“Stones are the bones of heaven and earth”
Thank goodness this week delivered some much needed above freezing temperatures. That 50 degree day actually felt “balmy” considering the bitter winter we have experienced this year. And what is the first glimpse of my garden this week?….My rocks and stones. Yes many gardeners welcome spring with the first sign of the crocus. Me? I measure the daily snow melt by the emerging rocks throughout my gardens.
To suggest I am a “rock connoisseur” is indeed an understatement. I love….and I mean LOVE rocks in my gardens. Traditionally gardeners have used rock and stone in a specific area dedicated as a “rock garden”, the Asian themed style with Zen-like qualities. Others think of rock in applications such as walls and pathways. You will find many trade articles dedicated to this. I however break outside that box and use rocks whimsically and naturally as signatures in most all of my designs. Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a kindred spirit when it comes to stone in the garden. Garden designer and author Gordon Hayward suggested “placing that first stone in the garden gives permanence and ownership” to one’s garden. And I must agree. Stones and rocks have been used for centuries to define a location, generate a place to memorialize or demarcate a specific area of property ownership.
But I like to use rocks in gardens to provide texture and contrast. We here in the North Country are home to a remarkable selection of rocks and stone. We are rich with local quarries that offer endless possibilities for our gardens. The rock bubbler in the photo is a fantastic example of local fossilized rock discovered during excavation of one of our customer’s new home construction. He had several of these put aside for future use on the property. His vision paid off years later when he asked us to create a unique rock fountain with this exquisite natural rock. Standing alone in a space this rock was visual of age and character. But adding plants, other accent stones and water transformed the nature of an entire outdoor living space
In many cases a rock can serve as an interesting visual to add color, texture and dimension to one’s garden. When selecting and placing rock in your garden I always look for what is known as the “face” Yes there is a just right angle and side to a rock that will encourage the rock piece to flow with the garden design. It gives the character you are looking for. So when placing in your gardens, first take your hands over the nooks and crannies and turn it every which way before placing. I often go through several rocks before I decide to place one that perfectly fits the character and flow of the garden. My crew does not always share my rock fetish and dutifully goes along with the dance that leads to the final rock selection and placement. Thank God they are patient souls.
Rocks not placed with this care and sense will inevitably look contrived in the overall garden scheme. You may need to consider digging some further into your soil to get the height and flow to give the naturalized look. Even sharp and unattractive bedrock (prevalent on the east side of Saratoga Springs) will work if combined with perennial plants. Moss and other creeping plants will help to soften and give the impression that the rock was there forever.Rocks in combinations make for great garden visuals. Although I am partial to the “rule of threes” Size, shape and coloring will often dictate your combinations.
If you are looking for great resources that offer both inspiration with the hands on Northeast experience to rock and roll your garden this season, consider looking up some of designer Gordon Hayward’s resources. His books Stone in the Garden and Garden Paths offer beginners some very practical design applications and insider tips.