Natural Stonescapes

Natural Stonescapes

Create naturally beautiful landscapes that stand the test of time with Natural Stonescapes: The Art and Craft of Stone Placement.

Authors Richard L. Dubé and Frederick Campbell use nature as their inspiration for the principles of design as well as the layout of stone compositions, mimicking the formations and relationships found in nature. They also suggest you derive your natural stone grouping design ideas from the space-defining qualities of the site where you'll place your grouping.

The use of stones in the landscape is growing as people see the dramatic improvement it can make in the overall composition of their planting arrangements. However, landscaping with stones is not as easy as plunking down some rocks into the middle of a group of plants. Many design considerations go into creating a pleasing stonescape.

There are essentially four environments that may govern your design, (see diagrams at right):

• A flat plane
• A connective mass within a flat plane
• A sloping plane
• Transition of sloping plane with a flat plane

Every site you examine is likely to be a variation of one of these environments. In order to understand these spaces better, think of them in more familiar terms. A flat plane could be equated to a pond, a lawn, a patio, a planting bed, or a swimming pool surface. A connective mass within a flat plane is an island form -- think of a real island in water or a planting island in a lawn. A sloping plane can be thought of simply as a hillside; the relative steepness of that slope may vary. Finally, the sloping plane joining the flat plane can be likened to the shoreline of a pond or the ocean. It could also be a spot where a hill joins a flat lawn or planted bed.

In each case, the evolution of your design will be influenced by the characteristics of that space. The motivation of the form that you create has its roots in a study known as geomorphology, which looks at how the earth is shaped and formed through processes such as weathering and erosion. In the case of stone groupings, these processes wear away the parent mass, leaving the sturdier remnants that reveal its internal structure. When you see a natural stone formation, you are seeing the result of eons of active degradation and entropy. In attempting to re-create this natural form, you are also trying to imbue the composition with some of the same qualities inherent in the original. Primary among those attributes is a feeling of great age.

As you visualize the placement of stones in your space, you will have to take into account the limitations and amenities of the site and the purpose of the completed grouping. The stones illustrated in this grouping will show you the dynamic arrangement of each idea - the spacing, size, and location of the stones. Your final design must be guided by the stones you have on-hand to work with.

Design Plan: Vulcan Necklace

Motivation: The submerged or covered caldera of an ancient volcano.
Application: This works well as a primary focal point or as a meditative device.

Description: The Vulcan Necklace was inspired by Molikini, a volcano off the island of Hawaii. Although the crater of Molikini is not really a caldera (it's actually a steam vent), it sure looks like something big went off in the middle of it. The external lines of force radiate outward and the internal lines of force upward from a central point below the grouping. Most groupings that are volcanic in motivation are very movement oriented. Although this grouping works with just the first three stones, using at least five will better communicate the intent. Stones 6 and 7 emphasize the shape, and stones 8 and 9 extend the leading edge of movement.

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