Rock Gardens – A Solution for Challenging Spaces

November 27, 2015 Uncategorized No Comments

Small rock garden also called rockery or alpine garden.

If you are struggling with uneven terrain, steep banks and problematic slopes in your backyard, the vision of a perfect garden might seem just outside your reach. With these types of challenges, keeping up a lawn or avoiding pooling water is complicated at best, so the traditional manicured space is often unachievable.

Having a less than ideal plot of land might mean that you need to reconsider your ideal garden, but it doesn’t mean you have to go without. A rock garden offers a unique and beautiful solution to many common landscaping problems and might just be the perfect addition to your yard.

What is a Rock Garden?

A rock garden is a landscaping style that emphasizes the use of rocks and stones.  Rocks of various sizes, shapes and colors are laid out in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and adds dimension and interest to the yard. Rock gardens can be large or small, some take up only a tiny space in a yard, and others are inclusive of the entire plot of land.

Types of Rock Gardens

zen garden sand waves and rock sculptures

Some rock gardens, most commonly the Zen garden, contain no plant life at all, and are instead limited to rocks and sand. However, most rock gardens include some plants, used minimally to allow the area to look as if it is a natural quarry with some indigenous greenery growing between the gaps in the stone. Three types of rock gardens that include plant life are:

  • Alpine – Includes flowering plants and evergreens to resemble a windswept mountain peak in the Alpine Valley. Limestone, sandstone and shale work well in these gardens.
  • Woodland – Includes mossy rocks and ground sweeping wildflowers to resemble an open field of flowers found in the deep wilderness. Many different rocks can work well in these gardens depending on exactly what you are planting and the watering needs.
  • Desert – Features cacti, desert annuals and succulents commonly found in dry climates. Marble and granite work well in these gardens.

The Right Rocks Make a Difference

Rock and stone for background texture, rock blue

Building your own rock garden can be an expensive endeavor, but because maintenance is minimal, the long term costs may be significantly less than those for a traditional garden.

Start your rock garden by choosing a variety of rocks that are all a common type. When placing them, don’t be too particular; instead, remember that your goal is to make the garden look like it was built by Mother Nature’s hand. For the best effect, begin with your largest rocks. Choose boulders that aren’t too big for your space but do make an impressive first impression. Moving these rocks onto your land may take several people or even require special equipment like a backhoe or forklift.

The medium sized and smallest rocks are for balance and should be placed strategically to achieve this purpose. Make sure to bury all of your rocks a little below the earth so that they look like natural outcrops in the space and aren’t simply sitting atop the soil.

Adding Plants to Your Garden

Rock garden with gravel and volcanic rock

When adding plants, your goal is to allow them to enhance the landscape in both color and size. Also, make sure they’re naturally comfortable in the terrain and weather conditions surrounding your garden so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to get to them for maintenance and care. A group of wildflowers planted in a desert landscape won’t provide a cohesive look, and the plants will likely have a difficult time surviving in rocks that won’t offer enough moisture retention. Cactus is a better choice for this environment, but it wouldn’t survive well in a woodlands garden. Small rock gardens look best when accented with fine textured and very dwarf plants, while larger evergreens and dwarf conifers have a beautiful impact when planted throughout a massive alpine garden.  Whatever you plant, make sure it spills naturally down any hillsides and nestles around the rocks much like the landscape that you might find surrounding a beautiful waterfall.

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve planted your trees and bushes, a final layer of fine gravel adds the perfect touch to your rock garden. You will use this much like a gardener would use mulch in a traditional garden. Not only will it improve the natural appearance of your space, but it will also serve as a natural protector for root systems and discourages the growth of unwanted grass and weeds.

If your yard is less than ideal for a traditional garden, invest a bit of time and money into a rock garden. Not only will this enhance your yard, but it will create a focal point that you enjoy spending time in and one that quickly becomes the star attraction of your neighborhood.

Beautiful rock garden with many different plants


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