a lot to be said about this sort of loyal adherence to Natural Law. And, yes, I have abused the odd rock, I admit it freely. I have thrown them, hit them with baseball bats and golf clubs, used them as weapons against my enemies – the “bike-chasing barking dog” for example – and sometimes shamefully using them against bad friends.

Some, however, you can’t do much to. They talk back.

Some of the bigger guys you can tweak with machinery the size of Texas – just make sure they roll in the right direction when you stack ’em.

This applies to all versions of rocks larger than a fist –

No doubt, you will have noticed right away that the boulders and stones shown so far have all been of the “River Rock” variety – meaning rocks who were either tumbled under glaciers for miles and miles under enormous weight and thereby rendered rounded or else they were immersed in rapids of fast-flowing creeks and rivers with the same result.


Some other rocks cracked liked broken crystals during some epoch in the less-distant past, immune from the rushing waters of creeks and rivers, and maintaining and still-ancient, yet freshly-fractured look which allows yet another approach to working with them. They can make a bizarre, yet somehow artistic mulch, and one I personally embraced, loving the mix and the radical nature of the stones themselves, especially when mixed with similarly-fractured boulders:

Surprisingly enough, they can even work well in the midst of water – the color and fractured nature revealing sharp breaks which contrast with the softness and depth of the water around it.

All in all, they also take up space and are quite handsome, taken individually – no matter their origin.

One thought on “Boulders and Rock Mulches – Animated Talks With Stones

  1. I love garden rocks and stones, whether in a setting that makes them look like a spillway or placed in a central spot where you can admire them. AND you don’t have to water them. Does it get any better?

    If I had a backhoe and could navigate it into the back yard or up the front steps I’d probably have a garden full of them. Right now it’s just a few thirty-pounders, scattered here and there…

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