From a complete rock garden to subtle gravel accents, pair landscaping with hardscaping for a unique look.

By Blythe Copeland
January 15, 2021

Rock gardens can be so much more than a traditional display of varying types of stones. Incorporating stone into your landscaping plan—whether small gravel, large boulders, smooth river rocks, or flat flagstone—allows you to add natural texture and visual interest to accent your flowers, trees, and shrubs. Rocks can also camouflage areas where the soil isn't ideal for plants, and they're a low-maintenance alternative for homeowners without a green thumb. Find the inspiration that's right for your home in one—or more—of these nine garden ideas that make use of rocks.

Use boulders to create a waterfall.

A hilly outcropping on this property offers an ideal spot for a collection of boulders installed at different heights and surrounded by pink flowering shrubs, soft grass, and growing vines. The natural slope of the garden allows a small waterfall to run into a pond.

Credit: Getty / Simon McGill

Surround a pond with smooth stones.

At a public park in Spain, lush landscaping and bright flowers surround a shallow paved pond bordered by smooth stones. Other rocks create a curved archway around a dramatic water feature that provides the soothing sound of a trickling stream.

Credit: Getty / Tetra Images

Accent stones with sand or gravel.

In a Japanese Zen garden, paved pathways and large trees border a central focal point, where oversized stones sit in a bed of smaller pebbles or sand raked into a rippled wave design.

Credit: Getty / AnnBaldwin

Use stones to create steps.

In this tiered garden, flat stones form steps while gravel and smaller, smooth stones offer a visual contrast to the wispy plants and purple blooms in the nearby landscaping.

Credit: Getty / Chittanun Luangrangwech / EyeEm

Add smaller stones to your garden beds.

Instead of surrounding your plants with dirt, mulch, or ground cover, use tiny pebbles or gravel in garden beds to provide contrasting color and texture that helps your greenery and foliage to stand out. It looks especially nice next to cacti.

Build a wall.

Stacked stones in organic shapes create a low, natural garden wall—or a dramatic Secret Garden-inspired enclosure—while a trailing vine of delicate, bell-shaped flowers adds pretty balance.

Incorporate multiple types of stone and rock.

Use a variety of different materials and shapes—from flat patio stones and abstract steps to a stacked stone wall and gravel bed—to create a unique rock garden that complements tall trees and low flowers.

Credit: Anne Rhett

Dress up your driveway.

A paved driveway leads through a garden featuring neatly-trimmed shrubs, soaring trees, and traditional brick bed borders.

Credit: Peden + Munk

Create a garden path.

Precisely-cut square and rectangular stones set directly into the grass allow patches of bright greenery to peek through, accenting the geometry of the stones and the wild nature of the adjoining garden.


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