Artful groupings of trees, grasses and flowering plants and shrubs make up the “greenscape” of a garden design. Its counterpart—the hardscape—is using stone to anchor the living elements, define boundaries and add interest throughout the property. A favorite landscape designer of mine calls this “sculpting the land” which is an apt description.
Lucky for us in the Northeast, large rock outcroppings are common, a happy result of glaciers on the move. One of the best ways to deal with this type of terrain is to simply uncover the rock and keep it exposed as a stationary focal point in your garden. The natural fissures in outcroppings act as little planting pockets: just add some soil and tuck in a mix of low growing annuals and perennials wherever you want a spot of color. Sedums and Blue Fescue are particularly well suited to this type of garden.
If you need inspiration for a stone wall, check out Andy Goldsworthy’s masterwork at Storm King Sculpture Garden at the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York. His 2,278-foot-long serpentine dry-fieldstone Storm King Wall wends its way in and out of the woods and even through a pond and up the other side! You can line the perimeter of your property with a low wall; circle your patio to add seating and delineate the space or create a retaining wall to hold a new planting bed.
If your property lacks a creek or brook, you can create a “dry stream bed” that that meanders around your property. The first step is to line a curving trench with gravel, then add boulders of various sizes to create curves that mimic the movement of an actual stream. Plant grasses and other blooms along the stream bed and you’ll have an eye-catching focal point. Added bonus, it is a beautiful way to deal with seasonal wetness or drainage issues.
Deliberately stacked stones, called cairns –have been used as memorials or markers for millennia. Making them is an easy project you can do with your kids Find a spot in your garden for your display, choose an odd number of stones and start stacking them, with the largest stone on the bottom. Play around with each succeeding stone until you find the perfect balance. Don’t worry it someone accidentally knocks it down—building it again is half the fun!
At Down to Earth Garden Center in Rockland County, our garden center is filled with perennials, flowers, shrubs, and trees, with new arrivals coming in every week. The 10,000 square foot showroom has an incredible selection of contemporary, classic, traditional, and transitional teak, aluminum and all-weather dining and deep-seated furniture. We are a garden center near Bergen County and located at 1040 Route 45, open 9 am – 5 pm daily and can be reached at 845-354-8500.