Small rocks can be annoying. They’re in the way when you plant tulips, they get caught in your lawnmower and your dog keeps burying and unearthing the same pesky stone in your lawn.

But big rocks — really big rocks —make a statement in the landscape unlike anything else.

How to use large rocks in landscaping? Paul Weaver, construction branch manager at Level Green Landscaping, has great ideas.

How to Use Large Rocks in Landscaping

He even knows about the intriguing place where most of these massive beauties originate.

He’s spilling all his secrets.

The Natural Beauty Of Large Rocks

First of all, Weaver says, large, natural boulders are beautiful.

“They come in a variety of colors, from purples to browns to grays,” he says.

Add mossy plants, creeping ground covers and stunning native wildflowers, and they look like they’ve always been there, creating natural beauty anywhere you like.

They’re Environmentally Friendly

More and more municipalities require natural landscaping that doesn’t impact the existing environment, Weaver says.

Bioretention ponds that filter rainwater of pollutants before slowly returning it to the groundwater are increasingly popular, and large, natural rocks add beauty and interest to the pond's landscaping, he says.

Retaining Walls

“These boulders are extremely heavy,” Weaver says.  “Once they're put in place, they're there forever. That makes them excellent for retaining walls. They’re stronger than any engineered material you can buy.”

You’ll often see boulders along highways, holding the hills back, he says, and preventing landslides.

“We have clients who use them to hold their whole property up on one side,” he says.

Please Keep Off The Plants

You’d be surprised how many drivers drive right over the edges of pretty planting beds. But not if there are huge rocks in the way.

“We do a lot of shopping mall renovations, where cars like to drive over our plant beds,” Weaver says. “We often install large rocks on the corners to keep the cars off.”

So, Where Do They Get These Rocks?

Fun fact: Most landscaping boulders used on the east coast come from the mountains near Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, Weaver says.

Four or five companies there blast huge chunks from the massive mountains, then break them up into boulders suitable for landscaping. Then they ship them to wholesalers and retailers on 18-wheelers.

Will the mountains run out of rock?

“Not in our lifetime,” Weaver says.

Behind The Scenes Planning

Once these massive rocks are lowered into place, they’re not going anywhere. So before deciding how to use large rocks in landscaping, proper planning is key.

“Almost every retaining wall we do with large boulders starts with a drawing by an engineering firm,” Weaver says. “They give us a drawing based on the boulder’s height, depth and placement. We get a set of plans and we install based on that.”

On smaller jobs, he says, they do the calculations themselves.

Drainage is an important part of the planning, too.

“You don't want water to wash away the dirt that holds the boulder there,” Weaver says. “We install the proper drainage as we install the rocks.”

If drainage is a problem, due to unstable sandy soil or compacted clay, they won’t recommend the use of large rocks, he says.

Have The Heating Pad Handy

Unless you’re the Hulk, you’re not moving these beauties without significant help. They weigh between 500 and 1,000 lbs. each.

Suppliers deliver the boulders straight to Level Green job sites.

“Then, we have skid steers or excavators to move them,” Weaver says. “Strap or chain harnesses wrap around the boulder, then we pick it up and set it in place. It will never move again.”

rocks used as stairs in landscaping

Don’t Just Plop A Big Rock

There’s more to landscaping with big rocks than just getting the rocks.

The idea is to create a natural look that appears to have evolved right there on its own, Weaver says.

“When we design, we use plants you would see around a boulder in nature,” he says. “You wouldn't plant a rosebush in front of a large rock. We use mossy plants, groundcovers, wild flowers. So it looks like a natural setting. You can easily incorporate water features around them, too.”

The right size matters.

“We've had customers say they want a boulder the size of a Volkswagen,” Weaver says. “Well, then you wouldn't be able to see half of their building.”

Big Rocks — But Not A Big Deal

“Using these large rocks is surprisingly easy,” Weaver says. “It's not that expensive — they can fit in any budget — and it's relatively simple to place them, with help from some big machines.

“We encourage people to go natural,” he says, “and this is a great way to do that.”

Rock On With Level Green Landscaping

Construction pro Paul Weaver and his crews would love to show you how landscaping with nature’s beautiful boulders can enhance your commercial landscape.

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

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