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How to Create Your Own Traditional Rock Garden

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Here at Gertens, we offer information on how to create your own traditional rock garden. Read on for plant recommendations, placement ideas, and more!

What is a rock garden?

It is not just a garden with rocks but actually it was meant to be gardening with plants that are best suited for rocky conditions. They also call it alpine gardening. It has now evolved into a new garden trend where anyone can create a rock garden in their landscape and use plants that are not necessarily found in mountainous regions but are small enough to grow between rocks. The rocks and the plants accent each other.

Types of “rock gardens”

A rock garden can be anywhere or anything that you want it to be. There is the traditional rock garden, rock walls, and paths.

How to create your own traditional rock garden

Choose a location that can be big enough to not only have plants but rocks as well. Decide if you would like a sunny or a shady garden. And have a design or plan in mind. Choose plants that will be suitable for your sun requirements.

You can choose any size rocks, but it is best to mix sizes of rocks to give the garden depth. Large boulders and small stones should be used to fill in all different size gaps in your garden space.

Amend the soil by adding peat moss to the existing soil for healthy plant growth.
Place large boulders first with enough space between to add plants. Dig the large stones into the soil for support. Place the boulders in a staggered or non-uniform pattern to look more natural.
Lay out the plants around the large stones and adjust any plants and large stones to fit your plan or vision.

Add smaller stones to accent the larger stones and fill in any spaces in your landscape.

Choosing plants for your garden

Most rock garden plants stay small or can be pruned to stay small and live in shallow soil conditions. Gertens has a section of shrubs that are already chosen for rock gardens and must be pruned to stay small.

Choose plants that will do well in your sun conditions.

To make your garden be visually interesting throughout the year, add spring bulbs, perennials, and shrubs. For more flower interest have an annual area that can be easily planted every year.

Plants we recommend for rock gardens

Most perennials are good for rock gardens here are a few: Yarrow, Sedum, Thyme, Iris, Primula, Campanula, Phlox, Geranium, Anemone, Columbine, Dianthus, Pasque flower, Viola, Allium, Lady’s mantle, Foam flower, Coral bells, Thrift, and even Clematis.

Bulbs: It's best to use smaller bulbs to plant in-between the rocks such as: Crocus, Scilla, and Narcissus

Shrubs: Smaller varieties are the best of these plants and all will most likely need to be pruned heavily to maintain size: Barberry, Juniper, Arborvitae, Cypress, Spirea, Pine, Potentilla, Rugosa rose.

Annuals: Any smaller annuals can be used such as: Moss rose, Marigold, or impatiens for a shade garden.

Other ideas for rock gardens

  • Creating a rock garden in your landscape wall
  • Plant small root perennial groundcover's into a loose retained garden wall.
  • Make sure the wall has spaces in-between the stones to add some soil and a small plant.
  • You can have a living wall that adds depth interest to an otherwise boring retaining wall.
  • Perennials such as Thyme and ground cover Sedum work best.

Adding plants to your patio stone

Plant some small perennials in-between your patio stones.

Make sure your patio blocks are far enough apart to add soil and small plants to create texture and a new dimension for your stone path.

Perennial creeping Thyme is the best plant for this.

Rock gardens are a fun garden theme that can be used in anyone’s landscape.