Stone Features For Your Water Garden: Which Is Right For You?


Recently I attended a family gathering at my brother’s place. I had already seen pictures of his renovated water garden. However, the visual impact of standing in front of cascading water in combination with spectacular stone features was stunning. I have since delved into a study of stone features for my own water garden.

So, which stone feature is right for your water garden? Your selection of a stone feature depends upon the current or desired style of your watergarden. Also, water features in gardens also can influence your choice of stone features as do budget and space constraints.

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One joy of a water garden is that it may be enhanced and decorated as one wishes. There really is no end to variations and options. One is limited only by one’s imagination and budget. Water gardens, especially, provide endless options to beautify and enhance your environment. It helps that a water feature will necessitate the presence of stones.

Stone Features in Water Gardens

Stone features come in different types and purposes for your water garden. You may choose to line the path beside your water feature with pebbles of the perfect size. Or you may wish to install a stone wall which will have a cascade falling from it. Stone features act as the perfect partner for garden water features. They can easily withstand the wear and tear caused by running water. Stone features bring a symphony of movement, light and sound to your garden.

What makes stones a popular choice for outdoors and around water gardens?

Stone has been used for centuries to enhance outdoors. They add a touch of solidity combined with beauty when used in combination with water features. Easily available, they are a very smart choice to enhance the outdoors. Locally sourced stones might be more common but they are practical too. Prolonged exposure to the elements like the sun, wind, rain and snow are much better withstood by stones. Areas immediately adjacent to water bodies are needed to withstand continuous wet conditions by the very nature of their design. Stones when used around water gardens lend an element of stability, longevity, beauty and earthiness to a garden. Water gardens are generally home to many species of butterflies and dragonflies. Rocks and boulders strewn along gardens give them place to sun themselves and attract more of their type.

Which stone feature to choose for your garden?

The type of garden you have in mind

  • If you are choosing Japanese or Chinese garden, small stones and pebbles are a must. Big stones or boulders can be placed at intervals. Stones to create bridges need to be chosen accordingly.
  • In case of English style gardens, flagstones need to part of the plan. Big boulders to break the monotony and encourage growth of flora.
  • French gardens are a different style altogether. Entire paths right up to the patio are covered with small pebbles or gravel. Designs and patterns with contrasting gravel are in order.

Landscaping slopes and drains

  • Slopes in gardens are best managed with natural stones. Pea gravel is also good for creating slopes to effectively drain off water. This ensures a porous surface and prevents water clogging.
  • Raised beds with stone borders add to the beauty of gardens. A gravel bottom in such features helps drain water effectively into the underground.
  • Plants that grow best in nearly dry soil would thrive in gravel filled pots so that there is no clogging at all. This is true of succulents and xerophytes.

Natural stones for gardens

  • Weed control. Weeds can be a nuisance in most gardens. Natural stones help control weed growth to an extent.
  • Walkways and pathways. These can be with whole stones, crushed stones, mixed or cobblestones.
  • Choose natural stones for patios. This is a space you will do up as per your choice, how you like to entertain, and how many people would be there. Choose big flagstones to do up the patio.
  • Fire and water features must feature natural stones. If you are in a place that is cold in winters, a fire feature in your garden allows you to use the outdoors even when the weather turns cold. Granite and sandstones that withstand higher temperatures are generally used to create fire pits.
  • Any water feature in your garden, be it any style of garden you plan, will do best with natural stones. Choose according to the kind of water feature you have in mind.

Space and budget consideration

  • What kind of space you have at your disposal and how you plan to utilize it will ultimately dictate the kind of stone feature you put in. Certain stone features, like jets, small fountains, or small statues can easily adorn small gardens. If you have large spaces at your disposal, then you have much more freedom to plan your garden.
  • The more features you add to any garden, the more budgetary flexibility and allowance you will need. This is because planning and creating a water garden with stone features is only the first step. Many people like to engage professionals to give shape to their dreams. This involves costs too.
  • Any beautiful thing remains so in the long term due to the meticulous care and attention. Maintenance needs to be regular in order to keep a thing beautiful. Since a garden is exposed to the vagaries of nature, there is bound to be constant damage. Repair and replacement does not come cheap.

Different types of stone features in water gardens

  • Pebbles. These have to be the most popular stone feature in any water garden. By far the easiest to procure and handle, these can be used in multiple different ways. Pebbles come in a variety of sizes, colors and textures; they can line paths, fill in spaces, adorn tree bases and in general, lift the visual appeal of any space.
  • Stepping stones. A popular stone feature in water gardens are stepping stones. These come in different materials. Rubber and stone ones are the most popular especially around water gardens. Colored pebbles are often grouped and stuck together on a non-skid base material to create these stone features. They are mostly decorative in purpose. These come in different shapes that add to the beauty of gardens.
  • Fountains. Small fountains spouting from a stone base look beautiful in any setting, outdoors or indoors. Proper lighting can enhance the look to a great extent. Stones are the best in fountains, since continuous exposure to water does not cause any problems to stone. Small fountains of stone can be placed in smaller sized gardens.
  • Cascades. This is another water feature that uses stones to great effect. The sight of sheets of water falling off different stones at different heights creates an effective cascade. When planning to include this in your water garden, you will have to choose the right kind of stone that lends maximum effect.
  • Lining of water bodies. If you have ponds or raised pools in your water garden, this lends scope for using stone features. The outside border that lines such water bodies can be made of stone. Both for looks as well as for utility, different kinds of stone tiles in various textures might be used.
  • Pea gravel. This is a kind of small stone piece that can be used to line paths along a water garden. Typically 3/8” in size, these come in different colors and add special charm to any water garden. Not only along paths, but they can also be very effectively used as fillers or water basins to accept flow of water from fountains and cascades.
  • Stacked walls. Creating walls in your garden with stones of various types creates beautiful effect. These can be stand-alone walls with big slabs of stone. Alternatively smaller stone pieces to make stacked walls look fabulous.
  • Jets. These are another example of a water feature that is enhanced by stones. Essentially meant for smaller gardens or even indoors, these feature water bubbling over pebbles, creating a feeling of movement and sound that is pleasing to the senses.
  • Rock features. One of the ways in which you can show off your individuality is through a rock feature. This may be a standalone majestic piece of rock, granite or any other stone that has the color and texture to define its presence singularly. Imagine a big open space where a huge rock stands guard over a water garden. Contrast color pebbles may line its base to enhance the overall effect. Alternatively you may also opt for a rock garden. These are very beautiful features that are also a statement of who you are and what you wish to project.

There are certain types of plants that grow well in rock gardens. These are generally hardy plants that can withstand the outdoors well while needing minimal care and water. Choose your plant depending upon the climate, elevation and humidity.

  • Statues. Another way in which stone features may add visual value to your garden is statues. You may choose the size and style according to how big your garden is and what theme you have in mind. From grandiose to handy, there is no end to the kinds of statues that can adorn a garden.
  • Feeders. Water gardens attract a large number of birds, butterflies and insects. Placing an attractive looking feeder in your garden will not only attract more of these creatures, but also add to the beauty of the garden. Stone feeders are heavier compared to wooden, plastic and fiber ones. But they have an appeal that cannot be matched by other materials.
  • Stairs. Landscaped gardens make for great stair art through the stone medium. Stairs maybe simple or ornate or rustic, keeping in the mind the general scheme of things around your garden. Stone slabs or stacks make for wonderful stairs.
  • Benches. Stone benches come in a variety of shapes, form and material. From ornate to rustic, you can make a choice according to the theme of your water garden. In the case of some benches, they are as compelling and distinctive as to dictate the entire look of the garden. Lounging on a stone bench in a water garden – there can be no greater luxury than this.
  • Garden paths. You may combine different colors of stones to create beautiful garden paths. Contrasting colors and textures can be combined to achieve stunning effects. Granite slabs in dark shades contrasted with pebbled borders or checkered designs lend a unique effect.
  • Wall inserts. Very distinctive in style and contemporary in design, these wall inserts break the monotony of solid garden walls. They are nothing but sections of wall encased in mesh, same depth as the interspersed walls, and filled with small loose stones of all colors and shapes to reach up to full wall length.

Types of stones used in stone features

  • Marble.
  • Sandstone.
  • Limestone.
  • Granite.
  • Basalt.
  • Travertine.
  • Gravel.
  • River pebbles.
  • Slate.
  • Quartzite.
  • Soapstone.

Maintenance of stone features

Like any other thing of beauty, stone features require regular maintenance. Stones are preferred in water gardens because of their solidity and endurance of outdoor conditions. Most stones can withstand extreme temperatures, heat and rains with fortitude. However, they may also get damaged or broken more easily.

  • Continuous exposure to wet conditions around water gardens can create slippery surfaces on stones. Moss tends to grow in such places that are constantly wet. This is especially true of fountains and cascades as well as retainer basins where water accumulates. In addition, water may accumulate in uneven stone surfaces. Moss makes the stone surface slippery.  Regular cleaning of such surfaces either with mild chemicals or manually is recommended.
  • Stone features are by nature very heavy and not easy to move around. Meticulous planning and forward thinking is the need of the day when designing water gardens with stone features. If needed professional advice may be sought for same. In case you wish to move big rock features, steel bars are a must.
  • Many stone features may get damaged with time and exposure to elements, or due to inexpert handling. Always keep in mind that they might get chipped or broken. Careful handling helps prolong life and utility of stone features.

Recommendations for stone features

We have seen the different kinds of stones features one might use in a garden. Where does one buy them from? Read on to find out a selection of different types for ideas about stone features.

  • Toscano Manneken Fountain Feature – Perfect for your outdoors, this is easy to set up. It comes with its own basin and literally creates no nuisance. Add an element of mischief to your water garden. Buy it here
  • Sunnydaze Stone Water Fountain – Set this water fountain in your garden in a classic combination of stone and water feature. It can be easily assembled and creates a soothing ambience. Buy it here from Amazon.
  • Skullis River Rocks Mixed Color Pebbles – This is a 5-pound collection of decorative pebbles about 1” in diameter. Give your water garden a new look with these naturally polished beauties. Buy them from Amazon here.
  • Collections Etc Limestone Stepping Stones – Colored limestones arranged in 10” diameter, these stepping stones come in a pack of 3. Step on them with confidence as you walk by your water garden. Buy the set from Amazon here.
  • Rock Lock Curved Border with Spikes – Designed for easy installation and self-locking design for greater stability, use this to give a stone look to garden borders. It can be used to create a raised feature in the outdoors. Buy it here at Amazon.
  • Stone Age Creations Granite Bench – Add an element of rusticity to your water garden with this bench. Placing it near a water feature will allow you to sit at any time of the day and enjoy your garden as well as the water body. Buy it from Amazon here.

Related questions

How to keep stone features clean?

Boulders, pebbles, rocks, or stone walls in combination with water features run the risk of slippage. This is due to growth of moss and succulents which make stone surfaces damp and slippery. Regular exposure to sun and constant upkeep and cleaning helps keep surfaces clean and safe.

Are stones difficult to source?

Stones are not difficult to locate However, transporting stone features may require assistance or specialized equipment. It is advisable to use locally occurring stones unless you have specifics in mind. Local sourcing makes repairs and replacements easier as well.

Can I build a fountain?

Fountains combine movement and sound of water to create visual and sensory delights for everyone. Simple fountains are not difficult to build by oneself. There are a whole lot of DIY tutorials. Easy to source materials, help too. All one needs is imagination and drive.

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