|Find the perfect
Before you build a rockery,
itís important to find the perfect location for your plants to thrive.
Alpine plants don't require a lot of water, but they do require maximum
You need several large rocks to serve as anchors for your rockery.
Collect the rocks yourself, or purchase them from a rock dealer, quarry,
or landscape company.
recycle and use unwanted bricks,
tiles and paving slabs.
If possible, use interestingly
shaped rocks that are native to your area. Rocks with lichens
add texture and color.
Once you have your large rocks, you
can plan your rockery. Rockery garden design can be tricky, but the job
is easier if you outline a plan on paper first. Be sure to take rock
size into consideration, and then draw plants proportionately. A rockery
should look like a natural, organic part of the landscape.
When youíve designed a basic
garden plan, purchase plants from a greenhouse or from a nursery that
specializes in Alpine plants.
Alpines grow best on mountainous
slopes where thereís plenty of light and good drainage.
rockeries continue to grow and
change, looking more and more natural. Take a little time to perfect
Use a variety of smaller rocks to
complement your larger ones. One of the principle rules of rock gardens
is rock variety. Pick out stones and pebbles that will complement the
larger rocks they are to surround.
Take into account your color
combinations. Mix darker pebbles and stones into the areas near your
lighter large rocks and boulders. If certain sections are feeling like
they might be too dark, find another small, light-colored rock that has
a different texture from the larger rock. Lava rock makes for a great
filler between larger light-colored rocks. It drains well.
Springís the perfect time to fill
your rockery with plants that have an entire season to settle in before
winter. Where you place the plants depends on their specific needs
Donít plant water-loving plants
alongside drought-tolerant plants.
Place the plants into your garden
Once youíve worked out the placement, gently tease out plants, and
place them in the planting pockets you made in the rocks. Take care to
firm the soil over the roots.
Put plants that need more
care in easier-to-access spaces. The succulents and hardy wildflowers that
don't need maintenance will be better on slopes or hard-to-access parts of
A Few Suggested
Ground Cover and Accent
Plants for Rockeries
- Check your USDA
hardiness zone map for the plants that will thrive in your area.
Festucca - All varieties of
this ornamental grass is pretty in the rockery.
Snow In Summer -
Short, creeping and evergreen, smothered in white flowers all
summer. Interesting, fuzzy gray-green foliage.
You can also plant a few dwarf conifers,
like cedar, juniper or pine, which add year-round color to your
Blue" is beautiful in a rockery. I grow it everywhere, including
raised beds and pots. They make 12 inch tall mounded, fluffy and
non-spreading plants that add interest to the garden as focal points here
and there, and as a contrast to flowering plants. They are evergreen, so
your rockery will not be naked in the winter. The wheat-like stalks add
interest for months, if you leave them on the plant. The blue-green grass
sets off cool colors like pinks, whites and blues.
Although rockeries are
often located in full sunlight, you can build your rockery in partial
shade. Select plants accordingly and consider the growing needs for each
Pebbles work great for
making paths and preventing weeds from sprouting
water-loving plants alongside drought-tolerant plants.
Build a rockery at any
time of year: aim for a few days after some heavy rainfall so that the
soil is easier to manipulate.
For each flower bed,
create a pebble base of about 1 inch covered with sand that is about
2 to 3 in. thick. Top the base with soil and topsoil suitable
to the plants you have selected.
Preparing the site:
Before you build a rockery,
itís important to remove any existing weeds from the site because they
can destabilize the structure. Cover the
area with landscape fabric to prevent future weeds from growing through
and to keep soil in place.
Place your rocks before
anything else. Since the rocks are the hardest to adjust in a rockery
garden, you want to get them right at the very beginning of your plan. Dig
out some of the earth for big rocks to nestle into if they aren't
Local rocks are best for
your rockery because they will look the most natural. They can often
be sourced from a reclamation yard or quarry. Below is a vertical rockery
Begin with the largest
rocks and place them so that they build to a peak, like a mountain. Face
the rocks in a variety of directions.
The large rocks can be
stabilized with smaller rocks, set by adding a layer of weed-free topsoil.
Bury your rocks and be sure each rock is buried to a soil depth of at
least one-third to keep the rock securely in place.
Space out your larger rocks and boulders,
leaving room for smaller collections between. Avoid clumping the bigger
rocks in one place, leaving the smaller ones to a side of their own.
Once youíve placed all
the larger rocks, itís time to build up the shape. Use small rocks and
continue to layer with topsoil as you go. Then, arrange the smallest rocks
in a horseshoe shape. This creates planting pockets.
Once the large rocks are
in place, arrange plants and smaller rocks. Set the plants around the
rocks. Experiment and rearrange until you like the looks of the rockery,
then secure the rocks and plant your plants.
Finish by surrounding the
plants and rocks with a layer of decorative gravel, small river rock or
pebbles, or a combination of all types of small rocks.
this page to read a vintage little 1912 book
about creating authentic rock gardens.