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rocks for rock garden yellow flower

Rock gardens are beautiful, provide a focal point to a garden, and allow rainwater to filter back into the soil. Here are ways to create yours in spring.

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Last spring, how much time did you spend in your backyard? Did you host outdoor parties for friends and family members, lounge by the pool, or watch the sun set beyond your privacy fence? If not, your outdoor space might lack a defining feature. A focal point in the form of a garden feature gives your yard the wow factor it deserves, and a rock garden offers a serene, minimalist choice.

Clear the garden

To create a rock garden, you’ll need a vacant space in your backyard. It could be just a few feet long and wide or it could stretch the entire width of your yard. Clear all plants, trees, grass, and other existing landscaping features so you’re starting with a blank slate.

Rock gardens and native plantsTo provide some definition and to discourage weed infiltration, edge the boundaries of the garden. Hide the edging with rows of stacked rocks to create a border. You might even throw in a boulder or two for variety and scale.

Create the Bed

Unlike traditional flower beds, rock gardens typically feature sand or stones instead of soil. Go with a fine material like pea gravel, sand, or crushed granite, or choose something with more substance, such as river rock. The appropriate depth depends on the material and the location of the rock garden, but aim for at least two inches. Rake the bedding material to create a smooth, even surface, then fill in any low spots.

Fill in More Rocks

Depending on the size of your rock garden, you might need more rocks to fill in the empty spaces and to create visual interest. Source local rocks that are native to your city or state. Arrange them in patterns or vignettes, then use them to create additional borders for beds of flowers or plants.

Rock garden feature

(image: Stonescape)

Add decorations and plants

Rock gardens don’t have to contain plants, but a few organic elements will give your space texture and warmth. For a low maintenance rock garden, plant a few succulents such as cacti and agave.

Consider installing a pond or fountain in your rock garden. Asian gardens, for example, often include a water feature to represent the corresponding natural element. Build a footbridge over the feature for extra aesthetic appeal.

In larger rock gardens, seating is a must. Create organic seats with arrangements of rocks and boulders, or purchase a simple bench for the center of the space. Add landscape lighting, pots of flowers, yard ornaments, and any other decor that strikes your fancy.

Leave room to grow

A rock garden offers the perfect pre-spring project because it becomes a work in progress. Add to it over time so that it develops organically. Once you’ve established the bedding material, borders, and basic decor, you can enjoy it at every stage of its growth.

As you live with your rock garden, you might find flaws in the placement of rocks or the arrangement of potted plants. Fortunately, all you need is a little elbow grease to make changes.

A rock garden isn’t the only backyard feature worth pursuing, but it’s a unique and calming addition to your outdoor space. If you position it within viewing distance of the porch or patio, you’ll enjoy it all year long.

 

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.