The Midwest experiences a range of seasons throughout the year. By the time the summer and fall comes around, the outdoor landscape has gone through substantial weathering due to temperature and precipitation. If a property was built on a foundation like clay, the grass may be under water during rainy parts of the year, or the substantial rain we just had. Deciding on weather to use wood mulch or stone for landscaping largely depends on the goals for the end result and the nature of the property.
Typically, mulch bark is useful for the health and stability of flowerbeds, while stone can be a nice cosmetic for walkways. However, landscaping goals aren't always that cut and dry, so to speak. Budget will play a factor in the choice between stone and mulch, as well as environmental factors such as direct sunlight.
Stone costs are much higher than mulch. The landscape can be a diverse mixture of the two choices. While both are effective at controlling weeds, mulch bark will also help to regulate the soil temperature and maintain flower beds throughout the years season changes. Stones may require slightly less maintenance, especially if a weed cloth is used underneath them to keep from sinking down - as in the case of a walkway with regular pressure from traffic.
Mulch requires more regular reapplication, as well as at least 3'' in depth. Again, mulch bark serves a relevant purpose in the case of plant growth and soil nutrients. Although, if the landscape is subject to a heavy collection of water, as mentioned above, this issue may be better controlled with stones. Both choices offer a pleasant aesthetic, even when used in conjunction with one another.
In terms of aesthetics, some parts of the landscape may be more presentable with a garnishment of colorful stones. Mulch does not offer as wide a variety of colors as stone. The size of stones, rocks, and boulders also varies much greater than mulch. Plants like trees and large shrubs can handle either mulch bark or stone, unlike herbs and flowers which are more temperamental to the condition of the soil.
When purchasing anything, consumers commonly like to window show and explore their options. Googling images of beautiful landscaping is a great way to get inspiration for how to present the yard. Once ideas begin to develop for the look of the landscape, factoring in the transport and delivery logistics of the environment will help get a feel for what is necessary. A combination of what is practical for the property, along with what is pleasing to the eye, will aid in deciding between stone or mulch.