I have this thing about rocks.  I collect small ones whenever I go on vacation.  I’m attracted to round smooth ones and I have a small box full.  Again, I think this rock thing is left over from childhood.  Every summer since the age of two I camped with my family in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Part of the adventure was playing in the frigid mountain streams and collecting rocks (round smooth ones).  So it wasn’t a far stretch to decide to add these same rocks (just larger) to my landscaping. 

First I measured the length of our home and added the additional 12 feet I would need to round the corners at each end of the house and by the front porch.  Then I visited a local landscaping company and picked out the perfect river rocks – round and smooth.  Since they calculated that I’d need 1400 pounds of rocks, I was in a bit of a dilemma. 

I really should own a truck, but since I don’t, I make do with a small car and a small trunk.  I’ve hauled hay, layer feed, a rooster and a sick goat in that car so I figured I could haul rocks too.  Since it was never designed to carry a great deal of weight I had to haul 450 pounds at a time.  Once loaded in the trunk, I’d drive home slowly and carefully to keep from scraping the bottom of the car when I hit bumps on the road.   I then unloaded a few rocks into my little red wagon and pulled it around to the front of the house, emptied the load then repeated the process.  I sure had defined muscles that summer!

When we first bought the house it had straggly hedges along the front of the house.  So one day I decided to dig them up and haul them to the road where the city eventually grinds them up and hauls them away.  In their place I planted azaleas that produce bright pink blooms.  This was when I still had a black thumb so I lost a number of them due to drought and lack of knowledge.  I was told they like acidic soil so I bought eight bales of pine straw (I have kind friends with trucks and that was before I got the bright idea to ask my neighbor if I could assist him by raking up the pine needles under his tree).  But before surrounding the azaleas with the straw, I put down cardboard.  That’s one of the most helpful tips I’ve ever learned from my nephew, Jason, who is an organic farmer.  The cardboard kills the weeds and grass and holds in the moisture after a rain.  I placed the straw over the cardboard and defined the bed boundaries with my rocks.  Now when I see grass or weeds growing up through the straw I know there’s space between the cardboard pieces or the cardboard has disintegrated and a new piece needs to replace it.  This is a great time saver since pulling weeds is not my idea of fun in the sun.

The addition of the azalea beds with the river rocks surrounding them added warmth and grounding to the exterior of our home.  And since we live on sloped property, the rocks hold my mulch in place (a discovery I found across my driveway after a pouring rain).  But I think the next rocks I collect will be smaller!

GardeningKaren Shaw