Rock Placing: Setting the Stage

Here giant stairs are easily managed by a rock placing truck. I used these as immense stepping stones to cross the bed that surrounds the deck and patio. They match the stairs installed elsewhere on the property.

Here giant stairs are easily managed by a rock placing truck. I used these as immense stepping stones to cross the bed that surrounds the deck and patio. They match the stairs installed elsewhere on the property.

Rock placing is a key and early element in constructing a landscape.  First is remove eyesores/trash, second is to do major earth moving and tree removals, and then we get to the rock placement.

www.alantowerphoto.com Spokane photographer Alan Tower. Rock placing truck removing a rose shrub.

Here the rock placing truck is removing a thorny old rose in one swift motion. That saves time and money to get the most out of the tools on the job site.

This can be done with a variety of tools, but none more impressive than the big rock placing trucks.  They can pivot the rocks and set them with precision.  The power of the machine comes at the cost of weight.  The truck is heavy and can’t go on steep, wet, or fragile (such as septic drain field) terrain.  But when there is modestly level ground that is firm with access for the truck, it is the fastest way to place large boulders, staircases and more.  They can also extract shrubs in the process, such as getting rid of an old thorny rose bush in one grab.

The excavator can also place rocks and can reach tricky areas that the trucks can't.

The excavator can also place rocks and can reach tricky areas that the trucks can’t.

Excavators are more versatile and can access more places, and can handle fairly large boulders, but they are slower and have more trouble with fine tuning a placement since they don’t have a twisting motion.  But lots can be done with these.  In fact, we have had to place boulders using a piggy back fork lift machine…it rides in attached to the back of the semi and then can move one rock at a time with its forks.  This is the least destructive but also least capable method, and the company offering the service grumbles if asked to do it.  But we find ways to make customers happy and for projects to move forward.

I’m not a big believer in meteor storms.  Rock placing is a great step in the landscape, but the plants are King.  Queen.  Prince.  The rocks are at best an Earl.  When rocks totally dominate and there are many more than found in any neighbor’s yard or in the native terrain, they are typically out of place.  If they are placed vertically, that’s an oddity and rare in nature.  To do more than one that way, it is akin to wearing bright green and bright pink sunglasses, 2 pairs at once.  Just because you can does not make it a good idea.  The meteor storm yard is much like the keystone yard a few decades ago when people installed retaining walls and blocks without any cause just because they were popular.  Those landscapes are dated now, just as the meteor storm will look dated as the fad passes.  The meteor storm became popular because the rock placing trucks made it possible to add huge numbers and sizes of boulders with ease.

Done well, rock placing can really help a garden, however.  Once the bed shown at left is planted, the large boulder with the birdbath boulder beside it will really add to the bed.  The plants will be the main attraction, but these features will provide an anchor and a point of interest.

www.alantowerphoto.com Alan Tower Spokane Photographer Photo of patio with surrounding bed with the rock retaining wall and boulders placed, including a bird bath rock.

This patio will have a large birdbath as well as a large boulder in the beds. The plants will star, but the rocks will add a great dimension of interest.