The Rock Garden


Do you have a small outdoor space that you want to fill with something different and interesting? Do you have a natural rock ledge or outcropping on your property? Do you want to learn about unusual plants and join a worldwide group of enthusiasts? If your answer is yes to any of the above, then rock gardening may be what you are looking for.

The term rock garden is synonamous with alpine garden. Many of the plants used are those found at high elevations and mountain tops - plants that are used to growing in rocky places with a small pocket of well drained soil. For this reason, they are mostly compact or dwarf in size. The main ingredients for rock garden, in fact, are well drained soil that is not too rich, a limited area of root growth, and sun. If alpine plants are given soil that is TOO good, they will become leggy and overgrown and loose their charm. Building a rock garden is almost like building a scaled-down model of a larger mountainside garden.


Some of the more common rock garden plants are hens and chickens (Sempervivium sp.), dwarf conifers, creeping thymes, phloxes, baby's breath and speedwells, pinks, compact campanulas (eg C. poscharskyana & rotundifolia), gentians and cranesbills, soapworts, saxifrages, and sedums. Many of these are easy to find in your local nursery. As you get more interested in rock gardening you will likely be drawn to acquiring some harder-to-find and rare alpine plants. These can be quite spectacular at times, may require special attention, and will always be a subject of interest if you join a rock garden club or blog. Many lists are available online.


When building a rock garden you will want to be sure to provide sun and well-drained soil. Alpine plants do NOT like to have wet feet and mostly do not tolerate shade (think about where they grow natrually). An even mix of sharp sand, loam, and rotted leaves (leaf mold) is a good basic planting medium. Compost or peat can be substituted if leaf mold is not available. This will give the soil some water and nutrient retention while allowing free drainage. A wheelbarrow is a good place to make your mix with a shovel. Larger rocks should be placed to form pockets and crevices which are filled with the soil mix. Containers that drain (even an old shoe) can be used as planting pockets also.





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