Today we wanted to share some of our favorite tips for designing rock gardens. Rock gardens can be an excellent way to visually improve a dry area or even a slope. How do we get started? With rocks of course!
Following any necessary clearing and grading, it is important to start with your largest stones first. Using bigger rocks or landscape boulders can create “pockets” to plant in. You can fill soil up against these larger rocks. This is where your more deeply rooted plants will go. Medium sized rocks can be used to fill in the gaps between the larger rocks and to create unique grouping that your plants will grow up against and spill over.
Now it is time to plant! Plant your largest plants first and be sure to choose plants that can tolerate dry soils. This is where smaller shrubs are added that will be focal points, especially during the winter months. Adding evergreens is encouraged to give your planting interest in all seasons. Small Pines and Junipers usually work the best. Next add taller perennials to give the planting some color in the spring, summer and fall. There are many varieties of Sedum and bulbs that work well and bloom at different times extending your color. Finally, move on to ground covers and smaller plants for the foreground. These will spread to cover the area and spill over the stones.
Lastly add your smallest stones, or stone “mulch”. This is what you will use to cover the soil to keep weeds at bay until the groundcover species take root and start to spread. You can use a grey stone such as pea gravel for a more natural look, or add a colored stone to give a little more interest. Be sure not to use fabric in rock garden plantings, especially if you are using ground covers. This will allow the plants to spread and sink their roots directly into the soil and not on top of the fabric.
As your rock garden grows and changes you can often dig up potions of the groundcover and spread it around. Choose a few different types of ground cover to add more color and texture. An added benefit of using a few different ground covers is that is you experience dieback, or have an insect or disease issue, you will not lose the entire patch. Stick to just a few different types to avoid things looking “busy”. Plant these different ground covers in groups as opposed to intermixing them. They will perform better and compete with each other less.
We hope this little intro into creating rock gardens will be insightful to you. If you would like help designing or installing your rock garden give us a call!