Enhance your garden with an ancient work of art, created long ago and shaped with infinite patience. Out of your financial reach, you think...

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Enhance your garden with an ancient work of art, created long ago and shaped with infinite patience.

Out of your financial reach, you think? Not if it is a stone created by the forces of nature and covered with the patina of time. Place a substantial stone with care, and it can have all the appeal of a manmade art object.

We have a wide range of stone available thanks to our location in an active geological area. Basalt, produced by lava flows, comes in grays, sometimes in the shape of columns. Granite is formed when magma, liquid rock, cools underground. Salt-and-pepper-speckled granite boulders are often rounded, tumbled by water or glaciers. Many other kinds of rock are available, too. Visit a stone yard to see the variety.

Bringing home stones

After choosing a type of stone, look carefully at the individual rocks within the group, and you will find one or more that speaks to you because of its shape, texture and color.

If you have a truck, transport the stone yourself and save money. Transportation is a large part of the expense of stone. If you are paying for delivery, adding more rocks won’t increase the transportation cost significantly, so buy several.

You may want to have large rocks delivered on a boom truck. The boom is a mechanical arm that can lift and place the rocks within 15 or so feet of the truck. A skilled operator can rotate and place the rocks the way you want them.


You can find sources for stone in the phone book under “Stone-Natural.” Here are a couple of places to get you started:

Marenakos Rock Center in Preston has a wide selection of stone in small and large sizes, with boom truck service. 30250 S.E. High Point Way; 425-392-3313 or www.marenakos.com

Lakeview Stone has stone yards in north and south Seattle. North Seattle store: 4647 Union Bay Place N.E.; 206 525-5270. South Seattle store: 535 S. Front St.; 206-762-4170. www.lakeviewstone.com

If you aren’t using a boom truck, rocks can be moved around with a dolly. A rock bar, a heavy steel rod, can be used to lever a rock over the ground.

How to set a stone

Placing one stone is relatively simple. Use it for a focal point, placed so it marks an important part of the garden.

Placing a group of stones is more involved because all the pieces play against each other. One approach is to organize them so it looks as if they had always been there, an outcropping placed by natural forces.

Take inspiration from natural forms in rock placement. Echo the shape of mountain ranges or a chain of islands. Several smaller stones can be placed together to look as if they were once parts of a larger rock that came apart over time. Place ground covers or small ferns in the crevices.

Japanese landscape tradition suggests that one third to one half of the rock be buried so the rock looks grounded. You may not need to go that far, but certainly put enough soil around the stone that it does not look as if it is sitting on top of the earth.

If you are setting the stone upright, set one third of it into the ground to stabilize it. If the rock has striations, place them all parallel to the ground so the rock looks like it formed in place in your garden.

You may already have stone in your garden and, if so, make good use of it. One client I worked with had large stones in his garden that were put in place decades ago and nearly covered with soil and plant growth. He ordered additional stone and took advantage of the boom truck to rearrange the original rocks so they became prominent features in the garden.

Don’t forget the plants

Plants add the finishing touch. The timeless quality of stone is a pleasing contrast with the ephemeral texture of plants.

In shady spots, the delicate fronds of ferns are set off by broad planes of stone, as are the linear foliage of grasses in sunny areas.

Rock appeals to us because it is one of the building blocks of our home, the Earth. Choose rock for your garden and renew your tie to the natural world.

Phil Wood has a degree in landscape architecture and designs and builds gardens. Send questions to thegardendesigner@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies.