Building a rock garden is a great way to make the most of your outdoor space. Not only will it add an eye-catching pop of color to your backyard, but it will also breathe new life into it. In some cases, it can even make a place look bigger, which makes it a great landscaping strategy for homes with limited spaces.
It’s also interesting to note that plants used for rock gardens are quite low maintenance. You don’t have to water them often, and they usually last all year round. So, if you want a beautiful garden but without all the exhausting maintenance work, a rock garden is perfect for you.
Fortunately, a rockery is quite easy to set up. In this article, we will give you an in-depth guide on how to make a rock garden. We’ll make it as comprehensive yet as simple as possible, so anyone can get it done correctly.
Before we start with the step-by-step guide, let’s first walk you through the preparation stage. The success of your rock garden will largely depend on the preparation stage, so it’s best not to skip this part.
Planning and Design
When it comes to planning, the first thing you have to consider is where you intend to plot the rockery and how big it’s going to be. For those with small outdoor areas, we recommend sticking with a circular garden to help draw more attention to it and give the space an added dimension.
A corner garden also looks great, especially at giving the area more landscaping. But basically, it all depends on what you want for your garden. During this stage, it’s best to draw a rough sketch of what you want the rockery to look like, so the plotting stage will go smoothly.
Another factor to consider is the rocks you want to use. As we all know, rocks come in different shapes and sizes, and some even come with unique and lovely hues. You have to choose your rocks carefully and make sure that it looks great with the layout you previously designed.
Aside from the rocks, you should also consider the plants that you’ll grow in your rock garden. There’s a common misconception that only moss grows on rocks – because this can’t be further from the truth.
In reality, you have a variety of plant species to choose from, and these plants can offer a diverse range of colors to make your garden pop. Popular options include the yellow alpine alyssum, coral bells, rock cress, thyme, and Douglas moss phlox. With these plants, you can go wild on the color scheme you want for your rockery.
And finally, you should choose the type of soil to use wisely. Generally, plants used for rock gardens thrive in sandy soil that offers excellent drainage. It’s best to steer clear from soil that tends to hold a lot of moisture in.
You don’t have to be precise during this step. As long as it will give you a clear idea of where each rock and plant will go, that should do the trick.
Create the Perimeter
Now, it’s time to do the most labor-intensive step on this project – to lay down the foundation. We say labor-intensive because it’s advised to use bigger rocks or boulders for this first layer.
To do so, lay each rock side by side until you form the perimeter in your desired shape. This will help you create a bed of rocks that will keep the soil and plants in place. If you must add a bit of soil to help keep them in place, then don’t hesitate to do so.
These rocks must be slightly embedded in the ground to keep them from moving or eroding, especially during rainy days. But, as you do so, make sure that it still allows the water to drain quickly to ensure the plants’ survival.
Add the Topsoil
Now that you have a perimeter of rocks, you can already start adding soil inside it. You can do so by using a shovel to fill it in faster.
Once you’re done filling the rock bed with soil, pack it down with the shovel to make it compact and less prone to erosion. You can also walk all over it to make sure that the soil is pressed down nicely.
Create the Inner Perimeter
With the topsoil perfectly patted down, it’s now time to create an inner perimeter of rocks. Luckily, you’ve already used the heavier rocks for the outer perimeter, so you’re left with lifting lighter rocks for this new layer.
To do so, lay each rock side by side until you create the ideal shape you want for this inner rock bed – just like what you did with the first layer. Make sure that there’s enough distance between the outer and inner perimeters for you to put plants in later on.
And finally, you’re now ready to start planting. Just follow the sketch you made earlier and plant your desired flora accordingly.
In doing so, we recommend giving each plant enough space to grow later on. Also, you don’t need to plant just one species of flora into your garden. Don’t be afraid to mix plants with different heights, sizes, flower colors, and textures – these will surely add more color and personality to your rockery.
Add Optional Features
At this point, you’re already done making your rock garden. But if you want to add more pizzazz to your garden, here are some ideas for decorative designs to improve its overall aesthetics.
- Create a mini Zen garden or add Zen rocks to make it look more relaxing.
- Add a miniature fountain or pond and some water plants.
- For those with bigger rock gardens, you might want to add a small waterfall effect.
- You can also create equilibrium rocks around the rockery as a good conversation starter.
You can do so by picking topsoil that has a good amount of horticultural grit to allow water to drain better. Alternatively, you can create the ideal rockery soil by mixing topsoil with gravel, fine pebbles, leaf mold, and a little bit of compost.
Gather Your Materials
Now that you have planned out what you in a rock garden, it’s time to gather all the materials. For this project, here are the items that you will need.
- Stones of different sizes. This can either be the ones lying around, or you can buy them from your local landscaping suppliers.
- Your desired plants.
- The ideal topsoil.
- Weed resistant fabric.
- A shovel.
- A trowel.
- Tape measure.
- Inverted marking paint or any marking tool.
- A wheelbarrow for easy transportation of your materials.
Make sure to have all these items next to you before you begin. That will help you finish the project faster.
How to Make a Rock Garden
With all the materials and tools ready, let’s now proceed to make a rock garden.
Clear the Area
The first thing you have to do is clear the portion of the lawn or backyard where you intend to plot your rockery. If you already have the area cleared, you can skip to the next step.
When clearing out the area, the goal is to get rid of all grass or weeds that are growing on the surface. This vegetation can affect the growth of your rock garden plants, so it’s best to dig them up until there’s no trace left.
Once you’re done digging and clearing out the grass, make sure to flatten the surface. This will serve as a stable foundation for all the rocks you will layer up later on.
Install Weed Barrier
With the surface now cleared out, we recommend adding a layer of weed barrier fabric. As its name implies, this material will prevent weeds from growing, so you don’t have to keep pulling them out later on.
Also, make sure to install the weed-resistant fabric properly to prevent weeds from peeking from the sides or under the fabric.
With the inverted marking paint, plot the area where you want your rocks and plants to go. This will be based on the sketched design you made during the planning stage.
These are just some of the examples that you can use to decorate your rock garden. There are other decorative options available – and you can choose one that best reflects your landscaping style.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a rock garden?
A rock garden is a plot of land that contains different stones and rocks that also highlight the flora that usually thrives around these natural formations. Otherwise known as a rockery, these gardens tend to feature an artfully arranged selection of rocks and flora as a form of landscaping or as a stand-alone garden.
Is a rock garden easy to maintain?
Generally, rock gardens are easy to maintain. These gardens use low-maintenance plants that need small amounts of water to survive. Most of these plants can also survive in different weather conditions, so you can expect them to look great throughout the different seasons.
How can I prevent weeds from growing in my rock garden?
While weeds will always be a part of any garden, you can prevent their growth by installing a weed barrier or landscape fabric. You should do this after clearing out the area and before you start adding the first layer of rocks.
Final Notes and Advice
Congratulations, you now know how to make a rock garden. During your creative process, always remember that there’s no perfect design or aesthetics. It all depends on what you visualize for your rockery – it’s your garden, after all.
As long as you followed the steps we’ve enumerated, then you’re on the right track towards building your rock garden. And soon enough, you’ll just find yourself immersed in its beauty and charm.