A beautiful landscape is more than just plantings. More than grass, more than trees, more than bright blooms or lush foliage. In fact, some of the most striking elements of a landscape aren’t living at all! Think of a bubbling water feature, a lovely piece of sculpture, a cozy seating area or inviting fire pit. And, of course, stone.
Natural stone – from the largest boulder to the tiniest bit of gravel – can serve many functions, from the purely aesthetic to the completely necessary. These are some of the ways that stone can be incorporated into your landscape, and some types of stone that will turn an ordinary yard into something traffic-stopping and vastly more functional.
1. As Pathways, Walkways & Steps
What’s more naturalistic than a stepping stone pathway, or stone steps leading to your front door or to another area in your yard? Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can choose sizes, shapes and even colors to suit your style and complement your home’s architecture.
For high-traffic areas, where a walkway or stairway will serve as the primary means to get to and from key areas, you’ll want to choose more regular stones that can be fitted closely together. Bluestone and Flagstone are two that make great choices.
These stones have distinctive textures and colors and come in irregular shapes that allow a landscape designer to work creatively to achieve a natural and harmonious effect. They can also be cut to create more specific patterns and designs if that’s part of the overall look you’re going for.
For secondary paths, like meandering paths through a garden, Pennsylvania Field Stone will give you those large, round-but-irregular stepping stones that you can picture from your childhood fairytales. These benefit from being more widely spaced and randomly placed for a more casual feel.
A combination of Bluestone and Flagstone can create some beautiful stair designs, from graceful and elegant to rugged and rustic. One of the best features of natural stone is that it’s incredibly durable, strong and virtually maintenance-free.
2. For Your Pond Or Water Feature
Natural stone is great for *land*scaping, but it’s just as good for *water*scaping. Strategically placed stone gives your pond a more natural feel, beautifying it and seamlessly connecting the water’s edge with the surrounding landscape.
In addition to its visual appeal, stone in your pond can also provide shelter for fish and protection from predators.
Flagstone is an excellent choice for edging, or even for creating pathways around a pond. Stacking large Flagstone boulders gives you the opportunity to create naturalistic outcroppings that can serve as the underpinnings of cascading waterfall, or provide a sitting area from which to enjoy the view.
River rock is the most traditional type of stone that you’ll see in ponds and streams in nature. Their smooth finish and varying sizes and shapes makes them versatile enough to use in everything from a pond to a bubbling fountain. Their smooth surface also contributes to that soothing sound of water cascading over stone.
Delaware River Rock gravel is another common pond choice, and it can be used to fill in gaps between other, larger stones, and even serves a function as a habitat for the colonization of beneficial bacteria.
3. As a Hardscape
When you think of hardscape, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a patio. And if that’s your goal then natural stone can be chosen to suit your design and style perfectly.
Pennsylvania Bluestone is a beautiful choice, as it is strong, durable, resists cracking and won’t discolor. It can vary in shades from brown to rust, green, blue and lilac hues. It has a non-slip texture that makes it ideal for patios and walkways, even in the rain.
Bluestone typically comes in two textures: natural cleft and thermal. Natural cleft Bluestone occurs when the stone is split along visible seams. The result is a natural, slightly rough or pocked surface with an Old World appeal.
Thermal Bluestone has a smoother, slightly rippled surface, which is ideal if you want a more regular surface, especially if it will be used with bare feet or if safety and tripping is a concern.
But patios are only one type of hardscape that you can create with natural stone. Full stone gardens, or stone instead of mulch intermingled with plants are just two more ways that hardscapes can be designed into your space.
Whichever options you choose, stone is strong, never requires mowing or pruning, and is a striking addition whether it’s the star of the show or just a supporting actor.
4. For Retaining Walls
If you need a retaining wall then stone is practically a given. Sure you can use other materials, like treated timber, but for durability and a long, low-maintenance lifespan, stone can’t be beaten. Again, Pennsylvania Field Stone steals the show. It’s one of the most versatile, toughest stones you can use and it allows you to create a completely original wall in styles ranging from classic to rustic, sophisticated to whimsical.
The unique shapes of this naturally occurring stone makes each one visually interesting. They’re easy to stack, allowing you to create compelling natural patterns that add texture and dimension to your space. And they’re perfect for our New Jersey climate, resisting both heat and cold, without chipping or cracking through freeze-thaw cycles.
All that durability makes it easy to create beautiful walls that stand up to the heaviest rains, protecting your yard from erosion and flooding.
And even if you don’t need a functional retaining wall, you may still choose to add one for aesthetics. Stone walls make great garden enclosures, can be used to separate a driveway from the surrounding landscape, can create welcoming and stunning entryways to your property, and much more.
Natural stone is a wonderful way to add beauty and function to your space. From focal points to backdrops, artistic additions to functional necessities, stone can make a home in every landscape. If you’d like to explore the ways that stone can benefit your landscape design, contact us for a consultation. We’ll listen to your dreams, and share our ideas and recommendations for making them come true.