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Rocks are natural materials excavated from the earth that add beauty, function, and stability in the landscape.  Much of the stone in your area will likely have been brought in from a nearby quarry or local river bed, but some may have traveled hundreds and even thousands of miles to end up at the supply store and eventually in your yard.  Check out your local rock supplier to see the many different types of rock available to you.  The number of uses they have are only limited by your imagination!

 

Types of Rock Material:

Boulders


Boulders come in a range of sizes, from 8 inches to 4+ feet tall and wide and larger!  Keep in mind that the average weight of rock is about 185 pound per cubic foot.  So, a 2’x2’ boulder would weigh about 1,500 pounds!  That means just 2 boulders that size would weigh as much as a compact car!  This means larger boulders need special equipment to move them. 

The list of uses for boulders is seemingly endless.  Not only do they add an organic and naturalistic touch to any landscape, they also offer erosion prevention when placed on slopes.  They can be stacked on top of each other to build retaining walls.  For a really custom look, they can be cut into blocks or slabs, which is also great for making steps.  Check out these amazing examples of boulders in the landscape installed by Blessing Landscapes crews:

 

River Rock


If you’re looking to create a naturalistic dry river bed, build a new water feature, cover a French drain, or fill large gaps in between pavers, then you’ll definitely want to consider the many different kinds of river rock out there.  You can find rough gray stones, smooth polished black stones, and even some multicolored ones!  Often times river rocks will change color when wet so keep that in mind when deciding which colors you want.  The size of the rocks range anywhere from 1 inch to 8 inches and will vary from supplier to supplier.  Here’s just a few examples of how Blessing Landscapes used river rock to add beauty to a home’s exterior:

 

Gravel


Gravel may sound like the least glamorous of the rock materials, but it can actually add rustic beauty to a home’s landscape when used for patios and walkways.  There are several varieties, so talk with your local landscaper for advice on what would work best for your particular project.  For walkways, the three most commonly used gravel types in the Pacific Northwest are 1/4” minus (gray), decomposed granite (tan or gold), and pea gravel (gray/multicolored).  They all have pros and cons. 

  • ¼” minus is the most popular gravel because it compacts into a hard surface and its’ neutral gray color goes well with almost any color pallet.  It is also very affordable.
  • Decomposed granite also compacts well, and the tan or gold can be a great contrast to surrounding plants and lawns.  However, because of its’ finer texture, it tends to track on shoes more easily and grow moss more readily.
  • The smooth surface of pea gravel can be very attractive, especially when wet.  And, for homeowners that enjoy walking around barefoot, it’s softer on the feet than ¼” minus gravel.  However, because of its round shape, it does NOT compact well.  This can make it difficult to walk on or roll tools across it like lawnmowers and wheelbarrows.  Sometimes we will recommend installing 3” deep of ¼” minus gravel, then topcoating with pea gravel so you can get the benefits of pea gravel, but the stability of ¼” minus gravel under it. 

Gravel is typically one of the more affordable materials available, so if you are on a budget this may be the best way to go.  Check out these beautiful outdoor spaces, installed by Blessing Landscapes:

 

Flagstone


Flagstone is a relatively thin, wide material most often used in patios, walkways, and occasionally walls.  Colors range from gray, brown, tan, blue, black, multicolored, sparkly and patterned.  Some stones are tumbled to make the edges more smooth.  Basalt is one of Portland, Oregon’s favorite stones because of its handsome shades of gray and beautiful, rustic texture.  Plus, it’s locally quarried, so it tends to be more affordable than other varieties of rock.  But, if you’re looking for something more exotic, you may have to look to stones shipped from far away places such as New England, Mexico, or India.  Check out the different ways Blessing Landscapes has used flagstone in their client’s yards: