Make a Rock Garden

Edited by Robbi, Graeme, Lynn, Eng

In almost every yard or garden, there is an area which simply doesn't want to grow well. That is the ideal place to create something unique and special which can offer a look that is unparalleled. The rock garden is making a big comeback as we move further out from the cities and into rural areas. Rock gardens became popular because of so many people moving outward into areas which were hard soiled and difficult to work.

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A rock garden is modeled after areas of high terrain such as the Rocky Mountains, where you can find full colonies of alpine flowers, bushes, and wildflowers by the acre, all of which thrive on the cold, hard slopes of the side of a mountain.

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If you love the look and feel of the alpine, Colorado-like look, you can recreate it no matter where you live. Plant on a small stone ledge on your property, or if you prefer, create one to get the look that you love. There isn't any real need to build Mount Everest or carry boulders that weigh in at a cool ton. With just a little effort, you can make a smaller version of it and still get the look that you want.

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Choose about a 10 by 10 area in your yard and you'll have plenty of space for a few wildflowers and some rocks to create a beautiful look and feel. You can, if you choose, even add a water area in your rock garden. Dry rocky creek beds can be emulated, or tiny pools inside a small buried fountain might be incorporated. You're only limited by your own imagination. Your budget doesn't even have to suffer for this one, since in many areas, you can simply dig up the rocks that you want to transplant into your Alpine garden.

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Purists are going to tell you scathingly that your rock garden should contain this or that - limiting you to the plants and bushes that grow just in the Alpine areas. The plants which grow best in bad soil are those which you'll be asked to plant. Ignore those folks and forge ahead to get just the look and feel that you want. Many rock gardens are located in warmer climates.

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For those which are in desert areas, you'll need drought resistant plants that can stand up to hotter temperatures and desert heat. Some will be located in areas that require plants that are going to be able to withstand a lot of moisture or very cold temperatures. Go with your own climate and buy plants that are natural to your area. No rock garden is limited to just Alpine areas. Deserts and forests all have their share of rocky areas and each contains plants of one type or another. Plant natural and pull in the wildlife and butterflies at the same time.

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If you are lucky, you've already got a great area or a small rocky area, but if you're not, you can create your own with very little difficulty.

How to build a rock garden isn't limited by much more than what you want to see there. Get the look you want in mind and get going.


How to Build a Rock Garden

What You Will need:

  • Building sand
  • Composting
  • Loam
  • Potting soil
  • Gravel
  • Larger, heavy rocks, as well as some smaller ones to tuck into various areas
  • Plants or bushes and native flowers, in order to get more growth and less work
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Create Your Own Natural Looking Rock Garden

  1. 1
    Choose a fairly sunny area that will give you four or five hours of sun per day.
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  2. 2
    Tear out any unwelcome plants or weeds and get started.
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  3. 3
    Remove the plant roots and tree roots from the area as completely as you can.
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  4. 4
    Mix the heavy planting soils with some light weight quick draining stuff such as we have listed above in the list.
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  5. 5
    Choose a stone or rocks which are native to the area that you live in.
    Finding some that are lying around on your property is going to be ideal.
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  6. 6
    If you have to buy the stones, then choose ones that are closely aligned to the area where you live to get a very natural look.
    Limestone, granite or other stones are native to certain areas. Look around and see what's on your property and try to emulate that as closely as you can.
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  7. 7
    Spread the dirt around and work it into the ground, mounding some up in areas to hold the rocks at various heights.
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  8. 8
    Plant the rocks firmly into the ground so that they look very natural and are partly buried and partly rising above the ground.
    Rocks that are not planted firmly in the ground are going to be very hard to plant around.
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  9. 9
    You also want to use some pocketing in order to create the illusion of natural plants growing out of the rocky areas.
    To that end, get them about a third of the way down into the dirt, with about two thirds lying on the top. Pile some closely together and scatter others in a very natural way.
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  10. 10
    Begin to plant the plants in between the rocks, filling the areas between the rocks with dirt and burying your plants as deeply as you need to in order to make sure that they get a firm rooting and can hold the moisture well.
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  11. 11
    Choose native plants if you can to ensure that they are going to take a lot less work for you and will be hardier in your area.
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  12. 12
    If you want, bury a small container and add a submersible pump that will give you the means to pump the water.
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  13. 13
    Drop in a goldfish or two, or even a small fingerling trout.
    Using your imagination, you can bring the look and feel of a natural outcropping of rock or a forest rocky area to your back yard.
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  14. 14
    Make sure that you leave a path in a larger rock garden or at least a way to enter and to enjoy the look of it.
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Tips for Building a Rock Garden

  • Rocks are heavy. You're going to be hard pressed to move them alone, so get help with this project unless you're going to be using small rocks.
  • A visit to the website of the National Wildlife Federation will allow you to designate your back yard rock garden a Wildlife Habitat and it will also help - if planted with native plants - to draw in native birds and butterflies, so be sure to plant a few food or breeding plants to give them a space to grow and to lay eggs.
  • Trees are not at all out of place in a rock garden. Choose one or two that you love and help the earth while you pretty up your outdoor spaces.
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Referencing this Article

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APA (American Psychological Association)
Make a Rock Garden. (2015). In VisiHow. Retrieved Mar 25, 2017, from

MLA (Modern Language Association) "Make a Rock Garden." VisiHow, Accessed 25 Mar 2017.

Chicago / Turabian "Make a Rock Garden." Accessed Mar 25, 2017.

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Categories : Gardening

Recent edits by: Lynn, Graeme, Robbi

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