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“When it snows you have two options-shovel or make snow angels” — Unknown

Since we are all hibernating during this severely cold weather, some of us are dreaming about what we can do to improve our landscapes this summer. Using rocks and boulders is a coming trend, though I have been using them for years.

Boulders add interest and can be a backdrop for shrubs and plants. Unfortunately, boulders can weigh 100 to 1,000 pounds. Do your planning ahead of time so you know where you want to place them because it is almost impossible to move them. A boulder should be placed with about one-third of its structure buried in the ground to give it a more natural look. Dig before you buy. A natural look when placing boulders is to group them in threes or more. Any other odd numbers look good. It is the same principle as placing plants and shrubs.

Rocks are ageless and make a statement, so pick different shapes and textures so they look like they have been there forever. Vertical shapes add a geometrical element and be used as a focal point.

You can also use boulders for fire pits, benches or planters. If you have a pond, rocks and boulders are a must.

We are lucky in Sauk County to have our beautiful “Pink Lady” quartzite. These rocks are beautiful but extremely heavy. You can also use smaller rocks for rock gardens. Place them on a mound of soil and fill in between the rocks with soil so you can plant. Succulents are a great plant for rock gardens. They can be ground covers or upright plants. Rock gardens tend to dry out faster but succulents do not need much water and there are so many different varieties that your garden could never be boring.

There are a lot of small landscape shrubs on the market that would look great near boulders. Remember to look for height, width and zone, 4B is best, on all labels. Climate change has affected our zone, but I personally still buy zone 4B plants, especially if they are expensive, so I am sure they will survive the winter. If you have a sheltered area, zone 5 is OK.

I like to collect stray rocks that I find along roads. I try to avoid sandstone because it does not hold up well. Hot Rod Henry and I used to do a lot of camping with our eight children, and if you have ever watched the movie “The Long, Long Trailer” with Lucy and Desi, you may remember Lucy collecting rocks. Well, that was me. I relate, and so does Henry, because he had to find a place for them in the camper and station wagon. Needless to say, he wouldn’t let me collect all I wanted or we would’ve had to leave a few kids behind. Believe it or not, I still have most of those rocks. They have been hauled here from our previous life in the flatlands 20 years ago.

Use your imagination in designing with boulders and rocks and be rewarded with a unique landscape. Start saving with a goal in mind and patronize your local nurseries and landscapers for advice. They will deliver and place your boulders where you want them.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.