How to make rock garden at home

How to make rock garden at home

A rockery (rocky garden) is a composition of stones and plants, recreating a fragment of mountainous terrain. Often this term is confused with the popular “alpine hill”, so let’s clarify at once what a rockery is and how it differs from an alpinarium.

Strictly speaking, an alpine hill, which is a stony and tiered elevation, is only a type of rockery. There are other varieties: flat rocky garden, retaining walls, terraced slope, architectural rockery and so on. However, among dacha owners the notion that the classic rock garden is only a flat rock garden, so it is about it and its creation that we will tell in this article.

So, a flat rock garden is good because:

  • It looks in most landscapes of Russia organically and naturally.
  • Can decorate the plot all year round, especially if you use winter-hardy plants.
  • It is undemanding in care. Moreover, it simplifies the care of the lawn and the space around flowers and plants – because of the stone backfill it does not need to be weeded.
  • Make a rock garden with their own hands is easier than an alpine hill.
  • Can continue the paving of the plot or mixborders.

How to make a rock garden with your own hands step by step

Step 1: First you need to choose a place for the rock garden.

It is desirable that the site is well lit. If the place is selected shady, then the plants of the rock garden should be selected shade tolerant. The ideal terrain for a rock garden is a plain or flat slope.

Here are a few places where a rock garden will be most appropriate:

  • The entrance area, for example, along the paving;
  • The front area of the cottage plot;
  • The place at the entrance to the house (but not too close to it);
  • On the bank of an artificial pond (pond, stream) or dry creek;
  • Backyard;
  • In a recreational area, such as a gazebo, pond, pool, barbecue area;
  • In work areas, such as by the well, behind the garage, by the barn.

And this is where it is not desirable to build a rock garden:

  • Near the house or any other buildings, so that in the spring the composition is not damaged by the descent of snow and dripping from the roof;
  • Near trees (deciduous and flower), so that in autumn you do not have to clean the rock garden from fallen leaves. In addition, against the backdrop of trees, a flat garden will not look as advantageous;
  • Along the fence, as it is not too beautiful background for a rock garden. If no other place can be found, shrubs can be planted by the fence as shown in the photo below.

Step 2: Ideally, creating a rock garden with your own hands requires a plan or at least a scheme of the arrangement of stones and plants, if the rock garden is small and uncomplicated.

  • The choice of scale to develop a plan depends on the size of the rock garden. For a rock garden of up to 50 square meters, a scale of 1:50 or 1:25 will be convenient (1 cm in the project corresponds to the real 50 or 25 cm). So, a 5 x 3 m plot at 1:25 scale will have a size of 20 x 12 cm.

Once you have decided on the scale, draw up a grid and then sketch the location of the stones and plants. When it comes to practice, the grid with cells of, say, 2×2 cm, drawn in the project will be transferred to the selected area with cells of 50×50 cm. As a result, you will know exactly where you need to dig holes for planting plants, and where you need to put boulders and stones.

When you are satisfied with the composition, paint the plan with colored pencils or watercolors to make it easier for you to “read” the project and imagine the future design of the rock garden.

Step 3: mark the shape of the rock garden by hammering stakes in the right places and pulling a twine through them.

Step 4: Remove the turf to a depth of about 20-30 cm and put it aside. Later we will use it to prepare the soil substrate. Removing the turf, at the same time remove weeds and rhizomes.

Step 5: Now you need to prepare the base for the rock garden. In different cases, it is prepared differently:

  • If the selected site is characterized by excessive moisture after the rains or snow melt, you will definitely need a 10 cm drainage layer of expanded clay, pebbles, gravel or broken bricks. If you plan to use large stones, the drainage should be thicker – about 15 cm.
  • A dry site with sandy soil and located on an elevation does not require drainage. The bottom of the rockery is enough to cover it with black lutrasil or geotextile.
  • If you plan to use very large boulders, it is advisable to pour a concrete foundation under them (over the drainage). First, it is poured to a third of the height of the stone, then let it harden for a day, then install the stone and pour the rest of the concrete. The thickness of the concrete foundation should be such that at least 10 cm remain to the ground level.
  • If in your neighborhood there are moles and shrews, the first thing to do is to put a fine mesh grid on the bottom of the rock garden. Otherwise, uninvited guests will destroy both plants and stone composition, so that it will be very difficult to restore it.

Step 6: 10-15 cm layer of sand is filled into the base of the rockarium, it should be thoroughly tamped and watered for better compaction. The sand is necessary to prevent the subsidence of stones in the soil.

  • If large stones and boulders are not used, and the rockery is filled with small stones, say, river pebbles, then a 5 cm layer of sand will be enough.

Step 7: The next step is the preparation and filling of the ground for planting plants. For most plants a loose water- and air-permeable soil will be suitable.

For example, it can be turf mixed with coarse sand (at a rate of 2:1) or a mixture of garden soil with fine gravel and compost (3:2:1). Sandy soil is mixed with peat (4-5 kg/1 m2).

  • Prepared substrate can and should be adjusted based on the individual requirements of plants to the soil – for some species will need an acidic environment, and for others – alkaline. But it is better to use a minimum of fertilizer to avoid overgrowth.
  • Of course, the previously removed turf must be cleaned from the roots of weeds, sifting through a mesh.
  • The thickness of the soil depends on the size of the root systems.

Step 8: Now that the soil is backfilled, you can begin the most interesting thing – the layout of stones.

  • If you do a rock garden according to the plan, then before laying out the stones, you need to break out a grid of pegs and twine (on an appropriate scale).
  • Each large stone must lie steadily – not wobble or move out, even if you stand on the stone. This requires placing smaller stones under each cobble.
  • More often than not, the larger part of the stone serves as a support.
  • Supporting stones should not crumble over time, so limestone, sandstone, brick and pieces of concrete will not be suitable for this purpose.
  • Large boulders should be 2/3 or half buried in the ground, and it is also advisable to have a concrete foundation under them, which we mentioned above. Medium and small stones can simply be laid out to your liking. Try not to do this too carefully to achieve the most natural result.

Step 9: Once the rocky part of the composition is in place, start planting the plants in the abundantly watered holes. After planting, the soil should be watered again with water.

  • Low plants are planted at a distance of 5-15 cm from each other, and high plants are planted at an interval of 15-25 cm or more. The main thing is to know exactly how big they will grow to.
  • Remember that tall plants should be in the background and low ones in the first. Exceptions are rockeries, which are visible from all sides. In this case, tall plants and stones are placed in the center of the composition.
  • Planting pits should correspond to the size of the root systems of the plants planted.

Step 10: When all the plants are planted, cover the area with black lutrasil, making cross cuts and holes over all the elements of the rockery.

Step 11: Hooray, the rocky garden is almost ready, the only thing left is to fill it with small stones. For example, as backfill, you can use gravel, small crushed stone or river pebbles.

  • If necessary, the stones should be washed in perforated boxes.

How to choose the stones

The main principles of selecting stones for a rock garden:

  • They should be of different sizes and necessarily of the same shape. So, for example, rounded stones will not be combined with sharp rocky rocks. Also, it is desirable that the composition consisted of stones of the same species – so the rockery will look more harmonious and natural.
  • Style rockery and rocks should choose based on the style of your garden plot. Rough rocks are ideal for a very natural rock garden with a traditional or rustic home and garden. 

Smoother, rounded stones are more appropriate for modern-style plots.

Suggest what kind of stones to choose for a rock garden can and the landscape of the surrounding area of your dacha. Maybe there is a nearby river or stream? Then the river pebbles and round stones are ideal for your garden. If there are rocks or mountains nearby then rough and sharp stones are fine.

rock garden

A couple of words about the main types of stones used for making rockeries:

  • Sandstone – brittle stone, quickly covered with moss, which can be an advantage for some compositions. Most often the color of this rock is gray or beige.
  • Limestone – has a gray, white or cream color. Like sandstone limestone is loose and quickly weathered, from which its corners become less sharp, the surface is quickly covered by moss and lichens.
  • Slate – has a gray or black color, and therefore it is better to combine it with more contrasting lighter stones.
  • Tuf is a light but durable stone, the neighborhood with tuf is favorable for plants, especially those that need a slightly alkaline soil.
  • Granite is decorative, durable, but expensive, heavy and “cold” stone. In addition, it tends to oxidize the soil, which is bad for many plants.

How to choose a plant

According to the canon, the vegetative part of the rock garden should consist of miniature conifers and alpine plants. However, the latter – not always easy to find and grow, so you can replace them with any small unpretentious plants, both perennials and annuals.

Here are some principles and tips for choosing plants for a rocky garden:

  • Plants that are traditionally used to create rockeries are divided into 5 groups: miniature conifers, miniature ornamental-leaved and flowering shrubs, herbaceous perennials, groundcover plants, bulbs and annuals.
  • All plants should be small – no higher than 50 cm;
  • It is desirable that plants bloomed all season, because if in the garden the faded leaves can hide the “neighbors”, in a rock garden there is no such a possibility;
  • 1-3 plants should play the role of accents of the composition.