About the SFMGA

Monday, June 01, 2009

Gardening with Rocks

By Cathy Morlock, Master Gardener

You can't grow a rock, but the combination of a beautiful rock and living plants can make your garden a special place. Rock comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and forms from small landscape gravel to river stones and large stone pavers. Its uses in the garden are nearly endless. Gravel can be used for pathways and for mulch. Medium and larger stones can be used for edging or planters. Benches, fire pits, patios, and raised beds can all be made from stone of various sizes. Big rocks can be used as features and focal points: a boulder can be partially buried to add mass, height, and a feeling of stability to the garden. Small, smooth stones can be used at the bottom of water features. In a Japanese garden, rocks and boulders represent islands, mountains, and holy places. Your rocks can represent whatever you like.

If you are a rock hound AND a gardener, what a lucky combination. Pick up specimens on your walks and hikes and introduce them to your garden in creative ways. The stone that is native to your area may look best because that is its natural habitat, but don't be limited – use what pleases you. Look for rocks and stones in different shapes and sizes. Use a combination of shiny, matte, and pitted surfaces, similar to the way you select plants with different heights and textures.

Observe how rocks and plants interact in the wild. See how a group of rocks looks together, partially embedded in the ground, revealing only some of their beauty, how the plants get started and then thrive among the rocks in a micro-climate using the rocks as shade or as water collectors and as temperature regulators (rocks heat up during the day and give off heat at night). Notice that you can create the same kind of scenes in your garden. This gives your garden the look of the surrounding landscape and the rook looks as though it belongs there, not as if you decided to drop a pile of rocks into the garden.

Above all, have fun with landscaping and rocks!