Rock Gardens – Design Ideas and Plants for Rock Gardens
Rock gardens have been a part of landscape design for many years with Alpine Rock Gardens and Japanese Rock Gardens being two particularly popular styles. Many native Australian plants are well suited to a rock garden design theme for modern gardens.
A feature of rock gardens is of course the rocks themselves, designed to mimic the natural landscape of alpine areas, or strategically placed to create a more formal design. Plants are the second feature, usually low growing and selected to fit the climate, position in the garden and theme chosen.
Not all rock gardens have plants, Zen Gardens for example are Japanese Rock Gardens without plants.
It is the combination of rock and plant that make the design complete Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tansu’ (picture right) with a large rock to act as counter to the foliage is an example.
So where do we start with out design? It is essential to design any garden to take into account the location climate and aspect, a shaded moist position will require a different approach to one in full sun with little water. One of the key aspects in rock garden design is to try to make the garden look as though it is part of the natural landscape, the choice of stone (the rocks) is a big factor with rocks sourced locally being cheaper and more likely to ‘fit in’ than others.
A natural placement of rocks with gaps filled with soil will provide a satisfactory look for most gardens, plant into the gaps and used small, gravel or crushed rocks beneath and around the plants, consider drainage when placing rocks, essential for most plants.
Plants for the Rock Garden
So what types of plants work well in a rock garden?
This will depend on the style you have chosen.
In an Alpine Rock Garden consider:
- Bulbs such as species tulips and narcissus
- Papavear alpina (alpine poppy)
- Abies (low growing cultivars)
- Juniperus squamata (picture right)
- Iris cristata
- Phlox subuata (creeping phlox)
- Scleranthus uniflorus or New Zealand Moss
In a Japanese style rock garden consider:
- Low growing conifers including abies
In this style the rocks are really the main feature with the plants a secondary consideration, gravel is widely used with flat or upright stones and water.