So, your yard is looking a bit worn, mundane, and dated. You want to create that lush natural look, reduce the amount of grass and boring hedges, and reduce the overall need and expense of regular watering.
Most importantly, you want to be freed from the nearly constant demand required by most landscapes. However, you don’t know exactly where to begin. The good news is that this article and Carapace Rock Science products can act as the catalyst to get that dream yard completed.
The first step is to create a simple design on paper. Keep only existing native, slow growing species, and only if they are in a desirable area. There are many free design programs on the web, but a simple piece of paper with a generally ‘in scale” representation of your home, yard and any special yard features is all that is needed. Make several copies of this initial template. Next, research native plant varieties where you live. These varieties are already adapted to the unique conditions where you live. By utilizing these plants, you will significantly reduce irrigation and reduce the time you spend maintaining your yard. Make sure to focus on slow growing plants that require little maintenance, and get to know your local landscape store personnel. Steer clear of the big box stores who just do not have the patience, expertise or desire to assist you. Create a list of plants that you want, but pay particular attention to how big they will grow, their sunlight needs and how much water they require.
Once you have a list of plants that you want to use in your design, it is time to create natural barriers to control prolific breeders and spreaders, create bordered planting areas, add hardscape elements to beautify the design and include any water features that you want for your landscape. In my opinion, implementing hardscape elements is every bit as important as choosing the right plants. By utilizing boulders, rocks and stepping stones, you can realize your dream landscape and save time, your most valuable commodity. The first part of your design needs to include any walking paths, patios and other casual sitting, reflecting or meditating areas. Carefully consider your family needs, recreational habits and any intrinsic yard features that would affect the overall design, and delineate your desired the pathways. When creating stepping stone pathways, consider placing them at least two-wide. The common thought is to place them in a straight line, one after the other. It is not natural to look directly in front of where you are walking; this design forces one to do exactly this. It is much better to place them in a wider pattern, with some space left between them. The entire pathway can be excavated and bordered, prepped with landscape fabric, set with base material (sand, gravel, etc) then filled in with the stepping stones. Once the stepping stones are set, the gaps can be filled with more rock, gravel or mulch. You can even set stepping stones into grassy areas by removing the grass footprint and leaving grass between the stones, or by growing / placing plugs in the gaps to get this classic look. Since our stepping stones are all molded from real rocks, they are all very different in shape and size. With just a little creative thought, a very beautiful walkway of any size or shape can be pieced together in little time without it ever looking redundant.
Get creative! Use any combination of stepping stones and rocks or boulders that you can imagine to control plants that have a tendency to spread over time. It is aesthetically pleasing, and it will save you a lot of time later since maintenance will be reduced. Since both stepping stones and rocks have a significant cross section, it is difficult for plants to migrate beyond these borders. We have seen excellent use of stepping stones alone for plant borders, in areas where there was a desire to control plant growth within a small space. In these examples, the relatively narrow or small planting area is effectively “tiled” with stepping stones, but areas where plants are desired are left open. This design is usually installed between buildings and fences and other areas where constant maintenance is strongly discouraged by the homeowner. Using this principle, a pocket park is created, with as much foliage as desired, all with a minimum of tending. Don’t forget to add rock groupings to accent trees, shrubs and other foliage. A landscape that does not incorporate rocks and boulders will eventually become unmanageable. Rock groupings break up planting areas, separate plants with different watering needs, draws the eyes to different areas and adds a completed look to your landscape. More importantly, it will reduce the overall need for plant materials and therefore irrigation. This is the basis of xeriscape. Xeriscape does not mean tearing out the lawn and utilizing only rocks, gravel and desert plants. Rather, properly approached, a xeriscape will allow one to use a wide variety of plants, but insists on common-sense measures that will help to conserve water. By utilizing all of these hardscape elements in your landscape / xeriscape design, you will have a yard that is the envy of many, and one that will afford you much more time to spend on the more important things in your life.