Making a Rock Garden

A rock garden, which is also known as a rockery or an alpine garden, features an extensive use of rocks or stones as well as native plants that are found in rocky or alpine environments. Plants that are used in rock gardens tend to be small so as to now obscure the rocks and may be grown in either container on in the ground. Most of the plants used in rock gardens prefer well-drained soil and less water.

Japanese rock garden

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Rock gardens are made from rock of various sizes that are aesthetically arranged with plants between them. You may even find bonsai plants in rock gardens. Another variation to the rock garden is the Japanese Zen garden, which has hardly any plants at all if any. If a rock garden is what appeals to you, you can make your own rock garden by following the steps below. Creating a rock garden basically involves designing on paper, clearing the intended area, laying out the main designed and then adding in the finer touches.

Designing the Rock Garden

Design the rock garden that you want. You can find inspiration through online resources as well as design books that you can purchase from a bookstore or a library.

Clearing, Marking and Prepping

Start by clearing the area of land where you want your rock garden to be. Remove brushes, bushes or undergrowths down through to the roots. Also remove any smaller vegetation.

You will need to separate your existing lawn from the bed (area you just cleared) with your initial design of your rock garden of stone, plant and mulch by creating an edge. This edge is the perimeter of your rock bed and the lawn and will ensure that mulch or stone that you\’ve placed will not wash out onto the lawn.

Once you\’ve cleared out the bed, mark the design of your choice with an inverted marking paint. You can alter the design at this stated as according to the area (knowing that sometimes what\’s on paper doesn\’t translate well onto the field).

Bringing in the Rocks

You can then install the rock and stones of your choice. You can have large to small boulders, flat stones for a walkway or colored river bed stones. Make sure that you practice safety when unloading and moving the boulders and stones around. A helper would be great at this point.

Start by installing the bigger boulders/rocks first. Create a footing to these stones in place to give it a more natural look as large stones don\’t really sit on top of level ground.

Plants and Optional Riverbed

The next step is to install the plants. Choose plants that are suitable for the climate in your area. You can also consider a riverbed in your garden design. You can do this by placing bushes (like juniper bushes), small boulders, and river bed stone to simulate a river. Place the bushes first then dig out the river bed. Then place the small boulders along and in the river bed. Set these small boulders in a footing as well.

You can then add the small bed stone. If there is a lot of undergrowth or roots, place landscape fabric first before placing the river bed stones on top.

Continue placing the plants once you\’ve finished you riverbed.

One good way of ensuring you have the right plants, colors and texture in your garden design is to lay them out in their containers first, making adjustments as you see fit then setting them in permanently. Take your time doing this, stepping back once in a while and observing how it looks periodically.

When setting the plant into the grown, dig a hole that is larger than the plant\’s roots. Make sure that a quarter of an inch of the plant\’s top is exposed to allow the feeder roots to get water easily when mulch is added.

Setting the Walkway

When the plants have been set in place, you can now set the walkway. Dry lay the stones for the walkway like you did with the plants to check for placement. Set the stones in their individual footing. Trace these footing with a shovel, dig the footing then place the stones. You can add some river bed stones between the stepping stones to give it a more natural look.

Finishing up

Add mulch to the exposed areas. Mulch will help retain water for the plants and prevent weeds from growing through.

The trick is to create an effective rock garden that will blend into your existing landscape. Rock gardens also provide you with a place to showcase specific plants or flowers that would otherwise be overshadowed in other types of gardens. A well-designed rock garden can evoke a very \’natural\’ look as Mother Nature has intended.

More Reading:

Rock Garden Design Plan:

How to Build Rock Gardens: