Rock garden design ideas, inspiration & pictures

What are the best plants for a rock garden?

Generally speaking, plants that are installed into rock gardens need to be fairly self-sustaining and in need of very little care. They also need to be particularly resistant to a lot of sun. With these factors in mind, gardeners like to recommend the following varieties, in particular:
Rock cress
Hens and chicks
Snow in summer
Lesser periwinkle
Red creeping thyme
Creeping phlox
Woolly thyme
Ice plant
Blue fescue
Irish moss

How do I go about building a rock garden?

Just as with any new landscaping project, a rock garden needs to be carefully planned and perfectly executed. You can hire a garden planner to undertake the task for you, or, if you consider yourself to have a green thumb, you should be able to create a striking aesthetic by following these simple steps:

1. Start by totally clearing the site. Working with a blank canvas is far easier than adapting an existing scheme. It would be worth levelling the plot as well.

2. Using a pencil and piece of graph paper, sketch out your new garden design. Take a look at the extensive portfolio of inspirational pictures here on homify and start adding in key features that you know you want in your own space. Tweak the design until everything fits perfectly.

3. Select the stone varieties that you want to use. This will normally be a decision that is affected by the colour of the options available to you.

4. Install the main landscaping rocks first. In a stone garden, everything basically pivots around the largest pieces of material.

5. Choose the plants that would be best suited for your terrain, soil type and preferred aesthetic. It’s important to understand your soil first, as it’s no use choosing flowers and plants purely based on visuals, as they might not survive long enough to look good!

6. If you are planning to add in some water to your rock garden, do it now, before your plants are in place. You might need to disrupt the soil in order to get any mechanisms working properly and you shouldn’t disturb anything, once planted. Your water rock landscaping needs to be fairly precise as well.

7. Tuck your plants in. Be sure to use a little compost and make sure the drainage is perfect before firmly bedding your chosen plants into their new homes.

8. Address the issue of access last. Once your rock garden has settled into place, you can add a pathway that won’t disrupt the aesthetic.

Why is the soil so important in a rock garden?

Given how much you leave your rock garden plants to fend for themselves, it is vital that you have high-quality and fertile soil. If you aren’t naturally blessed with perfect soil, then you can address the issue by starting with a simple pH test. All garden centres sell pH-testing kits and this will give you an overview of what soil types you are working with. From there, you can add some organic compost and rock phosphate into the mix, while also eliminating any chemical weed killers. There really isn’t any place in modern landscape design for chemicals anymore.

How do I maintain a rock garden?

While you don’t need to fuss over a rock garden as much as you might a standard landscaping project, there are some tasks to tackle. This is no bad thing, as rock gardens are inspired by Japanese zen gardens, which seek to increase the harmonious influences in your life, which means that outdoor maintenance could actually be good for your health. You should expect to:

Cast an eye over it at least once a week, to make sure nothing has moved or slipped.

Always weed as soon as you see some unwanted additions sprouting up.

Not be tempted to continuously water your rock garden.

Cover delicate flowers in colder months.

Remove dead plants as soon as they have died.

How can I make moss grow on my rocks?

No rock garden is complete without some soft and delicate moss covering some of your larger boulders, but how can you encourage some to grow? It’s actually mush simpler than you might think.

1. Choose a shady and humid spot, as these are the necessary conditions for moss.

2. You can transplant existing moss to your desired location, much like a cutting.

3. Create a culture with buttermilk or yogurt and fresh or dried moss and smear it on the rocks where you want new moss to grow.