Rock Gardens

Need a solution for an unexciting, dull yard? Consider installing a rock garden.

When designing your rock garden, consider the size in relation to the rest of your yard. One-hundred square feet is a good starting point, and you can always add on later. The ideal location for a rock garden is a slope or a hillside, but you can create this look by building up hills on your surface.

In choosing rocks, check out your local quarries and stone suppliers. Because the biggest expense in acquiring rocks is transportation, the closer you can find them, the better. Stick to one or two types of rock, because mixing too many different types can look unnatural and will detract attention from plants. And, vary the sizes of the rocks you choose. Note that rugged, angular rocks have a more natural look, and “used” rocks from an old wall or riverbed offer an aged or weathered look.

If you are building on a hill, ensure that the water soaks into the soil instead of running off by making sure the top of each rock slopes back into the hill. Bury part of the rock in the soil so it looks natural, like an outcropping. Place the broadest side of the stone down and look at the sides of each rock to make sure the nicest side is the one that shows. Make sure you leave enough open spaces to nestle the plants into the spaces at the base of the rocks. This ensures that the plant will be protected from wind and the roots will reach under the stone where its roots can be cool and moist.

Rock garden plants need soil that drains quickly. For soil between rocks use a mix of soil and rock chips, perlite, and coarse sand. The most commonly used plants are perennials, but you can also add variety with annuals. Good choices for rock gardens include Spanish lavender, claret cup cactus, hen and chicks, Greek yarrow, and blue mist spirirea. Plants that are low-growing and have a clumping habit are also good bets. Make sure that the plants you choose get at least six hours of midday or afternoon sun.

To complete your rock garden, add mulch with smaller rocks or gravel to help keep soil cool and give your new garden a unified appearance.