Garden Stone: How To Choose The Right Stone For Your Garden

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Garden stones come in many different types available for landscape use.

Each type is suited for a different use, making it important that when selecting a stone, you need to carefully choose the right type of rock or stone to enhance your garden setting.

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In this article, we will discuss the uses of various types of common landscaping gravel and stones. We’ll share advice to help you make the right selections for your setting.

How To Recognize Different Types Of Garden Stone & Rock Products

Sizing is the main factor to consider in recognizing the various types of landscaping stone used for hardscape in gardens. Texture also plays a part in determination. Here are some of the choices for rocks and stones you will most commonly encounter:

  • Gravel, a rough type of stone that comes in a variety of sizes. Generally made of larger rock broken into smaller pieces.
  • Pebbles, natural stones and the smallest stone of garden, typically about 2.5 inches in diameter.
  • Custom engraved stones or personalized stones.
  • Boulders or glacial boulders, natural rocks at the other end of the spectrum. Typically used for creating low walls or garden borders along pathways. Larger specimens sometimes used artistically as accents. Boulders measure 10” or more in diameter.
  • Cobblestones, manufactured stone, fairly uniform in size and shape, come in sizes ranging from 2.5 to 10 inches. Cobblestones with a fairly rounded surface provide an interesting visual impact and a slightly lumpy path surface.
  • Paddle-stones used for a flatter surface. Manufactured in the same sizes you will find in cobblestones. Made flat provides easier navigation for garden carts and other wheeled conveyances.

Stone Shape & Texture Add Function & Interest


Natural stones for gardens have a delicate, rounded shape resulting from the exposure to water in the ocean, lakes, rivers or streams. Their shape comes from the result of natural friction and the passage of time.

The shapes of manufactured stone are intended to mimic this natural appearance. Today, many man-made stones are very attractive and organic in appearance. The uniform shape and size of manufactured stone gives it an advantage making it easier to work with.

Paving Does Not Have To Be Entirely Uniform


When creating a stone-paved pathway, try adding some interest with a little mix-and-match. Paving stones come in a wide variety of colors, textures, sizes and shapes. With careful selection and placement, you can create a unique work of art!

You can also combine pavers and smaller, natural rocks and pebbles for visual and textural interest. Pavers can be slightly wide-set with pebbles and gravel incorporated in between the concrete.

If you try this idea, be sure to get the most visual impact from the gravel and pebbles by allowing the concrete/pebble mixture to almost set. Before it hardens, wash the surface gently to expose the top layer of the gravel and pebbles.

Shaped Stone Adds Contrast In A Natural Setting

Garden stepping stones made of granite or other durable stone make excellent additions in areas where the ground tends to be spongy.

Not only are they quite practical, but their hard, smooth surface also creates a very attractive contrast with the soft, lush plants and mosses that tend to grow in damper settings.

Rock Provides An Artistic Medium


When creating garden design with stone, you can exercise your imagination to create the backyard setting of your dreams. For example, if you have always wished to have a water feature but hate to waste the water, why not create a dry creek bed instead?

You can invoke the impression of a waterway flowing beneath a deck or bridge by building a dry creek bed using a variety of naturally rounded stones. Select plants to place at key focal points to enhance the impression. This novel take on a rock garden can add a great deal of interest to your setting.

Mix & Match To Create A Decorative Pathway

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It is easy to create a simple, yet stunning path using cobbles in random sizes. Alternately, you could create a very carefully planned cobblestone path with specially selected stones carefully laid in a pre-designed pattern.

Pebbles and cobblestones are traditional materials for creating functional, durable, decorative garden pathways. With the wide variety of colors, sizes and textures available in cobblestones, some very beautiful and intricate patterns can be created.

Tips For Using Stone Successfully

Centuries ago, natural stones were laid by hand in a base made of solid clay or of hoggin (a mixture of gravel, sand and clay). These days natural or man-made stone is set upon a hard base and secured in place using concrete. This is a much easier and simpler process that yields better and longer lasting results.

Naturally, depending upon the results you want and the type of stone you choose, your installation steps will vary. Nonetheless, there are some important concepts you should keep in mind in all instances.

For example, before laying any type of stone, remove all weeds and growth from the area, smooth it and lay a landscape barrier to prevent the growth of weeds between your stones. Weed barrier fabric is an excellent choice because it keeps weeds out, but it allows water to pass through.

Surface Your Pathways With Good-Looking, Durable Stone


Gravel or pebbles make an excellent surface for a pathway, but be sure to use the small, finely textured variety. Larger gravel or pebbles may provide a bumpy surface that can be uncomfortable (or even dangerous) for walking.

Other good choices for pathway construction include paddle-stones and cobblestones. These are quite charming and, when properly laid, provide a smooth, reliable walking surface. Just remember that with cobblestones, proper installation is all-important.

Cobblestones are bumpy and can be difficult to walk on. In fact, to act as a deterrent to access they sometimes are purposely laid that way. To prevent foot traffic in an area, set “cobbles” to protrude from the retaining concrete. Clearly, this isn’t a desirable quality in a garden path!

Landscaping With Stones


Landscaping stones are wise choices in hardscaping. They are readily available and provides tremendous value for your dollar. These stones are easy to install, and once the installation is complete it requires little or no maintenance. Stone is the perfect counterpoint for plantings or to create focal points in either man-made or natural settings.

You may be surprised to know that gravel , cobblestone or pebbles can be excellent ground cover. All are amazingly low-maintenance and naturally need no water. These attractive choices are equally at home in very traditional and very avante garde settings.

Related Reading: Gazania plants (Treasure Flowers) make colorful rock garden additions.

In addition to creating a good looking ground cover, pebbles and rocks can make a nice, natural mulch. They protect plant roots and retain moisture efficiently while allowing air to circulate.

This is especially valuable in combination with plants that tend to suffer from root rot (e.g. Ice Plant).

It’s no wonder that so many people are choosing to use stone as a ground cover in the place of grass or other water hungry, high maintenance choices.

Adorn Your Garden With A Wide Variety Of Rock Features

In addition to laying stone, there are also a number of interesting ways you can use it for construction in the garden. For example, you could build walls either of larger stones or collections of smaller stones and pebbles contained within “gabion cages.”

These are wire, cage-like structures that you can fill with stone. Each “cage” creates a solid block of pebbles, small stones or gravel. This method makes it easier to create large structures with small stones. This is a very good idea when creating both decorative and functional features, such as retaining walls.

Stone Is A Natural Addition To A Water Feature


Rock is lovely and interesting dry, but when used in a water feature its true texture and color becomes apparent. For a beautiful, natural pool or poolside setting, paddle stones are just perfect. Because they are available in a variety of neutral colors, you can work with them to create subtle, natural mosaics and designs.

Cobbles are also very attractive in decorative water features. Used as the base of a fountain or pond, these decorative stones for gardens add texture and depth to the feature. It is easy to find cobbles in sizes that work well with even very small water features.

Stone Hardscape Is The Safe Choice For Fire Features

Outdoor fireplaces are all the rage these days, and there is nothing more beautiful than a natural stone fireplace of fire pit. It’s smart to build the fire feature using larger, cobbles, paddle stones or boulders. Use smaller pebbles or gravel as a safe and carefree ground cover in the surrounding area.

Your Hardscape Materials Frame & Define Your Garden Setting

Stone has a place in almost every garden setting. Think of the many different types of gardens in which it plays a major role as walls, centerpieces, accent stones and walking surfaces. From Zen Gardens, Japanese Gardens to Traditional English gardens, stone is a simple, attractive, useful garden feature.

A good choice in stone for your garden setting is a lifelong investment. When it comes to cost-effectiveness in hardscape materials, stone really can’t be beaten. Once in place, it endures forever!

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