Jun 27, 2012
Does anyone make those miniature landscapes for model railways these days? Some of them were just marvelous, complete believable Lilliputian worlds. There probably doesn’t seem any connection between them and a Rockery in an average garden but there is. Because a rockery is also supposed to be a miniature landscape! I know the ones we usually see are more like a horse’s grave, an oblong mound dotted randomly with little stones. So I am going to talk about the way they should be done.
Well then, what are we aiming at? Answer, that miniature landscape in our own garden- an Alpine one to be exact. After all, the other name for rock plants is Alpines. Because a rockery should be imitating a natural feature, a south-facing mountain side. Picture the Cliffs of Moher curving away from the viewer in vertical folds and then the natural shelves and outcrops running horizontally across each face. If you could look closely you would see small flowering plants clinging on and thriving in the little pockets of earth on those rocky shelves. That’s where our garden “rock plants” originated.
Now the first stage, the location, which should be an open sunny spot with no overhanging trees so south-facing is obviously the best. In the wild the plants naturally favour the sunny side of the mountains. Next, shape and design, here “imitation is the best form of rockery” (sorry!) But joking aside it really is, so find a picture of an actual cliff, print it out and use it as a template. It will help if you also get a well-illustrated book on rockeries and study the pictures carefully.
It is very important to use the biggest rocks you can, which is why building a rockery takes at least two strong people. A good way to get really big rocks is from your nearest quarry where they are usually very reasonably priced. Some garden centres that have the room, will stock good-sized rocks too. See if they will deliver them for you. .If you enjoy DIY, be sensible, wear heavy gauntlets and steel-capped boots, a rock on the toe is not easily forgotten! Personally I would recommend “shelling out” for a professional builder or Lanscaper you can do the interesting bit, the planting, yourself. Remember though, make sure the planting places are well drained and not too deep, little pockets of earth in between the rocks. You are making an imitation cliff face as near as possible to the native place of Alpine plants. Have the front of your “cliff” facing the sun and slope the back down to ground level from the top.
Rockery plants are usually alongside the herbaceous, or Cottage Plants in Garden Centres. Some of them are very familiar Arabis, Aubretia, Dianthus and Campanula Muralis for example, but there are literally hundreds and the colours available are marvellous.
If you have the room you could curve a little gravel garden round one side and treat yourself to even more plants. And, of course rookeries are natural partners to ponds. A very good way of using the spoil from digging out the pond.