This client wanted a way for their two kids to access the inner depths of the garden; they didn't want parts of the garden to be "off-limits." So we brought in the largest limestone boulders we could find, making sure to choose ones that had relatively flat top surfaces. The kids love to run through the plants and scamper over the boulders--their mom tells me she brings them lunch out there, too!
Love to container garden? Add some small river rock or gravel on the soil surface to finish off the planting and provide a professional, artistic look. This type of treatment is perfect for containers with succulents, cacti, agaves, yuccas--any plant that needs to drain well and not hold moisture in at the base of the plants. I find these materials at nurseries, rockyards, garden shops and craft stores in the flower arranging area.
These clients had a front yard that dropped six feet over 30 feet from the house to the curb! We solved it by constructing a rolled steel planter up by the house and then creating two raised, terraced beds using 2-3" thick 'Autumn blend' sandstone. We used hidden mortar joints so it appears the sandstone is simply stacked--the client did not want to see mortar on the outside of the wall. We finished it off with flowering perennials and an agave as a focal point. The clients love this side of their yard and are now planning with us to complete the other side!
Now, once you've decided you want--or need!--some rock to either address a problem in your landscape or simply add some organic beauty to it, add some creativity in to that retaining wall or pathway! Of course, this depends upon the overall style of your house and garden. But if you're open to some artistic interpretations and methods, check out these examples below: