Gardenseeker

How to Build a Rockery - Building a rock garden in easy stages. 

Rock Gardens are great for creating interest in many parts of the garden. However, your rockery is best suited near to the house or patio - unless you are an avid 'visitor' to your own garden. The reason being, that the plants which make your rock garden a success, are usually small, dainty little alpines, and do not normally create the 'wash' of colour that looks good from a distance!

 Together with this, Rockeries need to be kept under observation, for weeds can soon take hold, and if they are allowed to become established in your rockery, are very difficult to remove without damage to your choice plants.

The plants that are normally planted - and grow well - in rockeries, are those which are happy in dry areas.

Alpines or Alpine plants is the name often given to this group of plants. The plants used are not always true Alpines, and any slow or low growing plant will normally be ok - providing that it is suitable for dry conditions.

Rock on mountainside - covered with moss

The site

A sunny, well-drained spot is best. However, if the area is not well-drained, then the building of a raised or sloping rockery will solve the problem.  Before you start anything, make sure that the area is free of weeds. If it is not, then apply Roundup or some other weedkiller containing glyphosate to the area and allow three weeks for all of the weeds to be killed off before you start. Do not use any other type of weedkiller unless you know exactly what you are using!!!!

If the area is flat, then you can raise the rockery bed - either by using railway sleepers, or old bricks (new ones if they are going to be hidden!) and outline the shape that you want. It would be good if you can could see the finished project from the patio or other used viewpoint.

Natural rockery in French Alps.
This is how 'Nature' builds a rockery!

 

  •  To build up the area, you can either buy in some top soil, or use old turf - placed upside down - as a base. You can also put in a base of old rubble to help with drainage. Don't use garden compost or any of the peat based potting compost. Good garden top soil is the best for a start. Add coarse sand to the soil if it is heavy or sticky. It will need to be free draining.
  • The choice of rock is important, and regardless of type, the sizes of the individual rocks will need to be in scale with the overall project. Avoid the regular shaped football size and rounded rocks which are often seen in the large wire crates at garden centres. We are talking a 'Natural Effect' rockery here!!
  • Flat - rough shaped rocks are the best. You can start off by forming an irregular shaped base line of the largest rocks. Make sure that you leave gaps in your 'wall' to allow space for planting after the rockery is finished.  Try to keep all of the 'grain' going roughly the same way. DON'T JUST STICK THEM ON END! Lay them flat, and if necessary dig out a scoop of soil under each rock to sink to rockery stone into the ground. This will create the best realistic effect.  You can then place more soil onto the area, and don't be afraid to half cover some of the rocks that you have already positioned.
  • Now - depending on the size and height that you wish the rockery to be when finished - you can place further rocks - smaller ones now - onto the next level, again putting more soil over to increase the height in stages. Don't make the slope too steep, as this cab cause a mini land-slide in heavy rain. Make plenty of pockets for planting, by spacing the rocks carefully, and don't be afraid of 'losing' some of the rock under the soil. It happens in nature - and helps to create a realistic effect.
  • At each stage, stand back and have a good look - from nearby and also from a distant viewpoint. Try to visualise what you are aiming for, and make sure that each stage falls into place with your end goal.
  • Don't use different types of rockery stone.
  • Don't use plastic windmills.
  • Think carefully about that concrete frog or tortoise!!!!
  • Don't paint the rocks.
  • Don't put gravel or crushed slate on it until you have done the planting!

How choose plants for your rockery follows soon 

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com 

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