Rocks and Boulders In The Landscape

I have said many times how satisfying it can be, working with large boulders and rocks. These days, tools include such things as the Mini-Excavator shown in action below, which can nearly literally do the work of 4-5 guys – and without breaking anyone’s back. This technology now includes a “thumb” which can grasp a large rock between the bucket and the ‘clamp”, allowing a near-jeweler’s precision in placement. These are especially useful in creating water features as they allow on to lightly place large stones directly in top of the EPDM liners.

I see quite a few searches from people interested in this topic, some linking here and being directed to earlier posts. I like to think I can produce even more variations and maybe some pertinent “how-to” information on working with these elements of landscape design.

Rock Walls

Dry-stacked rock walls are an art. My own artistic fortunes in these constructions have more often than not depended on who was working for me at the time. Some are just plain better than¬† others at the craft and some, frankly, are also better than me. Just the same, I always loved working with them. Here’s one now:

(Please click any image to enlarge)

These walls accentuate the lines of all those long, tall Ponderosa Pines reaching skyward. They provide ground level interest and work well against the grass. They also provide an excellent spot to add color and form to a lower dimension of the landscape.

The next one was almost bizarre but it actually grew on me. Asked initially to use two different kinds of rocks to make retaining walls and to retain a steep bank with them, we mixed them up in what later proved to be an interesting way, I thought. This is a somewhat terrible picture but it’s all I have left of the site. Planted up and growing, the look became special indeed. We added tons of colorful, shade-loving perennials.

These same blue/gray fractured rocks we used elsewhere but in more congruent forms. This one was per request with a similar mix of two sorts of basalt chips.

It’s difficult using two different colors and styles of boulders and wall blocks, yet, it happens. Here, below, is another landscape we did in much the same way. This time we decided to try and salvage the narrower rocks which were slated to be thrown away.¬† What was originally supposed to be all boulders took on an interesting look.

What became this:

Began as something else entirely. In fact, let’s take a time lapse look at this one:

We began with this. It aint pretty:

A really steep little bank which had a definite line at the bottom where the paver patio had been engineered to stop. It meant some pretty thick rock placements to divert water and to help the plants retain the bank itself. Also, there was a spa to put in, pretty much dead center to the operation.

We began in the spa first, having salvaged the rocks I mentioned and having also decided to build a dry-stacked wall with them, including a drainage system for the wall:

Then the rock work began. It was pretty much just a machine at this time. Density was asked for and we built everything bearing in mind the plants which were coming would be our eventual best friends:

I love that machine!

For the small walls we used the salvaged flatter rock material for can be seen better in this picture at the far end. We were pretty shameless in using them, actually, because I thought they looked real good. Needless to say, they functioned perfectly too. They make a nice, sturdy little edifice.

We built up the spa’s walls, then bent around the corner, sort of pasting rocks into place on our way out. We then addressed the brick paver patio, then added the spa.

We took a small “break” after dressing up the bank in our “Rockery” style. There was the small matter of installing a patio below it all – thus the increased incline of the bank itself and the care lavished on retaining the slope. In order to fit a good sized patio inside the yard, the bank needed to increase in slope.

This is what we ended up with, panorama-style:

And here it is all planted up:

Carried away once again with the good ole construction process, this was quite an excellent and very satisfying project. For those who wonder, the rocks are barely detectable now.

5 thoughts on “Rocks and Boulders In The Landscape

  1. Beautiful work. I installed landscaping for 6 years and always tried to sell people on the idea placing boulders in a more random and natural way, then use plants to hold everything together. I’m glad to see that your artistic vision for boulders stretches beyond rock walls.

  2. Thanks so much, Scott. I always viewed boulders as an asset, yes. In many of the places I have worked, water shortages determine that we try and utilize every asset we can find to take up some (unwatered) space and to still present a nice and interesting landscape. Obviously, boulders, placed right, can provide interest all on their very own. That they mix well with so much else is another total plus. And then, some of those rocks are gorgeous in their very own rights.

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