Rock Garden Ideas for Planting and Stocking Your Rock Garden
Having planned and constructed your rock garden, we then lead on to planting the rock garden. Ideas for planting and stocking a rock garden are as follows:
Planting the Rockery Garden
The success of any construction lies in the plants it supports. Some plants will die, perhaps some will grow poorly but the majority should be simple and pleasurable to maintain and above all teach you, by trial and error, just what will grow in the climate,and situation provided for them.
The time scale I am working to in this site is 15 years. After that time, many plants will need replacing and the soil in the upper 30cm (1 ft) will need renewing. If this is done in stages, a section at a time, then major replanting can be planned to fit in with other garden work. Unfortunately many rock gardens are merely constructed and planted and then forgotten. But they simply will not stand neglect and any design you contemplate will require regular and consistent maintenance. This factor more than any other will determine the ultimate size of the project and, as will be realised from the preceding text, cannot be taken lightly.
When planting alpines on steps and paths, note that the soil under the stone steps and paths must have the same ingredients as that used for the rock garden and must not be left as subsoil, as recommended for the flat site and cut-and-fill paths. Getting rid of extra subsoil and replacing it with good soil and ensuring goodbefore planting means a lot of extra work.
For all path sites, it is best to plant with mat types as the steps or path stones are laid. For bare soil paths you are limited to thymes and Saxifraga upiculata as these can be walked on but be careful that when weeding your feet do not twist the plants as you move over the ground.
Stocking the Rockery Garden
It is difficult to estimate the number of plants required for a rock garden, but as a rough guide on each stratum put one plant per 1-3 sq metres (1-3 sq yd) of rock face, depending on the ultimate size of the plant and on what flowering plants are on the layer above. Therefore it is important to estimate the number spreading and flowing over the edges of stones as well as those to be planted at each level. Arrange small plants in loose groupings, large. ones singly, and intermediate-sized plants between the two groups, with large enough spacings between to prevent the swamping of the smaller by the larger plants.
When planting on the flat surfaces of the soil between the layers of stones, you can increase the density but the principle of not swamping the smaller by larger plants still applies. Do not leave any roots exposed, nor plant deeper than the plant was either in its container or in its natural habitat. Plant firmly but not too hard, otherwise the roots will not be able to breathe.
New plantings look ridiculously sparse to start with but within two or three years, the spaces will begin to fill up.
Have a look at as many nurseries as possible, over the whole year; browse through the catalogues and seed lists before, during and after construction. It is very pleasurable to be able to fill a few reserve spaces with plants you have not come across before. Do not be afraid to uproot a few plants to make room for new and better plants, so do not grow too many vigorous plants! If possible renew the soil when replanting to maintain vigour.
The principles outlined here also apply to the other aspects of alpine and rock gardening, read more …
The majority of alpine plants can be grown in a rock garden because of the variety of mini-habitats it can contain; my objective has been to show that although the scale and construction of other sites is different, they still provide similar growing conditions for plants as a rock garden.
Plants will show local variations in hardiness, but these will not necessarily be reflected in their temperature range. Cold combined with wet conditions can be more damaging than cold, dry ones. Flowering times will also vary according to locality. Some alpine plants will not live for ten years but will produce plentiful seed.