How to start a rock garden

How to start a rock garden

A rock garden (or a rockery) can be a charming and easy-to-create addition to any backyard or outdoor area. Inspired by the look of a natural rock outcropping, their popularity can be traced to English gardening traditions and even early Chinese and Japanese civilization. Provided you plan them properly, rock gardens can be made to suit almost any pre-existing conditions and practical limitations. In this handy how-to guide, we’ll explore which products (available in-store and online at Rock n Soil) might be suitable to include in your very own rock garden. And we’ll give you plenty more tips and tricks along the way.

Before you start

rock garden ideas Before you go ahead and grab your gloves, shovel and ‘get down n garden’, let’s stop you in your tracks. Before establishing your rock garden, it’s worth considering the following:
  1. What’s the climate like where you live?
  2. How much/what type of space do you have to work with?
  3. How much work do you want to do in setting up your rock garden?
  4. How much maintenance do you want to put in once it’s established?
  5. Do you have a budget to keep to?
This should help set you on the right path to creating your most suitable rock garden. If you’re still unsure, our best advice is to keep it simple. So hold tight for some solutions that are highly versatile and will fit most applications, conditions, budgets and skill levels. At Rock n Soil, we’re known for making things easy-peasy for our customers!

Choose a style for your rock garden

Your generic, garden-variety (pardon the pun) rockery will consist of an array of purposefully arranged rocks in various sizes. Small gaps are left between the rocks; in which plants are grown. It’s an aesthetic which highlights the natural complement between boulders/pebbles/gravels and the lushness of plant life. There is no shortage of rock garden ideas. Styles range from modern and minimalist – to cute and colourful – to rugged and sprawling. No matter which style you select, your rock garden is sure to bring an added sense of tranquillity to your home. To give you a little inspiration, here are some popular types of rock gardens:
    • Container rock gardens – Ideal for a courtyard, balcony or any other confined area of outdoor space. Screened gravel is placed in containers like pots, troughs, sinks (you could even use the front basket of an old bike) with small gaps between in which plants are grown. Another method is to use pebbles and pot plants.
  • Large boulder rock gardens – A great option when you’ve got ample outdoor space to play with. Boulders/large rocks are used to form garden edges. They are also positioned as decorative features in and of themselves. Small to medium-sized plants (usually no larger than one metre high) are scattered strategically throughout.
  • Water feature rock gardens – Taking full advantage of the harmonising effect of trickling water against smooth stone, a humble rockery becomes truly awe-inspiring when combined with fountains, ponds, streams and other aquatic elements. A classic example is a Japanese garden (often referred to as a ‘Zen garden’). This specialty garden is typified by water features, moss-covered rocks, pruned shrubs and symbolic forms of garden decor.

Where to get rocks for your garden

As you might already have realised, when designing a rock garden your selection of rocks is front and centre. Sure, plants will play their part. But the look and feel of your rockery hinges on, well – rocks! The best stones for rock gardens are those that fit the surrounding environment. That’s why you should always opt for local landscaping products. Not only will locally-sourced rocks match up perfectly with your setting, but they also stand to save you a fair bit of money (because they’re much more accessible to the supplier). At Rock n Soil we’ve got the largest range of decorative pebbles in the whole of QLD! Plus a great array of rocks of all kinds. You’ll find sandstone, granite, river gravel, imperial gemstone, autumn gold and much, much more!

Selecting plants for your rock garden

When it comes to adding plants to your rock garden it’s often a matter of personal preference. However, there are some varieties which just make sense. Look for plants with good drought resistance, that thrive on good drainage and have a compact growth habit, ie. they won't grow too large and overwhelm the look of your rock garden. Some top examples of rock garden plants:
  • Succulents – Succulents are low-maintenance and require less water. They are also highly decorative and make good ground covers. Look out for low-growing varieties of Senecio serpens (with its striking blue leaves), Sempervivum (in pretty geometric rosettes in shades of blue, green, pink and burgundy), Kalanchoe (commonly known as Widow’s Thrill) and Echeveria (an easy-care flowering succulent). Succulents
  • Ground cover plants – Some plants are known for their ability to grow low-to-ground and spread out ever so nicely. Some recommendations in rock garden ground cover include Ajuga (also known as Bugleweed), Spanish Shawl (known for its hot pink blooms) and Ice Plant (with leaves that look like jelly beans).

Essential tips for making a small rock garden

Creating a basic rock garden is a straightforward enough endeavour. However, there are a few tips you can keep in mind to get the best results.
  1. Choose a mixture of large rocks, pebbles and gravel for variation of tone and texture. Gravel is great for filling in spots while slab-like rocks are ideal for creating garden edges.
  2. Clear your area. You may want to lay down some weed matting.
  3. Start by fashioning a simple round raised bed. Keep in mind that you can get more ambitious with your rock garden landscape design as you go along, eg. adding rocks as pathways/stepping stones etc.
  4. Carefully consider your rock placement. Establish a garden edge with your larger rocks. Then give your rock garden a naturalistic look by layering as you plant. Place a variety of rocks and pebbles throughout your greenery. This will make it look as though the plants have grown up through the gaps and cracks.
  5. Try to cover as much as possible of the surface area of your garden with rocks and plants. Fill in any remaining crevices with gravel.

Order your landscaping materials

Now that you’ve learned pretty much all there is to know about rock gardens, all that’s left to do is order your landscaping materials from our friendly team at Rock n Soil. Buy at great prices and in any quantity! Plus, take advantage of our super fast delivery. You can pop in-store at our handy Chandler location or request a quote online. If you have any further questions make sure you contact us or call on 07 3245 567.