Designing a garden that includes stones and plants begins with a careful assessment of your site, your budget and your needs. A small garden can be enhanced by introducing uniform river stones as a type of garden mulch or by placing step stone pavers. A larger garden may be better suited to the introduction of boulders and tree focal points or large flows of stone as part of a water feature. Assessing your garden is essential with any size garden, and your budget will often dictate how much stone you can reasonably install.
Call your local utility company and ask them to mark the location of any underground utilities on your property. Your local planning department can also tell you of building restrictions on easement areas and the location of underground septic systems.
Measure and draw the rough outline of your house shape and the edges of your property line. Locate the primary trees and shrubs you intend to keep. Mark the location of existing watering systems. Indicate any grade that you are dealing with. Use a round template to indicate the width of the foliage of existing trees. Note true north.
Determine the maximum budget you can afford for your project, and reduce the amount by 10 percent, which is the actual amount you should spend. The additional 10 percent is for unexpected expenses and problems. Look through magazines and online sites for examples of the types of rock and plant usage you want in your garden. Make copies.
Visit your local stone yard and garden center for recommendations on landscape design, stone and plant costs. Generally when planning your landscape, consider permits, demolition of existing garden, hardscape (like concrete work), plumbing (watering systems) and stone and plant finishes. Some garden centers will offer free design assistance if you purchase your finishes through them.
Redraw your house and property on graph paper with your informed new landscape design. Detail the placement of any large boulders, the areas of any new hardscape and the arrangement of plants. Keep in mind that rock beds may elevate the temperature of the soil near them, so choose plants that will flourish in that micro environment.