Rockery gardens combine the attractive look of natural stone with sparse plantings meant to accentuate both the plants and the rock. A successful rock garden looks natural in its setting, so the best rockery gardens use plants and rocks that are native to the area or similar to native styles. Prepare your garden area for the rocks well so your rock garden will not shift greatly with erosion or sprout weeds that could have been minimised.
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Water and rocks go together beautifully, so consider a pond, stream or waterfall for your rockery garden. The water feature itself may be lined with natural stone or shaped from concrete designed to look like stone. Surround the water with large stones that can be used as seats when you want to dip your toes in the water during warm weather. Add a few plants such as ferns or other water-friendly varieties that will drape over the water feature from pockets of soil within the rocks, and make sure to plant a shade tree over at least part of your water feature. If you are trying to minimise plant life, work your way out from the large seating stones with medium-sized rocks, then smaller stones that become a ground cover.
Naturally coloured stones can enhance your rockery garden's appearance, but be careful not to make the area look too busy or unnatural. While marble chips work well with dark granite, or combine grey slate with red rock. Lay out the different colours so you have one primary and one accent colour, with a possible third colour for large rock gardens. For example, lay marble chips for bedding around large dark granite boulders that have interesting shapes. In a large yard, lay medium coloured granite or grey gravel pathways inside the marble chips, weaving around your boulders. Add a splash of colour with small, bright flowers such as columbine or Indian paintbrush in high or cold climates or rhododendron bushes or azaleas in wet climates.
Rockery gardens create an excellent showcase for outdoor sculpture due to their subtle natural beauty. Start with terracing to add multiple levels to your yard, creating raised areas if the land is flat. Natural rock retaining walls will hold the soil in place. Lay crushed rock pathways that weave around your sculptures and set large boulders or stone benches in front of each large sculpture as places to rest and contemplate the art. Bronze, copper, steel, wood and bamboo sculptures all work well in rocky landscapes. Bronze and copper work particularly well in wet areas, as the natural patina caused by the weather will develop relatively quickly.
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