5 Outdoor Spaces Showcasing Natural Stone Landscaping
When it comes to creating an outdoor space in your backyard, many people think of trees and flowers, but for a space that has wow factor as well, natural stone landscaping can be a striking inclusion. Beautiful, primal and straight from the earth – stone can be used to add impact to an existing space or serve as a unique focal point on its own.
Here we look at 5 popular kinds of outdoor space that use natural stone to advantage and share some useful tips on how to achieve the best look for your backyard oasis.
Having a fire pit or outdoor fireplace means you can use your backyard for entertaining in the cooler months as well as in summer. When built from natural stone, a fireplace retains heat for longer than other materials and a fire pit decorated with stone will provide an elegant focal point in your backyard. With a flagstone surround or retaining wall and the addition of stone or wooden benches, it can be an attractive place for friends and family to gather for a drink or a meal at any time of the year.
A rock garden is where plants are interspersed amongst rocks and stones of various sizes, often in a hill formation. If you don’t have a natural hill in your backyard, you can easily create one with stones and soil, using a few large boulders as a base. This is known as a ‘berm’ and when you cover it with plants growing in and around the stone, it makes for a very appealing garden feature. The best plants for rock gardens are small hardy plants such as bulbs and succulents, with creeping plants such as mosses and grasses to soften the edges of the stones and blend your plantings over time.
Whether it’s a full sized swimming pool or a tiny pond draped with willows and surrounded by moss, a water feature can add a special element to any backyard and natural stone is the obvious star of the show. Large boulders can be placed in and around the water for effect or used to create a waterfall and the area itself can be circled with stone paving or flagstones to provide easy non-slip access for visitors. Bluestone pavers or quartz flagstones are particularly striking in swimming pool settings, while limestone and marble have the natural, earthy tones ideal for a trickling stream or a backyard pond.
A courtyard serves as a connection to the home, so it must be visually pleasing enough to draw people outside the house to enjoy it. As it is surrounded by walls, those walls need to not only be welcoming and embracing but also aesthetically pleasing and this is where natural stone comes into its own. A courtyard is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the unique characteristics of stone, including its texture, colour and patina. Contrasted with greenery and with comfortable seating and a central focus such as a water feature or artwork, a stone landscaped courtyard can be a wonderful retreat for quiet contemplation and alone time.
Outdoor kitchens are all the rage these days and the modern stone bbq has found its place among a full stove, fridge and dishwasher ensemble. But, unlike an indoor kitchen, this space is exposed to the elements, so the materials used need to be durable, hard wearing and able to stand up to all weathers. Enter natural stone; the perfect practical material for your outdoor kitchen’s flooring and benchtops and the ideal decorative finish for cabinets, splashbacks and even the structure of the kitchen itself. For food preparation and service areas, choose a non-porous stone such as granite or bluestone and protect it with a sealant to minimise permanent stains and help to retain its natural patina.
Tips on achieving the best look for your space
If you have an idea for an outdoor space of your own, here are some practical tips using natural stone to help you get the most out of your backyard oasis.
- For a pathway with a truly rustic look, use stepping stones rather than sawn pavers, as they have a more organic feel and more variations in shape and colour.
- Loose pebbles are too round and smooth underfoot to be suitable for paving, but if you set them in concrete with their flattest sides up, they make a great pathway with an interesting texture.
- When surrounding a flower bed with stones, rather than using rough or sharp rocks which can seem jarring, use smooth river rocks or polished stones for a softer, more blended look.
- The colours of your plants should determine the colour of the pebbles you use around them, with red, blue or violet flowers and foliage contrasting best against warm grey or off-white stone and pinks, yellows and whites looking best against darker stone hues such as greys or blacks.
- Instead of building a flat stone retaining wall, consider making terraces at different levels and putting small plants on each level to create an elegant botanical feel.
- Every good garden path needs an intriguing destination, so put something surprising out of sight at the end of yours such as an ornament, special planting or unusual rock formation.
- To get rid of unwanted lawn areas, rather than paving them over entirely, which can create heat and glare, lace paving stones with ribbons of native grass to create a soft patterned effect.
- Even a couple of pebbles placed next to a path can create a striking design feature when stood on their ends like sentinels in a bed of ground cover such as baby tears.
To find out more about using stone landscaping to create your perfect outdoor space, talk to Armstone, the natural stone specialists.
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