Landscape designers all around the country love using different materials to create both functional and beautiful spaces. With so many to choose from it can be like trying to find something to watch on Netflix! But there is one hardscape material that always stands out like one of my favorite movies or TV shows: bluestone. What is bluestone and how can you use bluestone in your landscape design?
What Is Bluestone?
Bluestone is the go-to material for designers on many hardscape projects here in the Northeast. Why? It’s beautiful, elegant and versatile. Bluestone is a sedimentary rock composed of different variations of limestone depending on the source region.
Most of what we see in upstate New York falls under the category of Pennsylvania Bluestone. This stone is quarried in Pennsylvania, Western New Jersey, and the Catskill Mountain region of New York. The other variety is Shenandoah Bluestone and is quarried in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The primary difference between the two is their color configuration. Shenandoah Bluestone is primarily bluish-gray, and will continue to gray over time. Pennsylvania Bluestone tends to include many different colors, including blue, brown, gray, tan, and rusty tones.
Since the range of colors with all-natural bluestone is so vast, it can make for some very interesting landscape elements. These elements are seemingly endless; imagine walkways, entryways, veneer applications, patios, pool copings, stair treads, slab stairs, water features, benches, tables, stepping stones, retaining walls, etc.. Bluestone also has interior applications such as honed bluestone tiles for flooring, fireplace hearths, or even vertical stone feature walls.
How To Use Bluestone in Your Landscape
Bluestone is versatile enough to be used in both contemporary and rustic designs. Contemporary spaces focus on creating straight lines and more rigid forms, so your landscape features will mimic the clean lines of your bluestone. Bluestone can be used in its natural state or it can be ‘flamed’. Flamed bluestone undergoes a heat-treated process which removes the imperfections in the stone, resulting in a perfectly smooth and rich blue-gray color. Normally, flamed bluestone is slightly more expensive due to this process. The upside is that it provides amazing impact in the contemporary landscape.
More rustic designs generally showcase organic motion and irregularity, so your bluestone of choice will be the all-natural and rougher cut to help achieve that feeling or mood.
We believe the upsides of bluestone vastly outweigh the downsides, but there are a few things that you should consider before choosing bluestone for your landscape project. Bluestone is extremely durable in all climates, hot or cold. But in warmer climates bluestone can get rather hot to the touch due to its dark color. Therefore, it is not recommended for use in pool patios in southern regions. Walking on bluetone with bare feet could prove to be rather uncomfortable.
As if it didn’t already potentially burn you, the cost point of this beautiful stone usually comes as a surprise. Natural stone is typically more expensive up front due to the time and labor needed to quarry, process, pack and ship the material. However, locally quarried stone in the northeast is cheaper than other stone options from other regions or imported. Manmade options like brick or concrete are less expensive up front but may require more maintenance. Many clients deem the beauty of bluestone is worth paying the extra money as it takes their landscape to the next level.