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Natural Stones in Landscape design

by Alva D. Logsdon

Landscape stone, sold in bags or bulk at most home improvement retailers, distributors and nurseries. The usage is very versatile, environmentally friendly as it does not rot or attract insects and rodents. Easy to spread, stone can be used to control erosion and retain moisture. Two usages shown here include a garden path and landscape accent.

Natural, decorative landscape stone is among the trendiest of hardscapes. Sold in bags or bulk through home improvement retailers, landscape distributors and nurseries, landscape stone is versatile and environmentally friendly. Its uses are varied and include soil erosion, bedding and paving. While mulches such as wood and pine bark attract termites, natural stone does not. It is easy to spread and retains moisture. The uses are limitless and include gardens, ponds and walkways.

More and more, the request for an outdoor living space is made by wearied homeowners. The desire is for the home to be a natural respite from the busy-ness of life plus an outdoor sanctuary, with low-maintenance nature offering the chance to unwind, rest and rejuvenate. As the trend grows, so do the many ways to bring the homeowner’s dream to life.

Meditation Gardens

A garden offers tranquility, a quiet space within where seating in an open and airy space surrounded by rustling grasses, fragrant plants and a small water feature are the basic components. A choice landscape stone to use for the walkway and seating area is the river pebble. The pebbles provide a soft crunch sound and a soothing sensory experience when stepped on. Popular water features in a meditation garden include koi ponds and fountains. Meditation gardens provide a peaceful setting to resonate with nature.

Koi Ponds

Koi ponds have become a popular landscape centerpiece. Combined with a waterfall or flowing stream, the gracefulness of the koi fish create a tranquil oasis. Installation of a koi pond is similar to installing a large fish tank or spa. Striking a balance between aesthetics, maintenance efficiency and a healthy environment for the koi, an ecosystem is born. Most ponds include a plastic liner, biological filter, aeration and a circulation pump. The addition of landscape stone and green foliage brings a natural habitat to life delivering the beautiful oasis desired.

Waterfalls and Fountains

Waterfalls or fountains add beauty and grace to landscapes. Unlike other landscape accents, a fountain delights two senses at once: sight and sound. Water cascading over rocks, a bubbling brook, or tranquil fountain provides an aesthetically pleasing garden accent. With proper planning, design and installation, it can deliver both a stunning landscape accent as well as a beautiful sound harmonious with nature. The sounds of flowing water can ease the noise pollution of traffic, neighboring children and other distractions, while also delivering a privacy barrier for conversations. Like ponds, the popularity of fountains has created a multitude of easy-to-install landscape water feature kits available at many home improvement stores. It is the combination of landscape stone, water and blooming plants that transform a corner of a yard into a landscape centerpiece.


Xeriscapes are probably among the most popular uses of decorative landscape stone. Taken from the Greek word Xeros, meaning dry, xeriscape embodies the principles of water conservation through creative landscaping. In many areas of the country, there is growing concern about water shortages. Studies have shown that as much as 70 percent of water consumption can be attributed to residential use. According to the New Mexico Water Conservation Program, a xeriscape can reduce outdoor water consumption by 30 to 50 percent which has led to its increasing popularity.

Koi ponds are growing in popularity for residential and commercial applications. A fountain was installed with river pebbles and other rock (not shown) that replicate the flow of a natural stream under the bridge emptying into the koi pond. Water liles and other green were added to complete the fish habitat.

“The Las Vegas Valley Water District has a program that allows $1.00 per square foot credit on water bills,” said Jeff Cooper, Pavestone Company. “New home construction must use rock and drought tolerant plants for practically all landscape areas. Consequently, crushed rock, or decorative landscape stone, is used everywhere.”

Like many cities, the City of Albuquerque New Mexico offers several incentive programs to encourage water conservation. Nearly 2,000 high water use landscapes representing almost 3,000,000 square-feet have been converted to xeriscapes, providing customers with landscape rebates up to $800 for residents and $5,000 for businesses.

Popular stones used in decorative landscapes include (top row, left to right): red lava rock, rose quartz, pond pebbles, (bottom row, left to right) river pebbles, slate chips and white marble chips.

In 2002, the City of Albuquerque commissioned local landscape professionals to develop xeriscape designs. The designs are free and available as printable pdfs on their website. The templates were created to guide property owners in creating spectactular xeriscapes with color, logic, beauty and purpose. The design guides include:

Kaleidoscapes: Judith Phillips’ design incorporates vivid, striking plant arrangements with abundant textures and rotating, colorful perennials.

Greenscapes: David Cristiani’s design combines contouring groundcovers, grasses, vines, shrubs and trees for a lush, green xeriscape year-round.

Loungescapes: George Radnovich blends dramatic native and xeric plants for a spectactular lower-maintenance xeriscape.

Wildscapes: Judith Philips balances blooming perennials with intensely aromatic plants to attract abundant local wildlife.

Hotscapes: David Cristiani fuses succulent textures and groups that thrive in full sun and high heat for impressive visual impact.

Coolscapes: George Radnovich orchestrates an elegant, simple mixture of ornamental plants and features for north-facing xeriscapes.

Xeriscapes are cost-effective to build and maintain. Like traditional landscapes, a xeriscape may be designed to minimize maintenance. By selecting plants that are well adapted, organic mulches that suppress weed growth while conserving water and drip irrigation systems directed at the plant roots, xeriscapes can deliver visually stunning and fragrant landscapes that only require monthly or seasonal maintenance.

Natural stone combined with manufactured hardscapes such as pave stones and retaining walls, annuals, perennials and water features offer the landscape contractor unlimited design tools for creating functional and stunning outdoor living spaces. Beautiful, eco-friendly and low-maintenance, it’s easy to take advantage of the profitability of the growing demand for decorative hardscapes in landscapes.



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October 17, 2019, 9:21 am PDT

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