Rockery Gardens and Rock Landscaping Ideas

rockery garden

Rock Landscaping Ideas

Where to Position Your Rockery Garden

The first decision to make when thinking of rock landscaping ideas and building a rockery garden is where to site it. This will also determine the construction of the garden and what plants it contains. The ideal site will have no trees or shrubs nearby to cast shade and cause drips, or to provide fatal leaf cover to plants which naturally grow in the open.

Having chosen the site, draw a plan of the garden as it exists. A rough sketch is perfectly adequate, as long as it shows all the main features – the buildings, fences, walls, borders, trees and large shrubs. Make two copies of the plan; onto one shade in the area receiving the estimated maximum amount of sunshine (if any) in midwinter; then do the same for midsummer on the other. In a site with little sunshine in midwinter, you can grow plants in the tolerant range – those that are happy in either sun or shade. A garden which is really sunny in winter and summer can accommodate the greatest range of plants, provided some shade is created within the rock garden. Most gardens fall in between these extremes, having good summer sunshine but mainly poor winters, with only small areas getting the maximum sunshine.

Before construction can begin it is essential to consider two points about the site: perennial weeds and drainage.

Weeds in the Rockery Garden

Perennial weeds are those which remain permanently in the ground, and they fall into three major categories:

  • those with small bulbs (bulbils), such as Oxalis and Allium;
  • plants which spread by means of runners or stolons, such as couch, bindweed, clover, creeping buttercup, ground elder, speedwell and sorrel;
  • and plants with thickened root-stocks, such as dandelion, dock and Welsh poppy.

It is often difficult to remove these weeds completely in one attempt, either by hand or using weedkillers, especially when they grow amongst the roots of garden plants.

Very often rockery gardens are built on sites previously planted with grass. If the grasses were fine, with out runners and stolons preparation of the site simply involves clearing an area about 1metre (3 feet) greater than that required for the rock garden. However, this is often far from the case, and usually weeds of all sorts, including running grasses, abound, adding a risk that they will all creep into the rock garden.

If you wish to keep a lawn around the site, there are two possible ways of dealing with running weeds. The lawn can be completely renewed by removing all grass, applying a total weedkiller, and leaving the site fallow for three months during the growing season before beginning construction and sowing. Alternatively, most of the weeds (except grasses) can be destroyed by applying a lawn weedkiller. After a minimum of six months the site can be resown with fine grasses, with a slight risk that some weedy grasses will creep in.

If you find perennial weeds in puffed or open-ground plants bought from a nursery, you should remove them entirely before planting, or report it to the nursery concerned on returning the plants. Nurseries sterilize the soil, which is effective against most weeds but clovers remain unaffected, and they should have been removed from pots before sale.

These measures do not stop all weeds; it is essential to remove them as they appear.

Garden Drainage

With regards to the drainage of a whole garden, a rock garden site may need additional care. It is obvious that any construction above ground level will create natural drainage, but the water must still be able to drain down to tiles if there are any. (Where drainage is not a problem, ignore the following paragraph).

Cover the potential site with a layer about 15cm (6in) deep of hardcore or well-broken rubble. Top this with gravel, or very stony soil to fill the spaces created by the hardcore, and tamp the whole lot well down.

If the site has a high water table, it is worth considering making a natural pool by using the existing water table. This would be hard work because the water cannot be drained during the operation, besides which the pool could not, for practical purposes, be very deep. Alternatively you could build a rock garden above the water table and grow bog plants around its base.

It is important to realise that any construction will be raised above the existing ground level and this must be taken into account on the plan. By drawing a third sketch showing only the outlines of the boundaries of possible areas for the rock garden and the low points of the garden you can work out the problems of drainage. Planning in this way saves time, money and effort and probably a lot of disappointment.

Your final plan will only be a guide to the construction, not to be adhered to exactly because you will have to make adjustments and modifications to allow for the variety of shapes and sizes of stone that you will be handling. Very few people can visualize three dimensional design, whereas they have fewer problems in two dimensions. By visiting established rock gardens you will be able to get further ideas, and notice their mistakes and good points.

27. September 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Gardening Ideas, Rockery Garden | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Rockery Gardens and Rock Landscaping Ideas


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