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Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rocks can add harmony to garden

December 27, 2007

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Guidelines for Stone Placement

¢ Every stone has a best face, a side with the most character and attractiveness. Have that be the side that is in the line of sight for the onlooker.

¢ Flat-topped stones provide a 'perch' for the eye, adding serenity to the garden.

¢ Bury stones a few feet down and have them emerge from the ground; this will have much more of a visual impact.

¢ For the most part stones are meant to be horizontal, the rare vertical stone will be very dramatic and a lucky find.

Oftentimes when we start a landscaping project, one of our first inclinations is to rid the earth of all the rock that impedes our way to fertile flower beds and plentiful patios. But in doing so, avid gardeners miss an opportunity to build a gorgeous textural landscape in the dormant days of winter.

The placement of stones can create visual rhythms and entice the viewer's eye. Stones can create discord or harmony, depending on how they are oriented around other elements in the landscape.

In fact, stones can bring more impact to a garden than any living plant.

The Japanese have long understood the power of a mighty boulder and its perfect placement, and their Zen tradition of rock gardens has set the standard on how to create harmony with stone. Karl Ramberg, a Lawrence resident, has had a longtime interest in the tradition.

"While the Zen tradition of Japan rock placement is beautiful, I find that bringing the essence of Zen but not necessarily the Japanese part of that tradition is a nice way to be present in the landscape we find ourselves in," Ramberg says. "After all, the Japanese Zen gardens rely on mountain images as a big part of the look. But there are no mountains here in Kansas."

Ramberg says that a larger influence in his work stems from the pioneer tradition here in the prairies of stone fences.

"I have often said that I prefer gardens in the winter because you can see the stonework," Ramberg says. "Stones, when they are placed with harmony and feel right, make the garden grow better. I say this because the gardener is more likely to spend more time in the garden if there is a look that gives it peacefulness."

Charles Gruber, a Lawrence resident for 36 years, has many styles of rock work in his landscape, including a patio, two ponds and a fire pit. One focal point is a giant boulder nestled in his front garden.

"My rock sits and faces the front walk," Gruber says. "As I come up the walk, I see the keyhole facing me, and my mind cannot help but wander into that keyhole to see what's inside it today."

The stone it not only gives him some depth and style in his winter garden, but it reminds him of just how plain the simple the act of erosion and time are on us all.

"The big stone has a very slow life of change and disintegration," Gruber says. "It supports all sorts of lichen and moss three seasons of the year. The freeze-and-thaw cycle creates cracks. Pieces break off every so often to change the look and structure of the stone.

"This shows it will eventually become dust, just like me."

- Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.

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