Landscaping Essential Elements: Rock, Wood, and Metal

Landscaping is an art that goes beyond simple assemblages of plants: it’s about the creation of a beautiful outdoor space that is maximally accessible. Accordingly there are several non-plant elements that are needed to complete a landscape design.

Rock  Rock

Of all inorganic landscape additions, rock is perhaps the most important. It can be used to create patios, pathways, and stairways between gardens, which makes a space accessible on foot, and it can be used to create retaining walls or borders between beds, which gives a landscape a sense of logic and organisation.


Additionally, rock can be used to provide and accent or backdrop to a garden: putting organic and inorganic components in stark relief enhances the perception of either. Boulders and large stones integrated in beds or building up the borders of a pond imitate aspects of nature, while recreating them in ways that are comfortable for human management and interaction.

Wood  Wood

Integrating wood into the landscape can take the form of constructions like pergolas, trellises, arbors, benches, and treated raised beds, but it can also take more natural forms like decaying logs (which provide habitat for creatures like solitary bees), decorative chip mulch, or driftwood accents.


Constructed wooden elements help use vertical space effectively, which is normally the province of trees and high shrubs. Pergolas, trellises, and arbors provide shade, and a sense of direction within a landscape.


Natural wooden elements give a sense of wabi-sabi to a design: it is a Japanese aesthetic concept meaning a sort of perfection in imperfection, highlighting beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

Metal  Metal

Lastly, metal can add a unique and unifying elemental touch to a garden design. Durable garden ornaments are, in particular, the most common metal additions to a landscape, although wrought iron benches, arches, and fences are also means of integrating metal.
Many metals, like copper and iron, are also essential soil nutrients. As fixtures made from these materials shed or rust every year, they also deposit essential trace elements for plant growth into the soil.