Natural Stone Simply Cannot be Replicated

There are a myriad of modern concrete products that closely mimic natural landscaping rocks, but there is a warmth and charming randomness to the real thing that is impossible to duplicate. The most high-end product choice for your landscape project has been – and will continue to be – natural stone.

Featured Landscaping Rocks

  • Dimensional Bluestone Patios
  • Curbstone Retaining Walls
  • Column Rock Water Features
  • Flagstone Pathways
  • Dimensional Slab Steps
  • Thin Split Veneer
  • Gravel and River Rock Mulch

The Unique Place of Landscape Boulders

Concrete manufacturers compete well against many natural stone options such as flagstones and pavers, but they cannot compete in the arena of accent boulders. Natural basalt boulders are massive, not only in terms of weight, but also complexity and uniqueness. After ages of formation, natural basalt boulders are harvested for landscape applications. Natural stone can help blend new landscapes into their surroundings and greatly enhance landscape appeal. But natural stone must be used in a convincing way or it can stick out like a sore thumb.

Considerations for Using Natural Landscape Boulders

Installation Logistics

A two-foot wide, deep, and tall boulder can weigh 500 to 800 pounds. If boulder placement is to be in a front yard, it may be able to be rolled out of the bed of a truck into the desired location. Placements on a hillside or at the back end of a property can be tricky, however. Heavy machinery is the best way to mobilize large stone. With experience, placement can even be achieved with a forked piece of equipment and a strap or even with the bucket and thumb of an excavator arm. When logistics are difficult, it is usually best to employ a team of professionals, both for safety and to ensure the end product turns out well.

Proper Selection

Material selection is something that shouldn’t be done lightly. The style of landscape being should be considered, i.e. formal vs. informal. Water features generally include more softened accent boulders, whereas planting beds lend themselves to a more aged product with moss on them. Unique nooks and crannies can juxtapose blades of grass and leaves. Boulders in and around retaining walls need to be more structural and tend to be more square.

Best Practices

A product like Hood River Moss boulders are great as accents in a planting bed, but weekend DIY warriors cannot just ‘plop’ the boulder directly on the ground. When ‘planting’ boulders as accents, a depression needs to be excavated to bury anywhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of the boulder. Landscape professionals refer to this as ‘anchoring’. This tactic is best done BEFORE plantings occur, so the risk of squashing plants is reduced.

Make a Natural Bird Bath!

A favorite method of our local landscape designers is to identify any concave sides to a boulder and place them toward the sky to trap water, like a natural bird bath! Often, man-made bird baths don’t match the surrounding landscape. But a properly placed Columbia River Basalt boulder nestled in close to a nearby Evergreen Huckleberry can provide a cool-off spot for native fauna, and also a quick drink.

Final Tips

When adding basalt landscape boulders to your landscape, use odd number quantities in grouping stones. Not that individual placements are bad, but varying the size and quantity of boulders makes the enhancement more realistic.

Picking and sticking to a natural stone choice (basalt, quartz, sandstone, etc.) and repeating it throughout the landscape can marry various natural stone accents and make a design more cohesive.

A lifelong Oregon resident, Drake has been passionate about plants since childhood, beginning with propagating and growing flowers at his grandfather’s nursery. He opened Drake’s 7 Dees in 1974, while earning degrees in Business and Horticulture from Oregon State University. He later expanded into the design/build side of the industry, allowing him to combine his passion for plants with his love of family by maximizing the quality of family time spent outdoors.

Drake is co-founder of the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association and is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager (LICM)—a designation that less than two percent of landscapers have attained. Additionally, Drake serves on the Board of Directors for the Portland Japanese Gardens, widely regarded as one of the seven best Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

Drake is married to former Oregon Speaker of the House, Lynn Snodgrass. Together, he and Lynn received the Farm Bureau President’s award in 1999 for their service and dedication to agriculture in the state of Oregon. Drake and Lynn have two wonderful daughters, two talented son-in-laws, and seven grandchildren. In his spare time, Drake enjoys camping, water and snow skiing, reading, and of course, gardening.