create a dry riverbed effect in this David J. Frank Landscape
A rolling stone gathers no moss, but
rock gardeners prefer their stones full of it and strategically
Moss to a rock gardener is like tulips
to a flower gardener; it brings beauty to their landscape.
Found across many cultures and ethnic
groups, the first rock gardens actually originated in the Far East.
Think of miniature Zen, stress-relieving desk garden kits with the
teeny rakes except on a much larger scale. A very large scale.
Some rock garden designs incorporate
stones weighing more than your average automobile. "To create a
rock escarpment that might be a feature occurring in nature requires
the use of massive chunks weighing 2 to 5 tons to create the illusion
of a massive ledge," says Bill Wandsnider, owner of the Menomonee
Falls-based Wandsnider Landscape Architects.
Japanese and Chinese rock gardens put
their emphasis on stones. "In a Japanese Zen garden you’d have
a few key, dominant stone features," he explains. "The
bigger stones would miniaturize a mountain setting. The gravel would
represent the sea or the water. You can give the illusion of waves
raked into the gravel." Examples of rock gardens found in England
and throughout Europe include various types of plants and feature the
stones in a more supporting role.
From the Zen concept one can expand the
idea to include rock or stone calculated to resemble the flow of a
riverbed. Wandsnider uses beach pebbles or a black stone called "fashionette"
in sizes from 1 to 4 inches to give the illusion of flowing water. A
pond feature often includes a stone beach. Gravel can be added as
and granite boulders add interest to the landscape as long as
they are not placed in a row, says Patrick Devereux of Stone
If a homeowner wants to include a
waterfall in the design, Wandsnider will use granite products or black
or gunmetal gray basalt from northwestern Wisconsin. "The thing
that’s really interesting about stone is that various areas of the
state produce very different kinds of stone," he adds. And since
the price of stone depends upon weight and how far it needs to be
moved, Wisconsin gardeners can inexpensively reap the benefits of the
Jane Wolf, with Germantown based-David
J. Frank Landscape Contracting, worked with a homeowner who wanted
elements of a Japanese garden incorporated into a low-maintenance
project. "The use of water, while inviting, was ruled out due to
maintenance concerns," she says. The homeowners opted for the use
of stones that simulated water via a river bed instead of the real
thing. "Rocks and water have been used in traditional Japanese
gardens for centuries, closely interrelating nature, religion and the
psychology of the mind."
Wolf placed the rocks to create a dry
riverbed that suggested the presence of water. "Along the ‘river,’
which runs the distance of the backyard, one encounters two natural
Lannon stone bridges, specimen evergreens and a variety of focal
points such as natural stone steppers leading to the owners’
hand-painted Beastie," she says. The design also includes three
large stones that represent a mountain range, a bird feeding area, a
specimen Redbud given to the owner for an anniversary present and a
large fire pit.
Wandsnider of Wandsnider Landscape Architects often uses
granite and Wisconsin basalt in rock garden waterfalls.
Patrick Devereux, a landscape architect
and owner of the Cudahy-based Stone Oak Landscape, has seen increased
interest in the concept of rock gardening during the past few years.
Houses built on sloping or semi-sloping lots or a lawn that washes out
during heavy rains typically require retaining walls for structural
integrity. Rock gardens can accomplish the same objective and they’re
much more artistic.
Some landscape architects frequently
use Lannon stone for the basic foundation, a plus for southeastern
Wisconsin residents because some of the quarries are located nearby.
The big chunks that are blasted out of the quarry before they’re
trimmed and dressed as wall stone give the finished area a natural
outcropping look. Fieldstone or granite boulders add interest as long
as they’re not lined up like rows of bowling balls. "Something
I don’t like to do is to use fieldstone boulders and set them up on
top of each other," says Wandsnider. "There’s not an
artistic sense to it."
Rock gardens are only limited by the
customer’s imagination. Devereux’s most unusual request was for a
design that resembled the Rocky Mountains. "We got quartzite
sandstone that came from Wausau," he says. The stone was brown
and chestnut and flakes of quartz caused it to glisten in the
sunlight. It also contained fossilized ripple marks. "We used
them where the ripples could be visible," adds Devereux.
help prevent erosion in rock gardens. Varieties that spread
are best to use, experts say.
Certain plants will grow better in rock
gardens than others. And the flora helps prevent erosion. Devereaux
has incorporated creeping juniper and perennials such as sedums, phlox
and creeping thyme into some of his projects.
"Plants have to tolerate
well-drained soils and tolerate drought because sometimes the boulders
heat up and you have gravel behind the boulders to hold them in
place," he says. "I like to use plants that creep and
spread. You can tuck them into small spaces and they will spread on
top of or around the stones." Other botanic specimen suggestions
include false cypresses, dwarf conifers, edelweiss, cacti and
flowering plants such as begonias and dwarf rhododendrons.
For those who enjoy a challenge,
tending an alpine garden might be just the thing. Alpine gardens are a
specialized type of rock garden featuring plants that can tolerate
limited extremes of temperature. Despite their advanced evolution, the
plants are quite picky about where they choose to grow and too much
water can destroy them.
To learn more about the art of rock
gardening, visit the North American Rock Garden Society’s Web site
at www.nargs.org. There’s even a Wisconsin-Illinois chapter that
addresses local issues.