In simple terms, a rockery is an arrangement of rocks and alpine plants. Rockeries are focal points in the landscape, which are generally created to take advantage of an area with a natural slope or terraces. Rockery gardens certainly have a special beauty. They are very natural and are characterized by making stones their essential element. Rockery gardens are a great way to display small plants, especially alpine ones. It is not that difficult to get the right conditions and create an attractive garden style, using rocks or stones to highlight these underused plants.
A rock garden is suitable for any space
A rock garden can provide diverse habitats even in a very small area. A rock can be perfectly placed for sun-loving plants to make the most of their sunny face. While shade tolerant plants can nest in their north facing shade. Alpine plants originate in high altitude regions. However, rock plants not only encompass alpine ones, but also include smaller shrubs and perennials which, due to their modest stature, also look good in a rockery garden.
Gathering plants with similar requirements and setting them up in a well-designed rock garden, sure takes time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it. It is worth mentioning that it is not necessary to have a large garden, since it is possible to incorporate a rockery garden in all plot sizes. As we already mentioned, a rock garden can be loosely defined as any garden in which genuine mineral stone is naturally used as an essential visible component of the garden design. Stone is meant to be seen and appreciated in the same way as plants, not just as a hardwood building material.
However, a good rockery is not made by simply gathering rocks, soil, and plants together. Each component should be carefully selected and then placed with equal care in a way that makes the garden look natural for the style that is chosen. In other words, the garden must strive to emulate the natural geology and topography of a specific region. Japanese rock gardens, for example, are generally designed to emulate the look of the mountainous regions of Japan, using plants indigenous to that region. Read on to take into account some tips and create your rockery easy to maintain and with an attractive and natural style.
Where to start looking for affordable stones
A large rock garden may be an expensive proposition, so it makes sense to look for affordable stones. At first glance, a local quarry, stone patio, or large landscaping company is the right place to start your search. Landscaping stone usually sells by the ton, with shipping charges added of course, so you can quickly calculate how much your rockery will cost. Although, you will most likely find that the indigenous stone common in your region is the most affordable.
Of course, if you own a truck, you can save the cost of shipping. However, before spending money on stone, you can also consider free rocks. Local home construction sites or other excavations can unearth a large number of stones, which may be free to grab. If you live near agricultural areas, farmers who routinely plow stones will generally be happy to have someone take them for free.
Choose the Right Rocks
In general, it is preferable to choose rocks that are indigenous or naturally found in the region for a rockery. The use of stone that is commonly found in your area or locality will make your garden an extension of the natural landscape of your region. Certainly, most regions have certain types of rocks that are the most common. In addition to making rock gardens look more natural, there is another great advantage to using native stone. Rock is a very heavy building material, so shipping costs are very high.
Of course, this is not to say that you cannot build a rock garden with non-native stones. On the other hand, because a weathered look is generally preferable in rockery gardens, softer, porous rock is often a better choice than harder rock. Harder rocks take longer to achieve the weathered look you want in rock gardens because they are less receptive to moss and lichen growth. So promoting rock erosion will give the garden a much more natural look, by giving the appearance as if the rocks have always been there.
Consider the style and layout of your rockery
A rockery design can take many forms. Today, the goal is often to create a garden that resembles a native landscape, but a variety of themed rock gardens can also be created. For example, you will hear the terms alpine gardens and zen gardens used in relation to rock gardens. Zen or Japanese rock gardens provide a space for reflection and contemplation. His approach tends to be minimalist, making as strong a statement as possible with the fewest number of components.
In typical Zen rock gardens, for example, a few carefully placed rocks can form a focal point, highlighted by a large expanse of small rocks or sand that serves as mulch. In the West, interest in rock gardening began in the United Kingdom. British travelers to the Swiss Alps were fascinated by the alpine plants they found there and brought some to try to grow them at home. That is why to this day, rock gardens are sometimes referred to as alpine gardens.
Although what a rock garden can be has now expanded, rock gardening in the West traditionally means growing mountain plants and other low-growing plants that can withstand the kind of winter cold that true alpine plants are subjected to. . So decide in advance if you want one of these time-honored classic rock gardens or if you prefer a rock garden inspired by the geology of your own region.
Use the Right Construction Tools
For DIYers, building a rockery is one of the most physically challenging tasks you can undertake. A rock 30 centimeters in diameter can easily weigh 20 kilos. So there may be many, many kilos of stone that must be moved and placed to build a rockery. Since moving rocks can be dangerous for those with back problems, it can even induce back problems, start by buying a back support. Of course, to move the rocks of course, the option of bringing electrical equipment or winches or hiring a contractor.
But if you want to do the hard work yourself, then consider the following tools. A 5- to 6-foot steel bar provides better leverage than a simple pry bar. A two-wheel dolly is also preferable to a wheelbarrow. A vertical dolly has a vertical bottom platform that can generally be easily slid under moderately large stones for movement. You will also need the normal variety of earth moving tools such as shovels, rakes, and a wheelbarrow.
Strive for the placement of the stones
The way that you place the stones in the rock garden is very important to achieve a realistic and pleasant rock garden. To achieve the look of a natural rock, each stone must appear firmly anchored. Each stone should also appear as if it is connected to its immediate neighbors, separated only by the crevices in which you will be growing the plants. As in the natural world, stay away from restricted stone patterns and any overly uniform distribution. Try to have a massive grouping of stones here, a smaller grouping there, and mulched areas in between. Keep in mind that the arrangement is essential to achieve the look of natural stones. The stones in rock gardens should relate to each other as if they formed an exposed bedrock.
Create an Aged Look
As already mentioned, rock gardens are more aesthetically pleasing if the exposed rock walls look worn. The weathered look is most easily achieved by encouraging moss or lichen growth on rock faces. Moss is fairly easy to establish on new rock. Start by harvesting some patches of moss that you find growing elsewhere. You can even use moss that grows on the ground in a shady area of your own lawn.
A very easy trick is to add about two tablespoons of ground moss to two cups of yogurt and about 110 grams of potter’s clay. Make a creamy puree with the moss, yogurt, and clay and then apply this moss mixture to the surface of the rocks. As the rock moss takes hold, spray it to keep it moist. In a matter of a few weeks, you will have rocks that appear to have been in place for decades.
Another way to create a natural, weathered look is to encourage lichen growth on the stones. Lichens are composite organisms made up of two or three individual organisms that exist in a symbiotic relationship. When growing on rocks or trees, lichens appear as rough, colored patches. Lichens are important in rock gardens because they do not depend on a constant supply of water. Lichens survive alternate drying and wetting of their tissues, which gives them an advantage in colonizing harsh environments.
Like mosses, lichens growing on rocks give rockeries the much-desired weathered look. Getting lichens to start on the stones in your rock garden is a similar process to encouraging moss. You can fill a spray bottle with milk, then collect about two teaspoons of lichens from an environment similar to your garden. Most lichens prefer humid, shady conditions, but there are also some forms that grow well in sunnier locations. Grind up the lichen flakes, add them to the spray bottle, and shake gently to mix. Then spray the stone surfaces with the milk solution until the liquid runs. You may need to reapply this mixture once a week for several weeks until active growth begins.
Create the Right Soil
Once the rocks have been put in place to form the basis of your rockery design, you should prepare the soil before planting. Rock garden construction typically involves creating an artificial slope or elevation, so it is common to add prepared soil rather than using existing garden soil. Of course, creating the right soil goes hand in hand with plant selection. If you are planning a classic alpine rock garden with plants in keeping with that style, a rather porous rocky soil would be most appropriate.
A rock garden with succulents and cacti, on the other hand, will require sandy soil, perhaps even a commercially prepared cactus potting mix. Keep in mind that in nature, most plants that grow between rocks prefer well-drained soil. So, as a general rule of thumb, you will want to mix sand into the soil where you plan to plant. However, it’s best to know the particular requirements of the plants you select and base your soil preparation on that. Most traditional garden plants, when grown in rockery gardens, will do quite well with good quality soil mixed with peat, compost, or other organic amendment.
Choose the Right Plants
If you want a natural native look for your rockery, then pay attention to the types of plants that grow naturally in the rocky areas of your region. If your desire is a themed garden, such as an alpine, desert, or Zen rockery, choose your plants accordingly, based on examples that you find appealing. But in general, rock garden plants require little maintenance. Rock garden plants that are used to supplement rocks should be selected largely with climate and other practical considerations in mind.
This will certainly help keep them low maintenance. Well, rock gardens in hot climates require different plants than those used in colder climates. If you live high up, you might want to consider a classic alpine rock garden. If you live in the desert, then cacti and other succulents are the best option. When the weather is hot and humid, ferns can be a great option, as can begonias, if you want a flowering plant.
As we already mentioned, the selection of plants goes hand in hand with the preparation of the soil. You must consider the pH preferences of your plants. Choosing an individual plant may prefer acidic or alkaline soil, and it is difficult to mix acidic soil-loving plants with those that prefer alkaline conditions. Remember to also consider whether the garden is a sunny or shady space. That will also have a great influence on the plants you select. Uniformity in size or distribution seems unnatural in rock garden design. Rock gardens are usually quite natural looking informal plant arrangements, not a place for formal symmetry or straight lines.