Winter tends to be the best season to dedicate time to your garden – the sun isn’t beating down so it’s much easier to be outdoors. Rock gardens can be a wonderful addition to your yard, adding colour and variation to the plants and greenery that surround them.

Plus, the plants used in rock gardens are drought tolerant and tend to help save water, rather than soak it all up.

Winter tends to be the best season to dedicate time to your garden – the sun isn’t beating down so it’s much easier to be outdoors. Rock gardens can be a wonderful addition to your yard, adding colour and variation to the plants and greenery that surround them. Plus, the plants used in rock gardens are drought tolerant and tend to help save water, rather than soak it all up.

THE BEST PLANTS TO USE

Don’t be fooled by the name, a rock garden is not just rocks and water. There are, however, certain plants that thrive in conditions that rock gardens need. When choosing the plants, always consider the colour, when they’re likely to bloom, the size they’ll grow to, the texture they’ll create and the shape. If you’re choosing plants that expand, it’s best to only choose one so you don’t have them all growing on top of each other.

Some great examples include:

  • Euphorbia is part of the succulent family and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. The great thing about this plant is that it has a shallow root system which means it can be tucked in between rocks and boulders.
  • Rock cress thrives in tight spaces, especially the thin veil of soil wedged between rocks and stones. The plant tends to creep out and in the spring, will flourish with white or pink flowers.
  • Sedum, also part of the succulent family, are great ‘plant it and forget it’ options. They come in different shapes and colours including white, pink and mauve. All they need is a bit of sun and a rocky location.
  • Red creeping thyme adds a bit of colour and interest to a rock garden, filling the gaps between rocks and pavers. The great thing about this option as well, is that it can withstand some foot traffic, so even if something falls on it, it will still bloom, releasing a beautiful fragrance as well.

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN DESIGNING

The most important element to consider is whether you’ll be using what’s already in your garden, bringing everything in or a combination of the two options. If you’re bringing some or all the rocks in, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, porous rocks are better for rock gardens than hard ones because they’ll adopt the weathered look much faster. Also, it’s best to stick to rocks that are similar in texture, colour and form. As with anything, sticking to a theme will make the area look more finished and natural, rather than confused and too diverse.

Before starting out, it’s also important to find the perfect spot for your rock garden. The spot where rockeries tend to thrive the most are sunny slopes. If you don’t have a slope, you can always create a layered rock garden by using raised beds.

WHAT TO DO

Once you’ve decided what rocks you’ll be using, what plants you’ll be bringing in and where you want your rock garden to go, there are some steps you can follow to create the perfect look.

  1. Clean the area and ensure there is a strong foundation. Rock gardens need a solid foundation so it’s always best to check before starting to plant anything.
  2. If your soil drains well, great. If not, you’ll have to create a draining layer using broken clay pots, bricks and trench rocks. These will help the water drain from the top layer. Next, drop in a layer of sand which will help ‘water’ the top layer. Then lay down the soil layer.
  3. When placing the rocks, it’s always best to make it seem like the rocks started there in the first place. Scatter them so they look like they belong there and bury them about a third of the way into the soil. Remember to fill the space around the rocks and stones with soil mix.
  4. Plant the plants. Depending on the plants you choose, you may need to wait until spring to actually plant them. You can always head to a nursery or garden store to get their advice. If you choose to wait, a layer of bark mulch will help protect the soil.

Remember, things aren’t set in stone. You can move things around if you don’t like the way the finished product looks. Also, when choosing what plants to use, it may be worthwhile to balance the bloom time so they’re not all blooming at once. This means you’ll have a lovely feature area all year round.