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The Many Uses of Stone

Anyone who has experienced the summer sun will know that there is something magical about a boulder or a rock retaining its heat when the sun has started waning. Rocks and stone - big and small - make up our world and so it is only natural to be including these elements in our own garden. In our day and age, it is not unheard of to be making your garden centerpiece with the help of rocks and stone - whether it be a zen garden, rockpool, a fountain or just neatly arranged throughout your garden. Rocks and stones have a variety of uses ensuring their place in your garden. Use them as the wall of your koi pond, to separate your roses from your dahlias, as a pathway or to cover an eyesore where nothing is growing.

Garden Styles

Large rocks work best in an informal garden or something a little wilder than the neat garden. They easily look natural when placed with grass around them to soften the look. As an informal garden has a natural, flowing feel it relates to the character of the rock.

Rocks and stones can make for wonderful highlights of gardens or create the balance in a large garden. If you are using rock and stone in one area of your garden as a focal point, it may be a good idea to use stones throughout your garden to create visual harmony.

Rocks can be used in a formal setting as well but it is usually limited to stone and rock walls, paving and to cover ground decoratively. It can be used at the foot of a statue or along with a fountain.

Rock and Stone Sources

Any garden center or nursery worth its salt will have bags of stone to sell you. These can vary in type and price. Cape Riverstone provides a wide selection from pebbles, gravel, boulders - in various forms - to peach pips.

Expert Advice

  • If you are making use of a few rocks or boulders, arrange them together in a way that gives the pretense they came from the same gulf or reef.
  • When using round rocks place their broadest side to the forefront. Do not be shy to mix shapes and sizes as it makes them look more natural.
  • Avoid using smooth rocks and stones with coarse or rough rocks and stones - it has a tendency to look out of place. However, you can use them apart as separate focal points in your garden.
  • Some sedimentary rocks have apparent strata. If you are using a few rocks or boulders make sure the strata are horizontal and flow in one direction.
  • When building an outcrop or the like, always build from the bottom to the top. The base of your outcrop should be compact and strong. Otherwise, a rockfall on the small scale could occur if the ground or rock shifts.
  • Large or round rocks look better when a third of it is underground.
  • Soften the look of rocks by pairing it with creepers or form plants.
  • Bear in mind the character of your rock and which placement will present it best.

Rich Texture

Recreating a dry riverbed with the use of rocks, river stones, and fine gravel have a very rich texture. This kind of focal point works best against a slope - giving it depth and height - the same way a river has eroded its path around the contours in Mother Nature.

Drought-resistant plants are perfect to complete this look: Pagei, Frosted Curls, Lobster Flower, New Zealand Flax, Pencil Cactus, Agave, Cape Thatching Reed and Tree Aloe.

Tips for Dry Riverbeds

  • Using ground or sand form a small mound or heap to recreate natural inclines. Using gravel for this is not advised as it can become expensive and it does not keep its shape.
  • If you are using waste materials to create your heap, use broken bricks, not pieces of concrete, plastic or cement as it can change the composition of the ground.
  • Use different sizes of river stone to create a more organic look.
  • Use steel to create a definitive edge. This will set a clear boundary but it is not a distraction.

Rock Pools

Rock pools look best in gardens with a slope from which the water can cascade over the rocks and run into the pool. When designing your waterfall, create steps with your rocks or boulders to break the fall of the water. Ultimately your water should fall into the water and not onto a rock to avoid vigourous splashing.

Indoor Decoration

Rock, stone and sand gardens are low maintenance for indoor courtyards - especially in difficult areas which are exposed to the elements but that are visible from your living room. Make use of fine gravel or stones in conjunction with larger rocks and various types of succulents. Also make use of them around paving stones, playing around with different textures and colours.

Appropriate Plants

When planning an outcrop and the plants you would like to plant on and around it, it is a good idea to make use of creepers and form plants. These indigenous plants are ideal:

  • Stachys Flexuosa - small purple flowers
  • Cape Scabious - large mauve flowers with soft, hairy leaves
  • African Daisy - orange, pink, or yellow flowers
  • Gazania Hybrid - carries large daisy flowers in a variety of colours
  • Everlasting Flowers - bright blooms and spicy fragrance
  • Barberton-daisy - leather-like leaves and drough-resistant
  • Blue Marguerite or Blue Daisy - striking sky-blue and sunny yellow flowerheads
  • Diascia Hybrid or Twinspur - loose spikes of pink flowers with yellow-spotted throats and downward pointing spurs
  • Carpet or Wild Geranium - mauve flowers with identical petals
  • South African Sage - flowers are multicoloured, the lilac and white corolla is usually complemented by yellow throat markings
  • Fairy Bell or Wedding Bell - known for their pretty grace and bell-shaped flowers
  • Ice Plants or Carpet Weeds - a bright carpet of flowers and drought-resistant
  • Aristea Africana - blue flowers and a style with three fringed lobes
  • Lobster Flower - deep blue and purple flowers
  • Dwarf Thunbergia - beautiful blue to mauve-coloured flowers
  • Any and all aloe plants
  • Pale Indigo Bush or River Indigo - a small graceful tree which bears small pink or white sweetly scented flowers.

Credit to: South African National Biodiversity Institute, SA Garden Magazine July 2010 Edition.

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