Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

May 31, 2015

Designing with ordinary rocks in the garden

Rocks make great companions for plants. And I prefer ordinary rocks. I visited a friend of mine yesterday who was selling off an old property that had a lot of ordinary rocks scattered around, and I took as many as I could. The ones that I couldn't carry away will be bulldozed and put in a landfill, anyway.

What I've learned over the years is that rocks not only perform functions, but they can look great, too. I started putting them in years ago just to hold down the watering lines, and to remind myself not to dig there. Then I started adding more craggy rocks along the edge (I call them pointy rocks) to discourage people from stepping into the garden.

The river rocks I am now using in areas where I just can't seem to get anything to grow, and the effect is pretty cool, as if there was supposed to be a cool stream running there, or something. At least I'm not just looking at dirt!

The trick, of course, is to design them in, not just plop them all over the place. For the craggy ones, I dig them down and make them look as if they were jutting out above the surface on the edge of a mountain, or something. The river rocks weave it all together, and I just make sure they're close together, then step on them and I mash on them.

People who see me pick up ordinary rocks are always puzzled, because the rocks are, well, ordinary. But that's the point. They shouldn't be all shiny and decorative, they should look natural. And when they do, they blend with the plants in the garden, which is what I want.

Brad draws custom cartoon illustrations for publications, blogs, presentations, anything you want. You can contact him at his website

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