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Design principles when working with stone in the garden

Hardscapes are the backbone to any well designed home landscape. A flagstone pathway can lead and guide someone through perennial beds and vegetable gardens, winding around a home, serving as an artery that ties a house together with its landscape. Boulders create height and statement pieces. Sheets of natural stone can be stacked together to create raised beds or fountains and koi ponds. Natural brick can be used to build patios that are central to home entertainment. These projects can either be done in consideration of the plant life that will be planted, or without said consideration, but by keeping principles of design in mind when planning out hardscapes and landscape design, you can create a design that encompasses all elements of your landscape holistically.


Fond du Lac steppers and Mexican pond pebbles

As described in the book Stone in the Garden, Inspiring Designs and Practical Projects by Gordon Hayward (2001), some principles of design to think about when working with stone in your landscape design:

  • Create more than one center of activity to increase the feeling of size in the garden, and pave those areas with stone if furniture will be part of the area.

  • Limit paving materials to one or two to ensure coherence.

  • Take advantage of slopes to build low retaining walls with a step or two running through to create level changes.

  • Use simple patterns in the paving material.

  • Use garden ornaments or potted plants to mark entrances.

  • Keep the forms and shapes simple, elegant, and geometric. Don’t build fussy curves.

  • Consider where you will sit and how you will move within your small garden. You may end up paving areas most difficult to plant.

  • Stone paths create unity and itinerary, even in the smallest of gardens.

Above all, any principle of design that you latch on to, you should keep that in mind throughout your whole landscape design. If you decide to keep forms shaped simple, elegant and geometric (opting out of curves and circles), ensure that you keep that rule throughout your yard. If you decide to build messy freestanding walls with irregular bits of flagstone, then keep that same structure in mind when building anything else in your landscape. Unless you are specifically seeking out a mismatched design, which can look great when done well, try to keep your design ideas consistent throughout your landscape design. A cohesive feel to your design will make everything feel that much more thought out and tied together, creating an impressive display.

At Whispering Hills, we cary everything that you need to start using stone in your landscape design. From flagstone steppers, to boulders, outcropping, bluestone, granite slabs, natural stone steps, pebbles, river rock, drywall and more. Our expert staff can answer any questions that you may have about working with stone. We offer landscape and design services and hardscape building, and can answer any questions you may have about how to get started on your landscape and hardscaping goals.

Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center is a full service landscape center and nursery located in Cary, Illinois. Stop in today to schedule a Spring 2022 cleanup. (Updated: 12/15/21)

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