Rock Outcroppings Should Have A Purpose

When I’m arranging and installing rocks & boulders to hold back earth there is a certain relief and confidence that it will look good.

This is because the rock-work has a purpose and function, and to the viewer it makes sense being there.

So with that I’m meeting the number one requirement in rock placement in the landscape and that is: make it look like it belongs there.

Where it starts to get tricky is when rocks are placed for artistic enhancement.  Now this is where some basic rules of design combine with good taste and judgement.

You’ll see landscapes with “rock arrangements” that are stunning and wonder if these boulders have been here since the beginning of time. 

And then there are those where the size and placement of the rocks is just plain wrong.  Or you can’t quite put your finger on it.., but they just don’t look like they belong.

Any time you’re introducing rocks & boulders into the landscape it does require a “good eye”.

What helps me in the “rock arrangement process” is to over-order on quantity just to have a good selection to choose from.

  • First, make the obvious rock choices from the selection to solve the main engineering solutions (e.g. retaining earth) and design objectives (e.g. accent boulders, seat-rocks, etc.).
  • Then, work through the balance of design and functional tasks with the remaining rocks. 
  • Schedule the rock work so that you’re not rushed.  The last thing you want is a planting crew standing by waiting for the rock work to finish so they can install plants.

And as I always say, “Take a step back and look at what you’re doing from a distance and several viewing angles”.

Like so many realms of design, experience will improve your arrangements – it did for me.

In the meantime, get inspiration and examples of the best rock & boulder arrangements by hiking in the woods.  Bring your camera and shoot different rock-groupings that you can later refer to.

Plantings Add To The Rock Outcroppings

The plantings in the picture above are recently installed and we “sized-down” on the plants to help control costs.

The initial feeling might be the rock work is kind of heavy (no pun intended). Two key points here are:

  1. There were demanding requirements for the boulders to create absolute levels and usable space.  Tight rock-groupings and severe grade changes were an inevitable by-product of this.
  2. The plantings are an integral part of the future look.  As they grow they’ll begin to cover portions of the rock and there will be a softer, more balanced look of the elements.

In fact, you must be conscious (as always) of future plant growth and allow for it.  If the rock & boulder work is looking weak or light from the start, it may totally disappear when the plantings mature.

Here is the previous post to this project. And here is the next.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *