A Rockery Garden, it can look good and can provide a suitable environment for growing plants which would otherwise be smothered by more vigorous neighbours in your borders.
The first thing to consider is location – the rockery should be shade free for most of the day. Next, size. Aim for a minimum area of about three and a half square metres (forty square feet). Then, choose the rocks carefully. Many types are available in garden centres, or you could possibly use a local quarry. Either way choose something that will match any other rocks in your garden/house and ideally use a rock that features in your natural landscape as these will look much better.
If you are creating the rock garden in a lawned area, all the turf and any perennial weeds should be completely removed – very important you don’t want these coming up in the middle of your rockery.
If the area is badly drained it is essential that this is improved or choose another location.
Then, it’s a matter of setting your stones in place. These should have been chosen carefully and should all be of the same type of rock. Choose which face of the stone you want exposed, then look for strata lines – these should all flow in the same direction so your stones all need aligning with each other to look like a natural outcrop. If you don’t go through this process, the garden will not look natural at all – just a pile of soil with rocks dotted here and there.
Place the stones in positions in relation to each other, which look pleasing, leaving small gaps between as planting holes.
The rocks need a firm foundation of rubble so that they don’t move and can be walked over. The top surface of exposed rock should slope into the garden, so that when it rains water will not be shed but will percolate through, watering all your plants. Build up the rocks in layers, moving across the garden in lines and stand back frequently and check the over-all effect.
Add a decent planting mix around the rocks. If you’ve got good topsoil this can be mixed with 1 part leafmould or other well rotted organic matter and 1 part stone chippings or grit.
Most plants that will grow in rocky situations survive best on low nutrient levels so don’t add any fertiliser.
Then add the plants – choose alpines which are not vigorous, otherwise one or two will come to dominate the whole area. This way you can get lots of different types of plants in the various positions which will flower throughout the year and will look great. Finish off with a top dressing of grit or chippings that is sympathetic to the rock colour.
Maintenance will largely involve weeding and adding new grit where necessary.
There are many, many thousands of plants you can grow in these situations but here are just five to get you started: Androsace lanuginosa, Campanula carpatica, Cyclamen hederifolium, Erinus alpinus and, lastly, Lewisia cotyledon.