Using Rocks and Stones in Garden Design

One way to establish unity is to use rocks and stones as an underlying visual structure for your garden design. This will need to be well organised and planned to avoid having them emerge as decoration instead of a unifying influence. Accent rocks and stones can add a tremendous amount of interest, impact and character to your landscape. These can be used to layer the design of your landscape even in a very flat environment.

Stone walls and pillars will combine with paving of a similar type to create simplicity, focalisation and rhythm. You can apply the principles of design to practically any use of stone.

One of the key things to remember when using accent rocks and stones is not just to lay them on the surface. An excellent way of creating unity within your landscape is to try burying the bottom one fifth or even one third of the rock into the ground, thereby making it appear naturally part of the landscape. This may not be possible with all rock sizes so simply ensure a little amount of soil is dug away beneath the rock allowing it to settle into position. This has the effect of making your rock look like it belongs to the landscape, as if it occurred naturally in that position. It also adds a little mystery as you wonder how much of the rock is placed under the ground, or even if there is more of it.

Tip: Study naturally occurring rock formations in the wider landscape and allow this knowledge to inform your design. Scale your rock feature to fit your garden. Use groupings of rocks, based on your observations of natural occurrences, to complete the natural effect.


Using Plants in Garden Design

While rocks add a dramatic effect to the landscape, plants are essential to provide unity within your garden. It is important to use many of the same types of plant adjacent each other in order to avoid the disunity of appearance engendered by the plant collection, or tossed salad, appearance. Again, as with rock or stone, you can employ plants to achieve any aim you want, using the principles of design;

  • Keep it simple and unified by using a very limited palate.
  • Introduce balance by visually weighing individual or groups of plants against each other
  • Create transition by gradually varying plant type, size, colour or texture.
  • Use groups of plants to help you to focalise, or draw attention to particular places in the garden.
  • Proportion in your planting schemes will help them to relate to other entities such as hard landscape, the house and the surrounding land or town-scape.
  • Achieve rhythm by varying the use of your materials across the space.
  • Repeat some of your planting to create unity.