Steeply sloped areas don’t have to be ‘trouble spots.’ Hillsides can be turned into gorgeous rock gardens. Here are some tips.
Gardening on a hillside is a wonderful and rare opportunity. Yes, it does present a few challenges, particularly with installation, but there are so many benefits. Immediately, you have contour, and this is a game changer. The movement of land provides interest before you even buy your first plant. Then, after you’ve planted, your plants seem to own the landscape. Woodies defy the pull of gravity and stretch upwards while perennials hug the ground in mats, clump up in the protective spaces between rocks, or revel in the slopes and tumble freely.
Traditionally, planting of berms and hillsides has been the stuff of rock gardens, and basically that’s what we’re doing here. To prevent erosion, we need to use the devices rock gardeners have used all along. Tiers of rocks (or some other materials) set into the hillside at a slight upward angle that break the slope into terraces, gravel or hardwood mulch, and thick plantings will all work together to prevent a heavy rain from washing away your hard work.
You can amend the soil with compost before you plant. If you have very heavy clay, it is recommended.
It is not absolutely essential, though. Do not amend your clay soil with sand. Where we’ll differ here from many rock gardens is that we have little interest in solely using true alpine plants. In the heat and humidity of the Midwest, we’re totally willing to rely simply on plants that look right and will live.
Be sure to include some woody plants for structure. Mixing up textures, forms and foliage colors will always provide more interest. You can play homage to the color wheel, but I have found that if you go easy on extreme colors and are generous with white, most of the plants play well together. Mainly, try things and have fun!
Some traditional rock garden plants such as Dalmation bellflower ( Campanula portenschlagiana ) actually grow surprisingly we ll in the Midwest landscape, if given the good drainage a hillside provides.
Lady finger ( Anthyllis montana rubra ) is another true alpine with a surreal flower that grows well if given good drainage. Aurinia sa xatilis , Arabis alpina and so me dianthus species will do well and deliver some exceptional beauty.
(From State-by-State Gardening March/April 2012. Photography by Scott Beuerlein.)
- How to Build a Rock Garden
- Choose Plants by USDA Zone
- Shopping for the Best Plants
- Nature as Your Guide
- Plants For Rock Gardens
- Flowerbeds, lawns & rock gardens
- What is a Rock Garden?
- Some Basics
- The Bottom Line
How to Build a Rock Garden
Arranging the design of your rock garden will take some patience. Carrying heavy rocks to your garden plot might be more than a one-person job, so ask a friend to help before breaking your back. Also, don’t be discouraged if the plants you select for your garden don’t thrive there. Finding the flowers and plants that grow the best in the foundation you’ve created takes some experimenting.
Step Five: Rock out. Ideally, you could use rocks found naturally on your land for constructing your rock garden. But there aren’t always a lot of rocks available in your backyard, so you may want to check out a home improvement store that carries landscaping rocks. Choose rocks that will blend in with your lawn. Experts recommend getting one variety of rock in many different sizes . Arrange them by scattering them in a natural-looking setting.
For larger, boulder-size rocks, it’s important to dig them into the ground at least a third of the way. This makes them look as though Mother Nature put them there and you didn’t just drop them on your garden plot . Moving these boulders to the garden will take some heavy lifting. One expert suggests hoisting them on a platform over several roller poles. As you move the boulder forward, take the back roller and move it to the front .
Step Six: Let it be. Before you jump into planting flowers, let the garden settle for a while. Chances are, after a few weeks, the soil will have fallen a bit. When this happens, fill with the leftover mix of soil you made in step four.
Step Seven: Plant flowers. Like we mentioned above, picking the most successful rock garden flowers for your climate and garden might take some experimenting. Begin by planting only a scattering of a few flowers. As this first batch grows, observe how they do and how the garden looks as a whole. Later, you can always move the flowers to a new location in the garden and add more as you see fit.
Step Eight: Enjoy! Rock gardens are very low-maintenance, but you should be on the lookout for weeds. As soon as they appear, make sure to pull them out by hand. Weed killers might be too harsh on the rock garden flowers.
If you’re even more ambitious, you may want to try your hand at building a traditional Zen garden, also known as a Japanese garden. Although they may look simple, traditional Zen gardens are very carefully planned gardens and can be deceptively high-maintenance. Every element of this kind of garden is symbolic, including the characteristic raked lines of sand, which symbolize water. They are primarily meant for meditation and ultimately should evoke a calming atmosphere. Their inherent appeal has led to Westernized, do-it-yourself versions that are simplified, smaller and much easier to maintain, though not as highly symbolic.
Looking for even more dirt on landscaping? Explore the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
Whether in the mountains or in the plains, traditional rock gardens are generally dry and exposed, with quick draining medium for planting in between the rocks. Rocks absorb heat from the sun and hold it in. Many people have rock gardens for a respite from gardening chores like frequent mowing and deadheading. Plants are selected for their tolerance to drought and heat, in addition to their perennial nature and ease of maintenance.
Choose Plants by USDA Zone
The most important thing to know when choosing plants is your garden zone. If you live in the southwest you may be more familiar with the Sunset Garden zones than the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) zones. Use a conversion chart to help you determine your zone.
Zones 2 – 10
Douglas Moss Phlox – Phlox Douglasii
These vigorous, spring-flowering plants are perfect for zone 2-9 and forms mounds of narrow, needle-like leaves dark green in color. In a rock garden with many plants with silver gray foliage, the little mounds of dark green offer a nice contrast. In late spring, the plants are completely covered with flowers in pink, purple or mauve. Even a white-flowered variety is available.
With high disease resistance, this repeat performer is practically maintenance-free but a good clipping right after the flowering will keep the mounds thick and shapely. Phlox looks lovely positioned just behind a rock in a sloping garden where it can trail downwards.
Yellow Alpine Alyssum – Alyssum Serpyllifolium
This star of rock gardens thrives in zones 5-9 and has silver-gray leaves and soft yellow flowers. It does well in even very poor soil. Drought resistance makes this shrub ideal for dry and sunny locations. The long flower show in spring adds fragrance to the air. Plants are easy to maintain, as they do not require pruning. Since it has a low and trailing habit, it is best kept to the front of the flower bed where it will happily fill in any empty space.
Rock Cress – Aubrieta Sp.
As the name suggests, these carpet-forming, cascading evergreens are a great addition to any rock garden. Although they do well in sunny locations throughout zones 4-9, they need some amount of moisture to survive. Their cascading habit helps soften the sharp edges of the rocks, contrasting well with mound-forming plants. Free-flowering in spring, in colors ranging from blue and lavender to pink, deep red, and magenta, this is one plant sure to fit into your garden’s color scheme.
Coral Bells – Heuchera Sanguinea
These plants with colorful leaves are grown more for their foliage than the flowers. In the rock garden, the coral bells’s striking variegations and pink and purple leaves add a splash of color even when the plant is not in flower. These dainty little plants do best in part sun in zones 3-8, and because of their striking foliage should be located in a highly visible location.
Sea Holly – Eryngium Varifolium
Sea hollies, comfortable in zones 4-9, are named so because of their tolerance to salt spray They take a lot of neglect and do well in hot and dry areas with poor soil adding interesting texture and height to the plantings. The large, branching flower stalks are long-lasting. Their strange beauty is more due to their form than flower color, and they provide incentive for butterflies to visit the rock garden too.
Adams’ Needle Yucca – Yucca Whipplei/Filamentosa
The tall spikes of yuccas shoot out in summer from a crown of dark green strappy foliage, bearing little bells of creamy white color. Whether in flower or not, yuccas are a valuable addition to any rock garden in zones 4-10, if space permits. It is a plant-it-and-forget-it specimen that adds architectural beauty to the landscape. Be sure to give this one plenty of space to spread out. Most mature at two feet in width and three feet in height, making them the perfect addition to the back edge of your garden.
Hens and Chicks – Sempervium Sp.
Mainstays of most rock gardens for long, the different varieties of rosette-forming semperviums are drought and deer resistant. Once established in the rock garden, they grow in the most impossible nooks and crannies, multiplying by the dozen. They do put out flower stalks, but the flowers are nothing compared to the highlights of pink, purple, and red on leaves in shades of green and silvery gray, making them great additions for color and texture. Keep these cute little plants towards the front of the garden in zones 2-9, where you can enjoy them the most.
Blue Fescue – Festuca Glauca
This short ornamental grass makes rounded balls of narrow needle-like leaves. Its shape and the typical blue coloration make it a welcome addition in any rock garden in zones 4-8. It needs full sun to achieve its blue-gray color though. The flower stalks that appear in summer should be removed if you want the grass to retain its spherical shape. In cooler areas, the foliage may turn brown but it should be trimmed only in spring, after all danger of frost has passed.
Zones 9 – 12
Pig’s Ears – Cotyledon Orbiculata
If you live in warm areas of zone 9-12, you can enjoy these lovely plants. Their large powder-blue leaves provide a nice contrast to the narrow leaves of other rock garden plants and grasses. They cannot stand wet feet, so good drainage should be ensured. In summer, flower stalks carrying salmon-pink flowers arise from each stem, but unless the plant has formed a clump of several stems, their impact may be minimal. Bees and butterflies love them and because of their size, they should be reserved for the back edge of your garden.
Elephant Foot Palm – Beaucarnea Recurvata
This relative of yuccas is not a true palm, but does enjoy the humid temperatures of zone 10-12. Planted in a rock garden, the unusual shape of this plant will capture attention immediately. It is planted with the upper half of its swollen base exposed. Use this interesting plant for a focal point. Drought tolerant and pest-free, the elephant tree palm (also known as the pony tail palm) will not demand any special care from you but will serve as a unique conversation piece in any garden.
Prickly Pear Cactus – Opuntia Sp.
This cactus, also known as a nopal, may be used in the rock garden in zones 10-11 and is particularly well suited for lending a sculptural effect. The fruits of many varieties are edible, hence the name. The flat pads are the planting material. It is a plant-it-and-forget-it specimen, and best left alone too, as the tiny spines called glochids can be really bothersome.
Agave – Agave Parryi
Happy in zones 7-10, agaves make bold accent plants in any rock garden. The small agave varieties are better suited for home gardens. Since agaves are practically pest-free and grow well in poor soil, there’s no need to get closer to the plants once they are positioned in the garden. A single plant may produce several suckers around the original one; each sucker is a clone of the mother plant. These can be carefully taken from the main plant and transplanted in a new spot.
Shopping for the Best Plants
Follow these shopping tips to help you select the best plants:
- Know your garden, the amount of sun that reaches your yard, and the what plants will work best in your region before picking a rock garden variety.
- Research the mature size of each plant you wish to place in your garden. This will allow you to purchase and plant accordingly.
- Plants suited for rock gardens are generally dwarf varieties that are hardy and well-suited to poor soil or other harsh conditions.
Nature as Your Guide
Traditional alpine and desert type rock gardens represent the triumph of life force over the harshness of the elements of nature. Art is an imitation of nature, so the best rock garden ideas still come from natural settings. Watch how some plants squeeze into seemingly impossible crevices, while others stand tall and proud among their mostly low-growing compatriots. Besides self-contained little mounds of green, you may find vigorous specimens gleefully tumbling over the boulders, unmindful of their unyielding hardness. Take your cues from nature while selecting plants and arranging them among the rocks.
Plants For Rock Gardens
Introduction to Plants for Rock Gardens:
Rock garden plants are typically grown in very naturalistic settings among stones and rocks. Because many of these plants are native to the various mountainous regions around the world, they tend to be smaller in size and usually very hardy over the cold winter months. Here are a few of the many plants that you might choose to start off your own rock garden!
Thyme: Thyme are exceptional rock garden plants because they thrive well in low water conditions and offer fragrant leaves and colorful blooms. You can use thyme in your herb garden as well, or along borders or walkways. There are several different varieties of thyme that you can choose from.
Lemon Thyme: This shrub-like evergreen plant grows approximately 18″ tall and has leaves with a distinct lemon scent. It will bloom pink flowers during the summer months and does well with full sun light and soil that is well-drained. Lemon thyme is hardy down to 0F.
Plants for Rock Gardens – Thyme:
Orange Thyme: This perennial grows to around 8″ tall with foliage that carries a strong scent of oranges. This plant also has pink blooms during the summer and prefers to grow in full sun light with well-drained soil. Orange thyme is hardy down to -10F.
Juniper Leaf Thyme: This variety of thyme looks a lot like creeping juniper and it grows very close to the ground forming a carpet. It’s pink flowers and dull green foliage bloom in the early spring, so these make especially nice plants for rock gardens and containers. Like the other varieties of thyme, this one also thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Juniper leaf thyme is hardy down to -20F.
Wild Thyme: A very fragrant perennial, you are likely to see this variety growing in different locations. A summer bloomer, this plant will grow to about 12″ tall and produce pink or purple blooms. Wild thyme is hardy down to -20F.
Garden Thyme: One of the most commonly grown varieties in herb gardens, they also make great rock garden plants. Very bushy, growing up to around 16″ tall, this variety will produce white or purple flowers near the end of spring or the beginning of summer. This variety is a very drought resistant type and is hardy down to -10F.
Plants for Rock Gardens – Flameflowers:
Talinum: Large Fameflower: These succulents are actually natives of the US Midwest and are extremely drought tolerant. The blooms will be bright pink flowers with yellow centers and they will certainly put on a show on those hot summer afternoons. They will make excellent plants for rock gardens provided you give them a sunny location and coil that is well-drained. Fameflowers are hardy down to -10F.
Okanogan Fameflower: This tiny succulent is typically found in British Columbia and Washington State. It grows a mere 2 inches tall and produces a hoard of small white flowers during a summer bloom. This plant is generally grown in sandy soil in full sun, and you will need to protect it from the winter wetness. Fameflowers are hardy down to -10F.
Plants for Rock Gardens – Dianthus:
Dianthus: Sweet William: These biennials will grow from 12 inches to 24 inches tall and produce spectacular blooms, however as a biennial, they will die off once the bloom cycle is complete. You can expect them to reseed only sparingly. They thrive in locations that have full sun and soil that is well-drained. Sweet Williams are hardy down to 0F.
Maiden Pink: This particular variety, originating in Asia and Europe, make great rock garden plants that might not get full sun all day long. The foliage will grow to a grayish green mound and produce gorgeous rose colored blooms that last all season long. Give them moderate waterings and good drainage and these plants will do well in zones 3-10.
Glacier Pink: A low cushion grower that produces bright pink blooms during the summer months. Best suited in a trough or a scree mix, these little beauties are great plants for rock gardens on a smaller scale. Native to the Eastern Alps, this variety prefers to grow in locations that get full sun, and soil that is slightly acidic and well-drained.
Sternkissen: Native to Western Europe, this variety of dianthus produces fragrant, beautiful pink flowers over the summer months on top of a dense cushion of foliage. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Sternkissen is hardy down to -30F.
Albanian Pink: This dwarf variant is sure to catch people’s attention, even at its modest height of only 4 to 6 inches tall. These plants originated in the Balkans and during the hot summer months will provide plentiful pink and red flowers. Requires full sun and must be planted in well-drained soil. Albanian Pink is hardy down to 0F.
Plants for Rock Gardens – Lavender:
Lavender: Hidcote Superior: Lavender makes great rock garden plants because they are very drought tolerant and have low water requirements. This shrub variety is an evergreen from the Western Mediterranean that grows 16 to 18 inches tall and produces extremely fragrant deep blue flowers starting midsummer through September. Grow them in full sun and in soil that is well drained, and they will do very well in zones 5-8.
Lady Lavender: This shorter variety grows only about 12 inches tall and during the summer months will provide you with elegant lavender blooms. Very drought tolerant in full sun with soil that is well drained. Lady Lavender is hardy down to -20F which makes them great rock garden plants.
Rosea: These elegant compact shrubs are compact and make great plants for rock gardens, both big and small. This evergreen variety grows about 14 inches tall, have wonderfully fragrant leaves, and in the late summer months produces many pink blooms. Another variety of lavender from the Western Mediterranean, grow these in full sun with soil that is well drained. Also very drought tolerant and thrives in zones 5-8.
Other types of plants for rock gardens you can look into are Torch Lilies, Penstemon, Campanula, Columbine, Rosecoea, and Lady’s Mantle, to name a few others.
Leave Plants For Rock Gardens and go to Rock Garden Designs
Go to Landscaping Ideas
Flowerbeds, lawns & rock gardens
Flowerbeds, lawns & rock gardens
- 1. Flowerbeds, Lawns & Rock gardens Landscaping and Gardening FCRM 377 Submitted To: Dr. Sarjoo Patel Submitted By: Archy Bhatt 169 T.Y. I.D
- 2. Flower beds Flower beds are piecesof land dedicated for theplanting of flowers mostly for their aesthetic value.
- 3. Factors to be kept inmind while designing a flower bed
- 4. Sunlight
- 5. Slope
- 6. Borders & Edging
- 7. Background
- 8. Soil
- 9. Width
- 10. Shape
- 11. Plant Height
- 12. Arrangement
- 13. Colors
- 14. Texture
- 15. Types ofFlowers
- 16. Annual
- 17. Annual Flowers An annual is a plant thatgrows, flowers, sets seed and dies the same season.Angel’s Trumpet Marigold
- 18. Annual Vinca Annual Phlox
- 19. Bidens Baby Blue eyes
- 20. Perennial flowers
- 21. Perennial flowers Perennials are plants that do not die after one season of growth.They come back year after year and require relatively less maintenance.
- 22. Lavender Chrysanthemum
- 23. Cardinal flower Pulmonaria
- 24. Aster Amsonia
- 25. Characteristics of perennials • Longevity • Resistance to disease and insects • Dont need to be divided • no winter protection needed• Good tolerance of summer heat • Long blooming period • Dont need to be staked.
- 26. LawnsThey are basically an area ofland planted between gardenscovered with grass, and otherlow lying plants.
- 27. GRASS VARIETIES1. Bahia Grass Prefers warm temperatures Drought resistant Low-maintenance Not suitable for soils with a high pH level
- 28. Bahia Grass
- 29. 2. Bent Grass High-maintenance Suitable in cooler and moister climates Not recommended for general lawn use Requires frequent mowing
- 30. Bent Grass
- 31. 3.) Bermuda Grass Popular choice for home lawns Low-maintenance and tolerates drought Very traffic-resistant Loves warm weather and sun
- 32. Bermuda Grass
- 33. 4.)Kentucky Bluegrass Used in lawns, athletic fields, and parks due to its great colouring, thick coverage, and high resistance to traffic damage Does not do well in shady areas or areas where the soil is high in salt
- 34. Kentucky Bluegrass
- 35. 5.) Carpet Grass Low-maintenance grass Handles traffic fairly well Perfect for slightly shadier areas that hold moisture longer
- 36. Carpet Grass
- 37. Points to be considered before buying grass • Maintenance required • Climate conditions • Temperature tolerance • Drought resistance • Shade adaptation • Wear resistance
- 38. Lawn Care
- 39. WateringWeed removalThatch removal
- 40. Core cultivationpH of the soilMowing
- 41. Rock Garden
- 42. A garden constructed a simple mixture ofplants and rocks to give a solid rugged look ofstone, with the delicacy and color of flowers is called a rock garden.
- 43. Types of RocksDecomposed Granite• It is crushed up granite that comes in a variety of colours such as gold, tan, red and dark gray.
- 44. Decorative Rock• It comes in all sizes, ranging from 1/2 inch to 6 inches. This type of rock is available in different colours from red to gold to black.
- 45. Lava Rock• Lava rock also comes in gray and black colors.• These stones can help create borders for gardens in front of homes.
- 46. Boulders• Boulders are used in rock gardens as accents, focal points, walls and borders.
- 47. River Rock• River rock stones have a smooth, polished finish and often range in colour from beige to black.• They add a striking complement to lighter exterior & make a good choice to landscape a waterfall or water garden feature.
- 48. Pea Gravel• Pea-shaped and typically smaller than gravel.• It has a smooth surface.• Available in variety of lighter colours.• Used to landscape borders and small garden areas that dont require much coverage.
- 49. Flagstones• It is large and flat & lends itself to making pathways, walkways and outdoor patio floors with a stable walking surface.
- 50. White Marble• Most often found in flower gardens, flower beds and on walkways.• The bright white colour of marble tends to be used as highlights for the colourful flowers.
- 51. Bibliography• au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better- homes- gardens/gardening/articles/• http://www.theflowerexpert.c om/content/growingflowers • grass.osgeo.org/ • bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/ wiki/
Whether you want to make the most of an area in your garden that is difficult to maintain, or you just want to spice up your front lawn or backyard, rock gardens are a great way to do so. Usually, when you think about a garden, you generally think of green foliage, flowers, and bright colors. However, one of the fundamental but underappreciated parts of our gardens are the rocks. If you add rocks to your garden, incorporating them in the design and have them featured prominently among your foliage; you have a rock garden.
Just like plants, rocks also come in all different shapes and sizes. Although they do tend to be within a select color range or hue; this can be used as an advantage as well. The earthy tones and colors of rocks and stones elicit a natural closeness to nature. You can use the sturdy and unique form of these rocks to create a distinctive garden or lawn. Read on to find out how you can build your own rock garden and various ideas, tips and tricks to help you get inspired for your own cool gardening adventure.
Table of Contents
What is a Rock Garden?
To start off, let’s first understand what exactly a rock garden is. What comprises a rock garden? Can you place a few small stones in your yard to cover some patchy grass and call it a rock garden, or is there more of a method to this than meets the eye?
A garden such as this is basically a small section or area of land that is used to feature or emphasize rocks. These are great for landscaping in open spaces and large areas. However, the only purpose of these gardens isn’t to just look good. There is a form of rock gardens which are called Zen or Japanese rock gardens. This Zen garden of rocks utilize an assortment of various stone, very small plants, water features, moss, sand, and small stones. They are used for the purpose of meditation. These Zen gardens were designed to create and elicit the spirit of nature.
So, it is a purposeful arrangement of rocks and stones, which highlights or draws attention to the rocks used. There is however no right way to design or set you your rock garden. You can choose to make your stone garden however you want, make your own arrangement of rocks, and use the type and style of rocks and other accessories as you want. However, it is a good idea to get tips on how to prepare a base or and place your rocks for your rock garden. This is essential in orders to prevent rain or other water features from causing problems or other garden pests such as weeds from ruining the aesthetic of your rock garden.
The biggest thing to remember about making or building a stone garden is that it requires more physical strength as compared to regular gardens. So, it is important to have thoroughly thought our plans and good preparation, in order to avoid unnecessary work or physical labor. It might be a good idea to sketch the design or placement out as well before you move the rocks.
As mentioned before some people use rock gardens to make the best or transform problem areas in their lawns or yards such as rocky slopes. Other people also bring in rocks to incorporate into their gardens. They use these to add dimension to lawns or yards that do not have rocks or that are flat. When they bring in rocks to add to their gardens, stronger and more study rocks are required but, in the end, it is worth the effort. You can look up rock garden ideas to get inspiration on how people have transformed their lawns.
Something else to consider when building your rock garden is how much space you have available. When you have a large space available the goal is usually to create a sprawling and natural looking rock gardens.
However, with small spaces, you can opt to create raised beds of rocks with well selected small rocks. By choosing a design like a raised rock garden bed you can easily fit in small spaces and nooks that you have in your garden. This will ensure that the rock garden is not in the way when you mow your lawn and it will also not require a lot of maintenance.
The third thing to remember in the basics of rock gardening is the importance of color. For instance, you can use a red sandstone to give your rock garden a structure that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functions well. You can wash out the red sandstone to enhance its red color to its full extent.
The color scheme, in turn, will lead to the selection of plants and will influence your choice of them as well. In the case of the red sandstone, you will need some plants that will work with the color scheme. It would be best to use plants that have subtle hues of red in them as well as complementary colors such as white, yellow, and silver.
Another aspect to consider is the type of stone for your overall purpose. Sandstone is not a very durable material. It tends to crumble over the course of time and generally tends to be in the process of turning into soil. If your main goal is the beauty or aesthetic of this look and not durability, then sandstone is the choice for you. However, if you are looking for longevity and durability then you should consider other stones such as granite.
There are some basic tools you will require once you have decided on building your rock garden. The tools and supplies you will need are:
- A trowel
- A shovel
- Tape measure
- Wheelbarrow (To move things such as compost and soil)
1. Clear off a section of land
The first step to building your stone garden is to make some space for it within your lawn or yard. Generally, rock gardens have some elevation from the ground that surrounds them. When you create your own raised bed, this means that you need to first lay a course of rocks and soil and then built upon that.
If the ground that you wish to build your rock garden on is currently covered with grass, you should first figure out what you would like to do with the grass. What you do not want is for the grass to start growing in and around your rock garden later on. If you already have a cleared-up space, you can move on to the second step.
One solution to this is that you can dig up the grass beforehand and then lay down your rocks. However, an alternative easier method is to place a layer of newspapers over the grass and then put some dirt over top of them in order to hold the newspapers in place.
The layer of newspapers will prevent the grass from getting nutrients such as sunlight and water that it needs and will eventually smother and cause the grass to decompose. The newspaper is a good idea as it will also decompose over time and not cause damage to the garden in any other way.
However, even before the decomposition of the grass starts you will still have completed the first step towards your rock garden; which is to clear up space.
2. Plot Your Design
If you already have an area cleared up, you can skip the step of putting a layer of newspaper and move on to planning your placement. A good idea is to plan out exactly what you want to with your land and area. This is important to do before you start work in order to avoid doing extra heavy lifting.
You can plan out the design by using inverted marking paint. That way you will have a good idea of what the stone garden should look like. You can look up some rock garden ideas to help you out in planning as well.
Another good tip is to add in some materials on top of the cleared area or newspapers that will help with increasing the soil drainage and also you can a layer of a weed resistant fabric if weeds are common for that area.
3. Choose Your Rocks and Lay Down the First Layer
The next step is to select the rocks you want to use, you can choose rocks based on what you have available at your local gardening or landscaping store or you can choose to purchase some from stone suppliers. Most of the small stones and rocks should be available from the gardening or landscaping stores. However, for the larger boulders or rocks, you will have to contact stone suppliers and their quarries.
If you already have your stones and rocks or at least some basic ones to start with you can lay down the first layer of stones and soil. This is to create that elevated bed for your rock garden. If, however, you are going for a larger more sprawling look you should place your heavy boulders first and use them as guidelines to make your design. You can again look up some designs or tips for rock gardens to help you out.
For the raised bed lay out a circle of rocks as the perimeter for your rock garden bed, optionally you can use any other shape that you want as well but for the base, a circle is recommended. In this case for a small rock bed, you can keep the width of the base about four feet in diameter. It is a good idea to use your bigger and more unattractive rocks for this bottom layer.
There are two reasons to do this, firstly by using your heaviest rocks you will not have to lift these for the next layer. Secondly, the first layer will be less visible, so it is a good idea to use the more unattractive rocks and then showcase the more attractive rocks in the second layer.
4. Add in the Soil
Now that you have the first layer of rocks in place, you need to add in the soil to fill it up. Generally, for rock gardens, plants that require a type of soil that provides good drainage are used. This means that you require the use of sandy soil.
If by chance you do not have sandy soil you but have clay-like soil you can add some sand to it and compost in order to encourage better drainage.
Shovel the soil into the circle or bed created by the rocks. Once the soil is filled in the bed, it is a good idea to walk on the soil to help settle it and pack it down. Later in order to complement the sandy and high drainage soil, you will add plants to your rock garden that are typically used in rock gardens and prefer high drainage soil.
5. Lay Down the Second Layer of Rocks
Now for the second layer of the raised bed of the rock garden, you need to make a smaller raised bed within the first one. You simply have to make another circle of rocks but with a smaller diameter as compared to the first, so you form a circle within a circle.
When making this smaller circle of the rock garden you need to ensure that the second circle is small enough such that it leaves a sufficiently wide enough perimeter between the first circle and itself. The area between the two circles should be wide enough such that you can place the plants inside it. As well as the area within the second circle should be wide enough for a small plant to be planted there.
Since you will have used the heaviest stones for the first layer of the rock garden be, you will have the lighter stone left over to use for the second layer. This will make it easier for you to lift and maneuver these stones to use for the second layer. However, it is okay to save one or two heavier stones or rocks for the second layer if you feel they are exceptionally good looking or pretty. The second layer of rocks will be more visible and catch the eye of the viewer as they will be closer to the eye.
6. Planting the Plants
Now it is time to consider the flowers for your rock garden. In an ideal world, the selection of the plants used for your rock garden would be entirely based on the color schemes. However, there are many other factors that need to be considered in reality as they can interfere in the choices we make.
One of the biggest issues with relying solely on color schemes for landscaping is the fact that plants are actually alive, and this is a big contrast to other things such as painting or other projects where you can base choices on color schemes. Due to the fact that plants are living things, they have certain requirements that we need to consider in order for them to stay healthy and alive. So, the choice of plants can be based on color schemes, but it cannot be limited to just that.
There are several things to consider when trying to choose the right plants for your rock garden. As mentioned above, one of the most important things to consider is drainage. It is a good idea to look for plants and foliage that you can use in your rock garden that like good drainage. These are plants that grow best when water easily drips through their soil.
It would be a bad idea to add a plant that grows well in wet soil into this mixture even if it goes really well with the color scheme. You should only put plants of similar nature and growing requirements together in order to help them grow and last longer. If you place plants with different requirements for growth together, they may look good temporarily however, in the long run, it will be hard for them to thrive in your rock garden.
Aside from drainage, there are some other things to consider, such as how much sunlight the plants require, and how much they need to be watered. If you have a spot for your rock garden that is highly exposed to the sun, then it would be a good idea to choose plants that thrive in a lot of sunlight and then group similar plants together to make the best of your chosen spot and plants.
Finally, you should choose plants that vary in leaf texture, plant height, and size. This adds a nice visual effect and looks more natural. To get the best selection of plant for your rock garden, you should make a list with the following criteria and make sure each of your plants meets these criteria.
- Make sure it fits the color scheme
- It should prefer good drainage
- Requires a moderate amount of water
- Thrives in a sunny environment
- There is a variety of sizes and texture
The Bottom Line
Rock gardens can be a great way to add some life to your lawn or yard. The best rock gardens are those that give a natural look and help you enhance your garden. You can build a rock garden utilizing a rocky or uneven section of land within your lawn to create a sprawling rock garden. However, you can also build a smaller rock garden by adding external rocks to your lawn or yard as well. The most important step in making a rock garden is to plan well before you begin. Hopefully, this guide was helpful in getting started on building your own rock garden.
While most plant and vegetable gardens are arranged in neat rows or perfect squares on a property, rock gardens have more of a naturalistic, foundational look that complements and enhances the landscape of your property. If set up properly with plenty of drainage and weed-reducing elements, they’re also very low-maintenance, and they don’t need the amount of pruning, watering, and weeding that other garden beds require. Here are a few key tips for setting up your own gorgeous rock garden.
- Gravel, concrete, clay, or brick pieces for drainage layer
- Newspaper, sand, or weed-resistant fabric for curtailing weed growth
- Topsoil that corresponds best with your terrain and plant types
- Rocks, found on your property or at your local landscaping store
- Flowers and plants (more on that later)
First things first: figure out where you want to set up your rock garden — installing it on flat ground or on a gentle slope is best, and you should also be able to dig up to a foot deep into the ground. (Using a raised garden bed to create a rock garden is also possible for a yard with virtually no soil.) Stay cognizant of the sunniness of your backyard, as you’ll want to choose plants that are all compatible with getting the same amount of sun each day.
Drainage is paramount to a thriving rock garden. Once you’ve mapped your rock garden perimeter, dig into the ground just over a foot deep to get rid of rocks, roots, and debris, then lay the drainage layer, which should be about 4-6 inches deep. This coarse, rocky layer is spread to prevent your plants’ roots from getting soggy (this same logic also applies for putting together a terrarium). A mix of small pea gravel or brick pieces is ideal.
On top of the drainage layer, spread out newspaper, sand, or weed-resistant landscaping fabric. This layer not only allows water to continue to drain through, but it supports the plants and topsoil and also prevents or greatly minimizes weed growth.
Gather your rocks to create the border of the garden and to function as accents amongst the plants. For keeping a natural look, stay consistent with the colors and texture of your rocks, as well as the angle that you position them in the garden bed — keep in mind that you’ll be burying the rocks so that only the top third of them will show. Then, add a very generous layer of topsoil. The type of topsoil you use will depend on the type of greenery you’re looking to plant. It’s best to mix nutrient-rich soil with a grittier medium like cocopeat to further slow the absorption of water. Once you’ve laid the soil down, leave the bed alone for a few weeks to let the rocks, soil, and newspaper layers naturally settle.
Now comes the fun part! While you’re letting your rocks and soil chill for a bit, start thinking and gathering together the plants and flowers that will be dotted amongst the rocks. It’s important to approach your rock garden as a permanent installation that’s in bloom all year — you’re going to want to choose plants that are all compatible with your climate and the amount of light that the spot gets. A mix of hearty evergreen and perennial plants is best, so that there’s always a bit of green in the garden, even in the wintertime. This isn’t the place to plant your more delicate plants or your annuals.
Hen-and-chicks and succulents almost look like rocks and blend into a grittier landscape. Alpine rock gardens are also very popular, consisting usually of creeping thyme, phlox, and candytuft. They’re bushy flowering plants that are low to the ground and cover a lot of area. Don’t feel compelled to fill every square inch of space with blooms — in fact, it’s better to start off with just a few to help them root into their newly formed home.
Once your first few plants have acclimated, you can start moving them around and adding in new blooms. You can also add an extra layer of pea gravel on top to make the plants appear like they’re growing wild from out of the stones. Occasionally, you’ll need to pull a few weeds, but if you added a good protective layer underneath, this shouldn’t be more than a sporadic occurrence. You can also add ornaments to your garden — like bird baths, outdoor speakers, and wind chimes — to make it into a peaceful spot to meditate and relax in the calm outdoor atmosphere.
More from BestProducts.com:
The Best Gifts for Those Who Aren’t Afraid to Get Their Hands Dirty
12 Raised Garden Beds That Your Favorite Plants Can Call Home
You’ll Need a Pair of Gardening Gloves to Build Your Rock Garden
Follow BestProducts.com on Facebook and Pinterest for all the latest products, so you can find the item that’s perfect for you (at the right price)!
Melanie Yates Senior Home Decor Editor Melanie oversees the home decor vertical of BestProducts.com, and has been researching and testing out home and bedding products for the site since joining the team in 2015 — her work can also be found on Elle Decor and House Beautiful.