Sublime Stone: Elegant Hardscape Features Sublime Stone: Elegant Hardscape Features

Rock and stone give a garden and landscape an added dimension - one that provides both a timelessness and permanent appeal. Incorporating stonework into your setting can be accomplished both formally and informally. Stone features offer structure, function and a naturally pleasing aesthetic that may be harmoniously blended with any type of style - from Tuscan to Southwestern inspired landscapes.

Frequently stone is sought for various types of paving. Paths and patios that employ stone enjoy a durable material that is perfectly in tune with the natural surroundings. Stone is the perfect flooring material for outdoor rooms such as courtyard gardens. From simple flagstones to intricate stone mosaic work, paths and patios that comprise stone are often more elegantly defined than other material choices and certainly more enduring than wood, for instance.

Of course, these are very typical uses of stone and will doubtlessly surprise no one when used in the landscape. However, the use of stone has become ever more stylized. Gardeners very creatively use stone to function in other ways as well. For instance, stone can be used to create raised flowerbeds and, thus, transform a flat garden space. Stone makes for good edging material too. In fact, a stone patio can stylishly be divided from the further stretch of the garden with a border or stone steps flanked on either side by large raised flower beds that sit atop a lovely pedestal of stonework.

Stone can also transform a hilly or steep section of the landscape. Installing terraces in such areas can make a difficult gardening area a dramatic focal point of the setting. While railroad ties are sometimes considered because they are less expensive, they will never be as durable or elegant as stone terraces. Furthermore, paths through this area should also be made with stone which will last longer than other materials and less likely to erode or wash away like a mulched path for instance.

Retaining walls made from stone serve as elegant dividers. A landscape often functions differently from section to section. Stone walls can create several outdoor rooms. Chinese gardens are typically designed this way and use rock walls to provide definition to each space. Whether used with plantings or installed to protect and provide privacy for the whole yard, they always seem to give off that charming old world feel.

Stone can elegantly give definition to natural features in the garden. Edging, mentioned previously, can be accomplished with lustrous white rocks or more formally with a marble or slate paving to provide a classic look. Edging a flowerbed or path is a common garden enhancement; however, one might use a border of stone to ring a small garden pond. Not only can this be aesthetically appealing, but it provides a great function by dividing the plant world from the water one. Muddy banks can be unsightly as well and a stone edge will keep your pond borders neat.

Stone is a great friend to water features in general. Cascades that ripple over rocks and fountains that trickle over decorative stone bowls make for some of the most attractive features of any garden. And their loveliness increases as the stones age, becoming more weathered and naturalistic.

An interesting use of stone is furniture. Carved benches set strategically in scenic areas of the landscape enhance a garden walk for your guests. They might even be used to frame an area or a piece of wooden furniture. For example, a plain cedar bench might be flanked on either side with stone pillars serving as both arm rest and side table. A more decorative wrought iron table and chairs might be set atop a stone platform somewhere deep into the setting to make for a hidden oasis.

Architecturally, stone can be used for other types of structures like gazebos or pavilions, but even more subtly, stone can be used to form straight lines or curved lines to give the garden an intended focus. A curved walk can make a short path appear longer and more interesting. A paved stone circle platform can make a rectangular suburban garden more unusual.

Finally, consider the use of stone props like containers and statuary throughout the landscape. Stone's elegance is innate and it can make for a lovelier container than nearly any other type. Stone pedestals make permanent plant stands that do quite well in the elements and even plain boulders can be arranged aesthetically to ornament the garden to create special microcosms for rock-loving plants.

Keep stone in mind for your landscape - not only for its beauty, but its investment as well. Requiring less maintenance and more durability than many other materials, stone is at home in the natural world and it will likely add to the value of your home far more than other materials choices.

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