As the saying goes, every room and every outfit needs a touch of black, and the same is true of your outdoor décor. Black stone can be used in many different ways in your landscape for both practical and decorative purposes. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities!
1. Black Rock Water Feature
Every garden is better with a water feature. Whether it’s a classic bowl fountain carved from granite and polished to a smooth shine, or rough pillars of black basalt arranged on a base of crushed gravel, black stone fountains will add depth and definition to your landscape. Finding the right spot for a water feature will depend on the nature of your property; even a small courtyard can benefit from the addition of a carved stone wall water fountain, while a larger yard can accommodate a big fountain that may serve as the focal point of a patio or a country garden space.
2. Black Rock Steppingstones
Whether they’re surrounded by contrasting white gravel, coordinating black or grey gravel, or just fresh green grass, stepping stones of black rock are a welcome change from the faded or stained concrete stones you might usually see. Depending on your décor style, you might prefer perfectly square black stone pavers, or irregularly-shaped natural slate stones.
3. Black Paver Stone Patio
Black paving stones create a dramatic backdrop for your patio furnishings, looking particularly striking when paired with colorful fabric upholstery or umbrellas. Properly sealed, they’ll hold their good looks for years without getting stained or faded. They are no more difficult to install than any other stone pavers, so it’s a moderate DIY job. You can top a concrete pad with the stone tiles, or set them on a base of sand and gravel if you’re building a patio on previously bare ground.
4. Black Standing Stone Garden Feature
A rough-shaped natural pillar of black stone is a perfect addition to a modern landscape, where its rough-hewn texture will add visual interest without being too intrusive. Set it against a backdrop of evergreen shrubs for year-round effect, or place it in the middle of an open space to create a focal point in your yard.
5. Black Quartzite Wall Cladding
Black quartzite wall cladding can be used as an accent for architectural elements in your landscape. Use it to cover a privacy wall for a patio, or to finish the sides of a raised bed where looks are as important as function! With the continuing popularity of black siding and trim, continuing the black trend into the yard will make for a seamless transition from house to landscape.
6. Black River Rock Garden Path
We tend to jump immediately to shades of white when we consider using gravel or river rock in landscaping, but the deep color of a black pathway works well with the brilliant greens of grass and foliage plants, creating a more soothing picture. It will also be easier to maintain, as the dark color will hide dirt and stains better. Taking the time to build up a good foundation with gravel, sand, and landscape fabric will ensure that your black river rock garden path will look good with minimal maintenance for years!
7. Black Slate Landscape Rocks as Mulch
Black bark mulch continues to be a popular landscape choice, but it will break down and need to be replenished every spring. Consider mulching ornamental beds with black slate instead! You’ll get the same modern look of the black mulch, while at the same time saving yourself a tedious annual task. It’s possible to use either large, flat pieces of slate or small chips of black slate for this purpose.
Cover a garden bed with randomly placed large slate pieces, leaving open spots to plant rock garden plants such as creeping phlox, mother of thyme, and hens and chicks sedum. The plants will spread across the rocks as they grow, and the soil will stay cooler and moister because of the rocks.
8. Black Rock Mulch Along the House
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Grass is simply a nuisance in a narrow laneway, a common feature between houses in modern suburban developments. Instead of trying to keep a strip of lawn alive in that awkward space, tear all the grass out and lay down a layer of black gravel or river rock instead! Leave it just like that, or add steppingstones for more comfortable walking. You’ve just created a functional and attractive feature out of what can become an untended eyesore.
9. Black Stone Sphere
Garden art is often limited to painted gnomes and concrete statues, but the stunning simplicity of a sphere made from small black stones painstakingly fitted together can make a big statement in the right location. It’s perfect for placing in a solitary spot where it will be the focus of attention, or can be installed amidst shrubs to add visual interest.
10. Black Polished Stone Sculpture
A black stone sculpture, polished to a high gleam, won’t be an inexpensive addition to your landscape, but it will certainly strike a sophisticated note. Choose a piece that is an appropriate scale for your setting, whether that’s a small courtyard or a large lawn. Also consider the style of your home and garden when choosing your piece of garden art; while abstract pieces work well in conjunction with modern architecture, an older home will probably be best served with a more traditional sculpture.
11. Black and White Decorative Rock Art
Black and white is such a classic combination and works in both traditional and modern décor. Play around with textures and colors to create one-of-kind rock art in your yard. Use the colors to create free-form patterns with loose gravel, or more permanent designs with stones cemented together to create steppingstones or wall insets. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get started in your artistic endeavors, either: a couple of bags of each color will be plenty to add this original art to your outdoor space!
12. Black Rock Mulch Around Trees
Black rock mulch has a few real advantages over the more commonly used dyed black bark mulch. While the bark mulch can harbor rodents, insects and fungal diseases, rock mulch will discourage all those pests from targeting your trees. Just make sure that you’re not getting too carried away with your mulching: no mulch, stone or organic, should be right up against the trunk (and certainly not heaped up, as so many landscapers do!). Always leave a few inches of soil exposed right around the base of the tree, and if the roots are breaking the surface, put a lighter layer of finer gravel over them, rather than larger river rocks. To keep the rock mulch from migrating out into the surrounding lawn, install a circle of larger boulders as a boundary between rock and grass.
13. Black Rock Dry Creek
Dry creek beds are an increasingly popular way to direct water away from house foundations, and black rocks will be an even more interesting feature in your landscape. Create a meandering path across your lawn, following the natural flow of water. Dig a trench 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) deep, line it with heavy landscape fabric, and edge it with contrasting boulders for extra visual interest. Line the sides with medium-sized rocks, and fill the bottom with a good layer of river rocks. You won’t want to add plants right in the creek bed, but adding drought-tolerant perennials such as rosemary, lavender, and yarrow along the edges will make your new creek bed look like it’s always been there. Just make sure that there’s somewhere for floodwaters to go at the end of the course!
14. Black Boulder Landscaping
Boulders have remained in fashion in landscaping for many years now, so why not try changing things up a bit with black rocks instead of the more common beige or white? Especially since black trim and siding is currently popular, black boulders will help tie your house and its surroundings together. When placing a few boulders together, aim for odd numbers, as groups of threes or fives always look better than twos or fours. Setting the boulders on a gravel or mulch base will make mowing easier and make the placement seem more intentional.
15. Black Rock Mulch Around Shrubs
Using rock mulch around shrubs is a sensible choice, as it will not rot down and will also discourage pests and diseases from taking up residence in your beds. It’s an especially good idea if you aren’t planning to add flower plants to the same planting space, since the mulch can be harder to work around when planting out annuals or perennials. Instead, create a clean, modern look with some sculptural shrubs set against the backdrop of pure black rock mulch. Evergreens such as boxwood or holly will keep their glossy green leaves all winter for a year-round perfect picture, and variegated shrubs such as euonymus will add extra visual interest.
16. Black Pebble Flower Garden
Black pebbles will also provide a dramatic backdrop for flowering plants, but you should carefully consider which plants will work best with a permanent layer of mulch that will probably have landscaping fabric underneath. Instead of planning on annuals that need to be replanted every year, choose instead a few key perennials that will come back each year without disturbing the rock mulch. Plants such as lilies with clean, architectural lines to their foliage will look especially effective next to a modern house. Space things out and let the black mulch play a starring role in your flower landscape! And when it’s time to clean up your pebbles, use a leaf blower or high-pressure hose to keep things neat and tidy.
17. Use Crushed Black Marble as Mulch
Crushed black marble can be used for walkways or driveways where ordinary white gravel might seem too bright and jarring. However, it can get expensive when used over large surfaces, so consider using this premium material as a fine mulch on the soil surface of flowerpots on your patio or deck. It’s very porous, so water will seep right through into the soil below, but because marble is limestone and therefore high in pH, you should use this mulch with plants that prefer alkaline soil. Luckily, that includes some of the most-loved container plants, including geraniums, azaleas, and hydrangea! Be warned, though, that marble mulch will heat up the soil more than organic mulches.
18. Black Polished Pebbles in Planters
Black pebbles, polished to a gleaming shine, are another good mulch for planters. Because of their decorative appearance, save them for planters that have a lot of soil surface showing. For instance, if you have planters that each feature a single plume of ornamental grass, a layer of polished black pebbles will add an extra dimension to the display. They’re an especially good choice for planters with a dark finish to create a cohesive look. It’s a good idea to lay down a layer of landscape fabric between the soil surface and the pebbles to prevent soil from migrating up and marring the clean look of the polished stones.
19. Paint Rocks Black for the Garden
You don’t have to start out with black rocks. Instead, take ordinary rocks, and paint them black! You can keep them looking natural with a flat finish, or imitate the sheen of polished river rocks by using a semi-gloss paint. Paint small, flattish rocks with flat black paint, add the names of herbs or other plants with a white paint pen, and then finish them with a good exterior-grade sealer. Then, you’ve got unique, weatherproof plant tags that you can use for years to come!
20. Black Fire Pit Rocks
Black lava stones are a natural choice for gas fire pits, as they mimic the appearance of charcoal, and are safe to use with flames. However, for a more sophisticated look in the same palette, you can buy black ceramic stones that look like polished river rock. The one thing that you should never do is use natural river rocks for your firepit, as they may explode when exposed to high temperatures!
21. Black Rock Japanese Style Garden
Whether you use all black rock in your Zen garden, or mix and match with other hues, the deep shades of black stone will add a soothing note to your meditative retreat. You can use black gravel or polished river stones for covering the surface, black slate as stepstones, or small boulders as accent pieces.
22. Black Stone Koi Pond
Smoothly honed black stone will create a sleek and modern raised koi pond that will fit into a contemporary setting. You can design one to fit into even a small yard, although the recommended minimum size is 6 x 8 feet (1.8 x 2.4 meters). A long, narrow pond can be built to hug an exterior wall or run alongside a patio.
23. Black Concrete Patio
You can get the look of black stone without paying black stone prices by painting or staining an existing concrete patio. Usually, stain is the way to go, as it penetrates into the concrete and won’t wear off or start to peel as paint will. Once you thoroughly cleaned the concrete, apply the stain with a sprayer, roller, or brush. After it’s cured for 24 hours, you should apply a sealer, and then wait a few more days before walking on it. Of course, if you’re pouring a new patio, you can tint the concrete as it’s mixed so that the black color is permanent!
24. Raised Beds with Black Rock Mulch
If you have raised beds around your house, mulching them with black rock will keep them looking neat and tidy for years. They’re best for permanent plantings such as perennials and shrubs to minimize the need to disturb the pebble mulch. Lay down good-quality landscape fabric under the pebble layer so that the soil will stay where it should, and hose down the pebbles when necessary.
25. Black Stone Edging
Black stones can be used as edging around garden beds or mulched areas under trees where some visual contrast is desired. You can use them in their natural shape, or buy smoothly honed blocks of black stone for a more sophisticated look.
26. Black Stone Patio Pizza Oven
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The ultimate in outdoors cooking is a stone pizza oven, and why not go all out on one clad in black stone? It’s a perfect finishing touch in a contemporary setting, while fitting in just fine in a more traditional décor as well.
27. Lava Rock Garden
Black lava rock is a good, lightweight material that makes a perfect mulch. Its porous structure allows water to quickly drain through the soil underneath, while at the same time slowing evaporation of moisture from the soil. If you lay down a layer of landscape fabric before spreading the lava rock, you won’t have to worry about the stones getting jumbled in with the dirt, which can create difficulties if and when you want to remove the mulch. Because they are rock, the lava stones will not break down and become soil like wood mulch, so gardens will stay cleaner and you won’t have to top up the mulch every year, which will save you time and money.
Janice is a retired High School teacher who is spending her leisure years keeping busy with all sorts of projects. Aside from freelance writing, she’s an enthusiastic amateur chef, home wine maker, and tends a large raised-bed vegetable garden, while at the same time running a Bed & Breakfast.