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How to Use Rocks in Your Landscape

By: Jacquelyn McGilvray and Sherry Rauh

Natural stone is one of the most versatile elements available for a landscape makeover. Landscaping with rocks adds texture and contrast, providing durable groundcover that requires little or no maintenance.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Kathryn Roach

The Benefits of Landscaping With Rock

Incorporating rocks into your landscape is an investment that pays off with attractive, low-maintenance and long-lasting results. Rocks can be used to add a variety of interesting elements to a lawn or garden, including walls, water features and rock gardens. They can also serve as a durable alternative to mulch that won’t need to be replaced year after year.

When choosing rocks for your landscape, consider the tone they'll set for the rest of the property. Tawny beach pebbles or river rocks add warmth, while white marble chips help brighten up shady areas. Flat terra cotta stones complement a tropical landscape but can seem out of place in a more formal garden. For a minimalist modern landscape or Polynesian-themed garden, try black lava rocks. Because stones last indefinitely, it's important to choose a look you'll be happy with for many years.

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Photo: Bruce Clodfelter & Associates

Lay Out a Stairway

A pathway and stairs made up of large unhoned stones help create a natural, forest-like setting in this gorgeous front yard.

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Line a Pathway

Decomposed granite (essentially, granite worn down into particles) is compacted into a soft-underfoot pathway. Small boulders along the edge add layers to the border and enhance the desert-like feel.

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Photo: Julie Martens Forney

Mulch With Stones

Rocks may be more expensive than mulch, but they have several advantages as a groundcover. The first is durability. Mulch must be replaced every season, while rocks can last the lifetime of your garden. Another advantage is that pale-colored stones provide striking contrast against deep-colored foliage and help brighten up shady corners of your landscape. Rocks will also discourage weed growth around your prized plant. For the best results, lay landscape fabric on the ground first and install a weed barrier before putting the stones in place.

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