A visit to the Stone Yard

Recently, I found myself at the stone yard in search of specific gravel for a client.  The gravel had to be a certain size, shape and color.  Fortunately, I was able to locate exactly what I needed.  During my roundabout I could not help but notice the vast amount of stone material available.  There were rows and rows of flagstone pallets all lined up like solders waiting to be called into duty.  Large bins of gravel and mulch heaped into mounds and spilling out of large bins.  Pebbles and polished stones were confined in large wire cages waiting anxiously to be set free in the garden. 

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At the disposal of the designer is a vast quantity of hardscape material from quarries near and far.  It became clear to me that this was not the arena for the amateur. The home owner should only venture into this world with an experienced designer or contractor to guide them. Going in alone is a certain recipe for disaster.  None the less, before visiting the stone yard with “the guide” there are few key words the home owner should be familiar with.  Here is a list.

  • ·        Aggregates- sand, soil, gravel and a number of other loose soil particles that may be used in the mixing of cement or for other uses in the landscape.


  • ·        Cobbles– similar to bricks in shape but larger. Cobbles have rounded edges and can be used for stack walls, fireplaces, edging and borders.


  •  ·        Flagstone- a durable sedimentary stone that forms in thin, smooth layers perfect for building patios, walkways, pool decks, stepping stones, and stair threads. 


  • ·        Garden Boulders – natural stone that is 8 to 30 inches in diameter and can be used in natural ponds and waterfalls as well as garden accents and boulder walls.


  • ·        Garden Path Gravel – a pea to marble-size decorative gravel that has an angular shape that compacts to create solid walkways.
  • ·        Mulch– a ground covering that discourages weeds, helps retain moisture, prevents erosion, insulates plant roots and is aesthetically pleasing.


  •  ·        River Pebbles – decorative pebbles used in ponds, dry creek beds, water features and landscape beds.
  • ·        River Rock – natural stone that has been reshaped and smoothed by time.  Found in streams and rivers and commonly used in dry creek beds, veneer walls and edging.


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In general, it is best to become familiar with the terms used by the trade when seeking any hardscape material.  As it is easy to become overwhelmed with the vast selection of material so arming yourself with as much knowledge can’t hurt.  Also, keep your eyes open for flagstone or pebbles that could be part of a future garden project.  However, keep in mind that stone is a natural material and does not come from an endless source… so a stone you see today may not be available later. In addition, when a stone comes from a different quarry, slight variations may occur making it difficult to match an existing patio or veneered wall.