The rock backyard is again – and it is drought tolerant and low upkeep – The Center-Sized Backyard

August twenty seventh, 2022
Posted In: Backyard tendencies & design

A rock backyard was as soon as a quintessential component in each grand and smaller British gardens.

Doddington Place Gardens

The rock backyard at Doddington Place Gardens. The totally different ranges exhibit crops fantastically.

Then, like so many widespread tendencies, they grew to become uncared for or created with none actual thought or understanding. Till just lately, the rock backyard – or rockery – had virtually disappeared from the backyard designer’s palette.

However just a few years in the past, backyard centres started to report rising gross sales of rocks and alpine crops. The Guardian newspaper predicted {that a} ‘rockery revival’ was underway. Rocks, pebble mulches and gravel gardens began to look on the backyard exhibits, equivalent to Amanda Grimes’ ‘Punk Rockery’ backyard at RHS Hampton Court docket final yr.

'Punk Rockery' garden - the new trend for rock gardens

Amanda Grimes designed this ‘Punk Rockery’ backyard for the RHS Hampton Court docket Flower Present.

So I talked to Amicia Oldfield of Doddington Place Gardens, which was short-listed for Historic Homes Backyard of the 12 months final yr. It has an excellent rock backyard, relationship again to Edwardian occasions and renovated 12 years in the past. It has executed properly within the UK’s current record-breaking drought and warmth.

It’s fairly massive – round half an acre, set in ten acre gardens, however there may be inspiration there for our personal smaller rock backyard areas. You’ll be able to go to Doddington Place Gardens between April and September. It’s open to the general public twice every week.

The rock garden at Doddington Place Gardens

The rock backyard at Doddington Place Gardens seems to be good in summer season and winter. It by no means wants irrigating and a lot of the crops have been there for 10 years or extra.

The way to plan your rock backyard

Amicia suggests that you simply begin by visiting different rock gardens. In the event that they’re in main gardens, equivalent to Doddington Place Gardens, they are going to be on a a lot bigger scale, however you may nonetheless take concepts from them.

And Amicia additionally suggests taking a look at a small part of an even bigger rock backyard. There’s an space with alpine crops simply by Doddington Place Backyard’s steps that will translate fantastically right into a small city backyard, for instance.

Take inspiration from larger gardens

This small space subsequent to the steps at Doddington Place Gardens is planted with alpines from Copton Ash Nurseries. It exhibits how one can take inspiration for a small backyard rockery from a bit of a bigger rock backyard.

It’s also possible to take a look at Instagram, Pinterest and different social media platforms, utilizing the hashtag #rockgarden or #rockery. Not all will essentially be best examples of rock gardens, however it is going to enable you determine what you want and what you need to keep away from.

The place to put your rock backyard?

A rock backyard is a perfect approach to take care of a slope. Even a small financial institution could be tough to plant or water. And it’s usually cheaper than placing up a retaining wall or terracing the house. (There’s recommendation on plant on a slope right here.)

Rock garden at Leonardslee in Sussex

As a substitute of terracing a slope, you may flip it right into a rock backyard like this one at Leonardslee in Sussex. Leonardslee is known for its rhododendron assortment, and there are suggestions right here on develop rhododendrons from their head gardener.

However you don’t essentially should have a slope in your backyard.

You can have a rock garden without a slope

You’ll be able to create a rock backyard space even for those who don’t have a slope, like this present backyard which makes use of a rock and pebble mulch, including top with just a few rocks.

Measure out the house and determine what number of rocks you want. You’ll be able to both pack rocks intently collectively or house them out, separated by a pebble mulch or gravel.

Backyard designer Posy Gentles created a rock backyard in her lengthy, slender city backyard with a purpose to create extra top in an space. Posy was given the rocks by somebody who wished to do away with them. So if, like Posy, you’ve acquired rocks free by way of one of many on-line trade boards, then the dimensions of the rock backyard will in all probability be dictated by what number of rocks you’ve bought.

Add height with rocks and soil

This rock backyard border in Posy Gentles’ backyard provides top to what would in any other case be a flat space. Posy has used a seashell mulch. It’s a byproduct of the meals business, so isn’t mined like gravel. Discover out extra about utilizing seashell mulch in your backyard right here.

How to decide on the rocks

Analysis your native stone, as that may look extra pure in your panorama.  You is probably not conscious of what your native stone seems to be like, however an web search will shortly throw up large variations between -for instance – easy Scottish pebbles, rugged Welsh slate and creamy Cotswold stone. It’s probably that at the very least some buildings in your space will probably be product of native stone.

Choose rocks made from your local stone

At Doddington Place Gardens, the rocks are native Kentish ragstone. Many homes are constructed of it regionally – it’s a darker gray than York stone or Cotswold stone.

Find out what your local stone is like

This RHS Chelsea present backyard designed by Mark Gregory used pale gray York stone to replicate its theme of ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’. It’s paler than the Kentish ragstone within the picture above it.

Put ‘purchase stone rocks close to me’ right into a search engine and plenty of choices will come up.

Rocks could be costly to purchase, however there are additionally choices for getting them free and second-hand. Posy Gentles suggests you strive native marketplaces, equivalent to Freecycle, Freegle or Fb Market to search for individuals who need to do away with rocks of their gardens. ‘You’ll be able to usually get them without spending a dime for those who gather them,’ she says.

In fact, shopping for or acquiring rocks regionally gained’t assure that they’re native rocks. Nevertheless, for those who’ve executed some analysis, you’ll have a good suggestion of what would look most acceptable.

Let the rocks develop a patina of age – don’t clear moss or lichens off them. Each are essential to the eco-system and provides your rock backyard a pure look.

How do you organize rocks in a rock backyard?

The RHS says that stones needs to be buried at a couple of third of their depth, tilting backwards to imitate how they’d emerge from the panorama naturally.

If you happen to’re establishing a slope then you should use a pile of brick, stone or rubble as a base. The RHS suggests overlaying with upturned turf earlier than including soil and compost. It stops the compost and soil from falling proper down between the cracks of the rock.

Posy as soon as labored at a backyard the place the house owners purchased a pile of bricks which they’d supposed to make use of for a venture. Nevertheless, they by no means bought round to it. Crops started to colonise the pile of bricks and it’s now successfully a rock backyard.

And Posy’s personal rock backyard solely raises the extent of the soil by about six inches, so that you don’t have to create a cliff face.

The way to plant a rock backyard

  • Set evergreen construction in place first, equivalent to miniature conifers for vertical curiosity
  • Add smaller evergreen shrubs for winter curiosity
  • Discover a provider of alpines regionally to you.
  • Small, drought-tolerant crops equivalent to sedums and sempervivums
  • Trailing crops, equivalent to creeping rosemary, creeping thyme or aubretia
  • Add contrasting shapes, with spiky crops – iris, perovskia, yucca, knipfofia
  • Plant smaller bulbs (wild tulips, miniature daffodils, snowdrops, crocus, muscari)

Begin with the evergreen construction.

Historically rock gardens mimic an alpine mountainside. Crops are normally small, to outlive rugged mountain situations and powerful winds. However you additionally want some vertical presence.

planting at Doddington Place Gardens

At Doddington Place Gardens, the rock backyard is planted with a mixture of alpines, evergreen shrubs and vertical curiosity.

Miniature conifers include good shapes and leaf colors, however the RHS warns that you need to examine that they’re ‘miniature’ fairly than dwarf, as dwarf conifers are sometimes very slow-growing however could finally get too huge for the house. Verify the ultimate dimension of shrubs too, to see they gained’t outgrow the house. There’s extra recommendation on rising and selecting conifers right here.

Rock gardens partly advanced to show alpine crops, so it’s price on the lookout for a provider of alpine crops in your space and asking their recommendation on which of them are greatest in your local weather or soil. Many backyard centres even have an alpine crops sectin.

Many different smaller, drought-tolerant crops additionally work properly. Sedums (stonecrops), sempervivums and different succulents are notably good, however examine which of them will survive your winters.

The crops in 15 drought tolerant crops that can even be pleased if it rains can even be good in rock gardens.

Sedum and sempervivum

Sedums and sempervivums look very at house rising out of the rock.

Rock gardens make good use of vertical house so bear in mind to incorporate each spiky crops and trailing crops.

Planting for a rock garden

There’s an excellent distinction of shapes right here at Doddington Place Gardens, so regardless that just one is in flower (the knipfofia on the again), the planting nonetheless works properly.

Many unique bulb species got here from mountainous locations. So smaller bulbs, equivalent to wild tulips and miniature or species daffodils look good in rock gardens. It’s also possible to plant full dimension bulbs.

Add spring bulbs especially species ones

Spring bulbs and primroses look notably good in rock gardens, like these daffodils at Doddington Place Gardens.

Sculpture and water options

Each Amicia and Posy assume there may be already sufficient form, construction and curiosity in a rock backyard. It doesn’t want sculpture. However use the sculptural shapes of nature. At Doddington Place Gardens, fascinating rocks and fallen bushes create great sculptural shapes.

Use fallen trees or stumps as sculpture

This fallen tree creates a splendidly sculptural component throughout a sunken path at Doddington Place Gardens.

rock sculptures

The rocks have been positioned to create pure shapes in rock ‘sculptures’ at Doddington Place Gardens. There are additionally ponds, that are an exquisite haven for wildlife.

Woodland garden from Davies & White

A waterfall is a pure alternative for a water function in a rock backyard. That is within the woodland backyard designed by Davies & White with the Duchess of Cambridge on the RHS Chelsea Flower present. There’s extra Chelsea backyard inspiration right here.

Do you have to use a weed suppressant membrane?

You’ll usually be suggested to incorporate a weed suppressant membrane when placing collectively your rock backyard. Don’t take this recommendation.

I belong to quite a lot of skilled gardener Fb teams, the place folks focus on points that come up of their work and share options. Just lately a gardener was placing collectively a rockery for a consumer who wished her to make use of a weed suppressant membrane. She requested the group’s opinion, and everybody, with out exception, suggested her towards it. And it’s very uncommon to have everybody in settlement!

That’s as a result of weeds land and develop on each backyard floor, together with weed suppressant membranes. And the roots of perennial weeds will discover a means of wiggling across the sides, too. So after just a few months, you’ll nonetheless should weed. However most significantly, weed suppressant membranes are likely to ruck up, in order that they present, and that appears ugly.

Is a rock backyard low upkeep?

There’s some debate about whether or not a rock backyard is low upkeep. If you happen to select the fitting crops, it’s drought resistant. They’ve by no means needed to water the rock backyard at Doddington Place, for instance.

The crops are normally compact and so don’t are likely to get out of hand, nor do they incessantly want changing. Doddington Place’s rock backyard was replanted over ten years in the past, and most of these crops are nonetheless thriving.

Nevertheless, some gardeners say that the open facet of a rock backyard attracts extra weeds than a crowded herbaceous border. You might have to weed extra usually. But when it’s not a big space, then that is probably not an issue.

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Rock garden tips