How to create a rockery

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Rockeries look great in both small and large gardens and create a focal point that lasts throughout the year. Not only do they look great, they’re also extremely low maintenance so, whether you want to add a little bit of interest to a large garden or fill space in a small garden, a rockery can be a great option.  

Choose alpine plants

Alpine plants are perfectly suited to a rockery environment. They usually grow in mountainous regions which makes them hardy and low maintenance. Alpine plants are also more likely to survive through a British winter which means they’ll provide interest and colour to your garden throughout the year, not just in the spring and summer. 

Choose your plants carefully and you could enjoy a colourful rockery with beautiful flowers from February right through to October. Add some evergreen Alpines in there too and your rockery will provide interest all year round. 

You’ll find both small and large Alpine plants so there’s something to suit every rockery and garden. If you’re new to gardening, Alpines are the perfect place to start due to their hardiness and ability to withstand the changing British weather. 

Find the right location

When building a rockery, location is key. Whilst Alpine plants are low maintenance and will thrive in adverse conditions, they need as much light as possible in order to thrive. Larger plants such as trees and shrubs can cast shadows at various points in the day so it’s important to make sure your rockery is situated away from these. In the autumn, leaves dropping from the trees can fall on Alpine plants and smother or kill them off so planting away from trees will give your rockery the best chance of thriving. 

As Alpine plants are usually found in mountainous regions, your rockery should imitate sunny, free draining mountainside on a slope as much as possible. If your garden is flat, you might need to build up the slope yourself so make sure it can drain freely and will be in the sun for most of the day. 

Choose the right time of year

You can start building your rockery at any time of year but it’s usually recommended you build and prepare it in the winter. This will give the rocks and soil time to settle before you add your plants to it in the Spring. 

Choose your rocks

You might think the rocks within your rockery don’t really matter. However, if you want it to look as natural as possible, we’d always recommend using stone that’s local to your area. You might be able to find local natural stones in a reclamation yard. 

When choosing your rocks, think about how you want the rockery to look overall. Think about the size, texture and colours you’d like within your rockery. You can also use decorative gravel to hide the soil underneath if you’d prefer more colour. The gravel will also provide good drainage conditions. 

Choose your compost

Once you have the structure of your rockery in place, it’s time to add the soil. You will need free draining soil which means you need to use equal parts of compost and sharp sand or grit. Multipurpose compost from the garden centre should be perfect for your rockery. 

When to add the plants

With the compost added, your rockery is ready for planting. It’s important to bear in mind that the best time to plant alpine plants is in the spring. This will give them one full growing season to establish themselves before the winter sets in. Planting at this time will give your rockery the best chance at thriving once the warmer weather subsides. 

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