Now is a great time of year to build a rock garden. In the winter, there is not much else to do in the garden. Maybe you are just tidying up and feel for something to do with that corner space that has never made much use for itself, or you are planning a fantastic new garden project this year.
Decide whether you want an Alpine rock garden or an exotic succulent rock garden or maybe even a Japanese rock garden?
Any rock garden will require well-draining soil, direct sunlight for a good proportion of the day and preferably somewhere away from overhanging trees.
Based on what I have seen and learned, it’s usually (not always) best to go for greyish rocks, slate etc to give it more of a real Alpine scenario. The plants you use should generally be more hardy as they would typically have to withstand harsh winters.
You can be more relaxed about the rocks you use. Succulent gardens are more exotic so it can be a good idea to use warmer colours in your rock choice.
Usually more rocks and fewer plants. Minimalism is the key here. For full effect, use the odd Acer tree.
2. Plan and create the outline
Create an image in your head, even draw it out if you need to of the proposed rock garden. Keep in mind the gradient, the amount of light it will get and the angle it will face for viewing it. Another thing to consider is, are you going to have it in a raised bed or have it on the ground.
If you decide to have it on the ground, it is absolutely necessary to ensure the soil can drain enough water. If too much water sticks around for too long, your plants are going to get root rot.
If you decide to go for a raised bed then you will need to prepare it now. Good thing you are doing this in the winter. It’s easier to maintain good levels of drainage as you can easily get a well-draining soil specifically for plants for rock gardens.
3. Fill with rocks
It’s best to choose second hand or salvaged rocks, in my opinion, something as simple as rocks can be surprisingly expensive.
If you have a raised bed, fill with well-draining soil. Which may be a mix of different sized stones, or if you use standard soil make sure you top it off with gravel or stones to give it the right look.
All you will need to do with this now is move some of the stones to make a place for the plants!
4. Fill with plants
Yep, this is the juicy fun part. You may have made a plan for this (which I would definitely recommend). Before you plant them straight in the ground, hear me out…
Water the plants, leave them in their pots, then simply place them in the desired spot. Once you have positioned all of the plants, make sure it looks right before you take them out of the pots and properly plant them. I often move plants around a few times before finally deciding.
Here are a few plants that I personally like for an Alpine garden:
- Conifer (As long as you keep it small!)
Your local garden centre should have an alpine section abundant with plants perfect for your rock garden.
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