So, you’ve already mastered the major features of your landscape designs. The patio is drawn up, the plant palette has been selected, the trees and shrubs have been thoughtfully placed. What about the spaces between? You could lay out the usual mulches and sod, with their continuous need for weeding and replenishment. But why not try something fast, on-trend, and maintenance-free?
The Low Cost, High Impact Power of Boulders
Decorative boulders can anchor an entire project at the ground level. The payoff can be dramatic, considering that most are sold for a low price per pound. Clusters of boulders create topographical interest in a flat space, while singular boulders act as natural focal points. Given the number of decorative boulders available on the market, let’s discuss a few of your aesthetic options.
For a feature that is solid but low-profile, try rectangular and neutral-toned stone. Large limestone outcroppings can be configured to make natural seating areas. Pennsylvania Fieldstone boulders, with their soft-gray tone and natural lichens and mosses, blend perfectly with a forested design. Re-claimed or “Heritage” boulders are similarly weathered, lending age, grace, and gravity to any space.
Sculpted by Nature
To make a striking or modern visual statement, consider granite boulders (which come in many colors,), striated boulders for a slash of contrast, or “holey” boulders for fascinating texture. The right specimen will provide a source of timeless contemplation in the garden. Bluestone boulders, situated on a bed of bluestone chips or near bluestone pavers, are becoming common in many urban landscapes. The best part is, the lean manufacturing of these products means you can often obtain them for much less than the cost of the same raw material, cut and fabricated.
Go one step further
The new finishing touch on an exterior hardscape is now a water or fire feature. The same boulders dotting your landscape can be drilled and fitted with pipes for gas or water in order to become fire pits or fountains. The prep and installation work is more extensive, but the results are a huge increase in the entertainment potential of a private space.
Forget mulch and mowing. Choose gravel.
In vast, drought-prone parts of the US, turf yards are being systematically swapped out for water-conserving gravel beds. While this visualization can be a hard sell for contractors, the reality is that some ornamental stone groundcovers have incredible visual appeal. There’s a product for every vision and aesthetic. Here are a few of our favorites:
Let the Chips Fall Where They May
Bluestone & Slate chips are cool-toned aggregates that come in a variety of grades and are becoming some of the most popular decorative gravels for urban projects. They blend beautifully with grey-colored pavers, minimalist designs, shady urban gardens, and modern-style homes. As a backdrop, they make brighter elements pop. Try them with Japanese Forest Grass or your favorite purple Huechera.
Just like the bluestone chips, the Mexican Pebble, the deep slate color of this gravel is its main appeal. But the smooth, rounded edges are also evocative of beaches or river beds, complimenting water features perfectly. Try them in a meandering walking path; they make even a lowly parking pad feel like the entrance to a spa.
Finally, Merimac & Degenerated Granite is a fine-grade sparkling gravel available in gold to deep red tones. This granite is often used to lay trails in protected areas and national parks—a natural choice for walking paths that are less formal and more organic. Even a small space can have the feel of a hiking trail or forest preserve, where the glittering gravel encourages careful observation of the environs.
Upgrade your space, not your workload
Using stone and gravel groundcover is a natural way to express your client’s style, while minimizing maintenance requirements. Installation can require some heavy lifting, but the rest is as simple spreading your gravel or placing your boulders.