BHG: So once gardeners have achieved function in landscaping with rocks and stones, how can they have fun?
BP: I've been collecting photos of funky stonework for years, like using a standing limestone boulder as a mailbox holder, or building cairns to contain backyard fire pits. Gardeners should keep on hand a nice collection of landscaping stones that can be moved around according to tastes and whims. For example, when a flowerbed comes into its full glory, guild it with a temporary edging of stone. Gardens designed to attract butterflies might include small stone pillars situated on the east side to serve as early-morning basking spots.
BHG: Even if you're drawn to more eclectic pieces, what are some garden design rules of thumb when it comes to landscaping with rocks and stones?
BP: In home landscapes, it's generally best to choose one type of stone and stick with it for major projects rather than mixing up colors and textures. After all, you already have the textures from your house, deck, and other features. Adding one dominant stone texture looks natural, but several look junky.
BHG: How can gardeners start to evaluate all the options for landscaping with rocks and stones?
BP: Before making a choice, visit stone yards to see what is affordable, is readily available, and matches any stones or boulders already present in your yard.
BHG: Building a wall, or a partial wall, is a popular project. What type of rock or stone should a gardener choose for this?
BP: Find a stone that is available as "faced" stone, which has two flattish edges. Limestone, sandstone, and other sedimentary-type rocks (which originated at the bottom of lakes and seas) naturally break into faced pieces, which are easy and fun to work with in landscaping projects.
Learn more about retaining walls.
BHG: Is landscaping with rocks and stones sort of a leave-it-and-go solution?
BP: It depends on your site. In a moist spot, freezing and thawing cause stones to shift, so a certain amount of fine-tuning is needed to keep stone walkways and walls shipshape. Crevices in stone walkways must usually be weeded, which I do by dousing them with boiling water from a teapot. On the other hand, clusters of well-placed stones in a fern garden need no upkeep at all, and rock gardens often need less weeding compared to fertile garden beds.