Using Stone in the Landscape (and not as mulch!)

Stone has become an increasing factor in American landscapes, being used primarily alongside weed fabric in place of mulch. As great as this looks, it is increasing knowledge that this is hard on plants and soil micro-organisms. Do not get me wrong, I love the look of a landscape fabricked and laid in with Iowa river rock, but I also love plant groupings that hug each other. 

Here in this Colorado inspired landscape, stone walls mingle with a stone bridge and dry streambed

Stones in my personal landscape make up borders, accentuate in boulders, and add interest to the fairy garden. Using field stones for bed borders creates a lot of varied interest in the garden. Since there is abundance of pink granite, limestone, and sandstone in our area, these mix together nicely for an interesting look in my cottage garden. I also add in geodes, crystals, and lakeshore rocks from Minnesota. I have traveled around the state of Kansas and Nebraska and when I was younger was quite the rockhound. 

A well placed boulder grouping

Boulders can be used in single or multiple groupings in the middle of a bed to add texture and dynamics to the space. I also use them to build small retaining walls that look more natural than cut stone. By tucking and careful placing you can create a wall that looks like it came directly from Colorado. 

A bubbling boulder is quite the experience in the garden

Using stone is almost essential in a water garden or fountain. They hide cords and liner, create hiding spots for fish and frogs, and add texture and color to the water garden. 

Stones mixed among woolly thyme and smaller plants in the Author’s fairy garden

I also like to use stones that I collected when I was a kid, in my fairy garden. I used to wander the roads and fields in my youth, searching for arrowheads and fossils. Sometimes I found some, sometimes I did not. I have a large collection of random stones including small pieces of petrified wood, green stones, chert & flint pieces, and crystals. These I add to my fairy garden, mix in the borders of my vegetable garden, or just add them here and there in the fieldstone border. 

The fieldstone border in the Author’s landscape

Another great use for stones is the dry streambed. This is most often used as an outlet for rainfall from downspouts. Dray streambeds often follow natural land swales and carry runoff away to ponds or streams without eroding the soil. They can help tame a quickly-developing gully, add a pleasurable sight, or make an edge between two properties. 


Stones can and should be used in the garden in ways that benefit the garden and the gardener alike. 

Happy planting!

One thought on “Using Stone in the Landscape (and not as mulch!)

  1. I like how you mentioned that it can add texture to your garden. My husband and I are wanting to make a garden in our backyard. We’ll have to look into adding stones for it!

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