We can all agree that a rock garden holds a certain charm and serene sophistication. This is because a lot of designing goes into arranging one. Also known as a rockery, a rock garden is a small field of ground designed to feature a variety of rocks, stones and boulders. A standard rock garden consists of a pile of arranged rocks in different sizes with small gaps where plants are rooted. These plants are usually small and don't grow larger than a meter in height. The most popular type of rock gardens is a Japanese rock garden, commonly known as a Zen garden, and it includes special water features, moss, pruned trees, bushes and a few plants. The plants used in rock gardens are usually ones that flourish in well-drained, poorly irrigated soil, and below are some of the best types of plants for a rock garden.
Euphorbia: This plant thrives in frost-free regions and comes in a wide selection of shapes, sizes and colors. They are heat and drought resistant, and have shallow root systems which allow you to tuck them into the tight spots between rocks and boulders. Euphorbias thrive in full sun exposure.
Rock Cress: Also called arabis, rock cress gets its name from the fact that it thrives in the thin ribbon of soil wedged between boulders. It grows 4-6 inches tall and produces masses of pink or white flowers in the spring, and tolerates heat and drought well. Rock cress thrives in full and partial sun exposure.
Sedum: This plant comes in a variety of colors and shapes, and quickly take root in sunny, rocky locations. Most varieties produce nectar-rich, white, pink, or mauve flower heads in the summer and fall, and lure colorful butterflies to your garden. They are often sold in mixed
tiles you can cut up and tuck into any space you have, and they thrive in full sun exposure.
Candytuft: This plant is a reliable spring bloomer and produces a stunning carpet of snow-white flowers on bright evergreen foliage. When the flowers mature, they fade to light pink, which gives then a second show of color. Candytuft is easy to maintain, grows 6 inches tall and can spread 16 inches wide. It's also drought-resistant and thrives in full sun exposure.
Thrift: Also known as sea pink, and originally grown wild on ocean-side cliffs, this plant tolerates salt spray, heat and extreme winds. It has grasslike foliage and pink or white blooms in the spring, and prefers poor soil. It thrives in full sun exposure.
Having a rock garden is more about having the right tools than green fingers. By finding a site and following a few steps, you too can own one. Following these easy steps will get you well on your way.
Choosing the site: When choosing a site for your rock garden, always consider the details of the microclimate. Aim to use the most open position, away from overhanging trees or tree roots, where plants will receive sun for the greater part of the day. Choose a position where the drainage is perfect, unless you are prepared to build raised beds or enhance drainage in other ways.
Preparation: Sketch a plan of the proposed rock garden, bearing in mind the gradient, underground pipework, the amount of shade and how you might best view it. Consider using the help of a professional to get the best results.
Materials: Rock gardens are quite an investment in hard materials such as rock, stone, and gravel or slate. Choose local stone if possible, it will look in keeping with the surroundings and it's easier to choose the most suitable pieces from the quarry or landscape merchant. Or buy salvaged or second hand natural stone. Sandstone is an example of a suitable rock that's widely available and doesn't have too much alkaline. Also, choose stones in a range of sizes to create a balanced effect.
Preparing soil for your rock garden consists of creating three separate layers that promote good drainage and a healthy foundation for your rock garden plants. The first layer is the rock garden's foundation and creates excellent drainage for the plants. This layer is simple and consists of large chunks such as old concrete pieces, rocks or chunks of broken bricks. This layer should be at least 8 to 12 inches thick. The second layer should consist of coarse, sharp sand. Horticultural-grade sand is best because it is clean and free of salts that may harm plant roots. This layer should be about three inches. The uppermost layer is a soil mix that supports healthy plant roots. A good rock garden soil mixture consists of equal parts good quality topsoil, fine pebbles or gravel and peat moss or leaf mold. You can add a small amount of compost or manure, but use organic materials sparingly.
Once planted, a rock garden require very little maintenance. The following tips will help you get the most out of yours, and make maintaining it a walk in the park:
A rock garden thrives when there is no shady tree near it, as it needs plenty of good light and air.
Remove weeds regularly, especially during the rainy season. In dry seasons, water the plants well.
Heavy rains may expose roots. When this happens, pack new soil around the plants' rocks. Place each stone inwards so the water soaks back into the soil, and whichever soul you use, let it settle several days before planting.
When plants show signs of insect infestation, spray the insecticide recommended by your local garden supply shop. Do this after each rain, applying to undersides and tops of the leaves.
For tons of rock garden inspiration, browse through homify to get a good fix of the best.