Best Plants for Your Rock Garden

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Are you contemplating having a rock garden or just looking to update your current one?  Not all plants will thrive well in a rockery setting, but when you find the right combination, it will be a stunning piece of your landscape!

Designing Your Rock Garden

Rockeries can be very effective means of descending a slope or providing a major feature in any garden. The choice of plants has expanded during the past few years and any large garden center offers a large range.

Alpine plants are those which grow in mountainous regions and these will be well suited for growing on a rockery. Alpines can also be grown in a raised scree bed which can make an unusual feature in itself.

A rock garden ideally is on a gentle, south facing slope. It’s sheltered from strong winds and close enough to trees to benefit from dappled sunlight, but not close enough to have a lot of drips after rain. Well drained sandy loam is best.

Sites to avoid for rock gardens are in dry corners, close to a hedge or in dense shade. The type and color of rock should be considered as it is a costly commodity for your client to buy, and it should be locally available. If you can, match the soil in your clients garden to the rock colors available to give an authentic look.

Best Plants for Your Rock Garden

Selecting Plants for Rock Gardens

In choosing plants for rockeries there are a few basic rules:

  • do not put slow growing plants next to fast growing ones
  • fast growers will swamp the slower ones.

Try to create color all year in the rock garden, and position plants carefully. For instance dwarf conifers can be used effectively in a rock garden to show off other plants or add height variety but are better at the bottom. Likewise, plant a prostrate conifer so it falls over a rock. If you think of the rockery as a mini mountain and plan the plants with this in mind you cannot go far wrong.

So, the taller trees will be at the base and the lower, creeping varieties at the top. An advanced type of rock garden is built using rock chippings or scree between the rocks. This imitates more closely the conditions that many alpine plants grow in on mountains all over the world; and specialized plants that will not grow well on ordinary soil often thrive on scree beds.

Best Plants to Use

The construction and upkeep of rock gardens and alpines is a specialized area and you need to consider this before using them in your designs. Most of the weeding needs to be done by hand as there’s limited access to the plants. A visit to a specialist nurseryman should be your first move if your client would really like a rock garden.

Plants which are best include. Campanula muralis, Veronica austriaca susp. teucrium Kapitan’, Sedum cauticola, Campanula garganica, Thymus serpyllum ,Gentiana septemfida ,Potentilla nitida, Acinos corsica, Saponeria ocymoides, Armeria maritime Oxalis adenophylla.

All these are easy to grow and offer color and foliage interest throughout the year. You can also include dwarf confiers, spreading junipers (J. squamata ‘Blue Star’ is a godone) and sumer gentians for vivid blues.

Whichever plants you chose, enjoy your mini-mountains!

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Tags: garden, rural lifestyle
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an author and sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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