5 Tips for Building a Perfect Rockery

Garden design, Rockery

Would you like to create an idyllic Alpine paradise in a corner of your own garden? Building a rockery can create an interesting focal point in your garden and gives you an opportunity to try your hand at garden landscaping. You also get the chance to have a new, wide range of beautiful plants, flowers and shrubs in your back yard that thrive in mountainous conditions.

Here are my top 5 tips for building your own rockery:

1) Design your rockery before you start

Without proper planning, the success of your rockery will suffer. To start with, pick the right spot. Rockery plants are happiest when exposed to sunlight for several hours a day so place your rockery in an open location. Having your rockery in direct sunlight makes it look even more beautiful, as the sun shimmers off the rock faces and brings out the contrasts with the colourful plants.

Drainage is another important issue to consider. Your rockery should be designed with sloped sides to allow water to drain down the sides of it, or built upon an incline. If the soil you are using to build your rockery naturally retains a lot of water, you may wish to mix it with sand or grit.

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As for the aesthetics of your rockery, there are many different options you can choose. Why not check online for inspiration? Experienced garden designers should be able to display to you a range of different styles and approaches for your garden rockery.


Garden Rockery
David Hawgood via Wikimedia Commons


2) Use the right tools for lifting

Building a rockery can be extremely heavy work (the clue is in the name… “rock-ery”). By having the correct tools, you can substantially lighten your load and avoid causing yourself injury. Firstly, wearing safety gloves is essential when carrying heavy and potentially sharp rocks. A good, solid wheelbarrow will prove itself indispensable for transporting building materials and a crowbar may help you get purchase on the rocks once they’re on the ground. It may be worth considering using a lifting brace to minimise the impact of heavy lifting on your back.

Ultimately, your best tool may be other people. Why not ask your friends and family if they would like to help? You could throw a BBQ that evening to say thanks.


3) Stick to one type of rock

You don’t want to confuse the design of your rockery by mixing rocks from different parts of the world. Use rocks that are of similar colours, shapes and sizes. Remember to save the biggest ones for the base layer of your rockery and work upwards.

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For a cost-effective rockery, check out free classified websites such as eBay, Craigslist or Freecycle or the local paper to source free unwanted rocks.


4) Choose attractive and low-maintenance plants

To achieve that perfect Alpine look, choose plants that flourish in mountain regions. Some of my favourites include alpines, rock roses and dwarf roses, violas, dwarf hardy geraniums, sedums and sempervivums.


5) Remember to weed regularly

Weeds can easily take hold of a rockery, tangling their roots round the rocks and hiding in shadowy corners. They not only look unpleasant, but can also steal precious nutrients from your rockery’s plants.

Before building your rockery, you will have to eradicate all weeds from the area. You may even wish to lay down a special anti-weed fabric or mesh underneath your topsoil which will stop weeds pushing through, whilst retaining soil moisture and drainage. After the rockery is complete, remember to regularly inspect it for weeds, whipping them out while they’re still young.