How to design a rockery

Written by celia balmer
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How to design a rockery
Rockeries using native stone have a more natural appearance. (Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images)

Rockeries provide interest and texture in the garden. Plants cascading from crevices or creeping over lichen and moss-covered stones can help turn an average garden into something special. The rocks also help to insulate plant roots and prevent weeds from growing. A rockery should always be installed in sloped ground to create a more natural design and provide the additional function of preventing soil erosion.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Local stone
  • Crow bar
  • Ramp
  • Metal wheelbarrow
  • Hand trolley
  • Spade
  • Plants
  • Gravel

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  1. 1

    Buy rock from a garden centre or building supplies merchant. The most common types of rock used in rockeries are limestone, sandstone and granite. What you purchase depends on where you live and what type of rock is available in your area. Key the size of rock you buy to the amount of space you need to cover, though you may want to buy several large rocks to serve as focal points, even in a small rockery.

  2. 2

    Remove the turf, soil or other ground cover plants in the area planned for your rockery with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

  3. 3

    Examine your rocks and the shape of the slope. Determine where to place the key rocks.

  4. 4

    Move large rocks into place with crow bars, ramps and heavy-duty hand trolleys. Smaller rocks can be moved around in a metal wheelbarrow. Every now and again stand back from the rockery to examine its appearance and check it is blending in well to its surroundings.

  5. 5

    Bury half of each of the large rocks below the ground by digging a hole with a spade. This will prevent the rocks from moving. When working on a slope always work from bottom to the top. It is safer to work this way and the end result always looks better.

  6. 6

    Plant creeping plants, such as acaena, in cracks between the rocks. You can wrap the roots in wet turf before planting to get them off to a good start. Grow plants that spread across the ground and over rocks.

  7. 7

    Plant tall structural plants and trees at the back of the rockery. To create a Mediterranean style rockery you could plant some citrus trees at the back and have tall, strong-smelling plants like jasmine close by.

  8. 8

    Scatter gravel or small stones in any crevice that does not have anything growing in it as a final touch. This will help keep the weeds down and help keep the soil beneath moist and insulated. The gravel should be the same colour as the other rocks used so it blends in.

Tips and warnings

  • Seek natural inspiration when designing a rockery -- take or collect photos of rock formations and imitate how the rocks rise from the soil or cluster together in natural settings.
  • Rockeries look particularly good when a water feature is included. This could be a pond, a fountain or a small man-made waterfall.
  • When you add rocks to the ground you may well alter drainage channels. This could cause water to accumulate at certain points. Keep an eye out for this and make adjustments if necessary.

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