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Rock Garden with Wooden Steps

Rock Gardens
Raised Bed Gardens



Rock Gardens and Raised Bed Gardens

There are a lot of options open to produce fantastic rock gardens.

Rock Garden Around Stream

There are a lot of options to creating a fantastic rock garden or raised bed garden.

Digging out a scree.
One method to creating a scree is to dig out a strip of soil from a shade free part of a rock garden - ideally this should be between large stones and outward as it descends. Inside this dug-out area place an 8 inch layer of scree compost (one part top soil, one part peat or leaf-mold and 3 parts of grit or gravel). Another place for a scree is at the boundary between a lawn and a rock garden. Use an edging to keep the small stones off the grass. Where a rockery is absent you can create a scree bed in a sunny spot in the garden. Remove soil from an area and fill it with an 8 inch layer of broken bricks or stones topped with a 2 inch layer of course sand or gravel. Add an 8 inch layer of scree compost to bring the level to the surface.


Shake off compost from roots
When planting, shake off as much compost as you can from the roots, when planting is finished place a 1 inch layer of chippings over the surface and under the leaves. A number of small stones bedded into the surface around the plants will improve the appearance of the scree. Recommended plants include Aethionema, Erodium, Penstemon, Phlox and Silene.

Raised beds
This is an increasingly popular way of growing rock garden plants, easier, cheaper and less space-demanding than a rockery. A height of 3 ft. is recommended and the retaining walls can be made with bricks, stone, reconstituted stone or railway sleepers. Where space permits, an upper terrace or a series of terraces can be built on the bed to create extra interest and a place for trailing plants. Clear away any perennial weeds before you begin and lay a concrete foundation if the walls are to be more that 1 ft. high. Provide weep-holes at the base if mortar-bonded bricks, blocks or stones are the building material.


Filling the raised bed garden
When the walls are finished, add a layer of bricks, rubble or stones if the soil below is not free draining. Cover with grit and fill with standard planting mixture. Leave a 2 inch space between the surface and the top of the retaining wall and wait a few weeks before introducing the plants. Top up if necessary. Recommended plants include Aethionema, Erodium, Penstemon, Phlox and Silene.

The idea of growing alpine plants in troughs and glazed sinks caught on in the 1930s. Using a container shows that rock garden plants can be grown almost anyplace, including on your balcony or patio, the plants are also raised above the ground, putting them into easy reach. There is a less obvious virtue however, some difficult alpines which often rot outdoors can survive the winter in the exceptional drainage provided by a deep trough.

Reconstituted stone troughs
Many attractive reconstituted stone troughs are available today - the main feature to watch for is definitely an adequate drain in the base. Old glazed sinks can be covered with hypertufa which is the product of of 1 part cement, 1 part sand and 1 part fine peat blended to a moist mix with water. Place the sink or trough on firm supports in a sunny spot and cover the drainage hole with pieces of rubble and fill to within 2 inches of the top with a standard planting mixture. Allow it to settle for a couple of weeks and then plant up, aiming for a mixture of shapes, sizes and colours. Here you can use choice and delicate types to maximum advantage, but avoid rampant carpeters. Place some rocks between the plants and cover the suface with a 1 inch layer of stone chippings. Water on a regular basis during the growing season.


Dry-Stone Walls
A dry-stone wall is formed without using any mortar. In northern rural areas of Britain you'll see mile after mile of dry-stone walling built by bonding flat stones together, In the home garden, soil or planting mixture is needed to fill the gaps between the stones. In these cracks, a wide range of rock garden plants can be grown.

Free standing or retaining walls
There are two types of dry-stone walls, the free standing double-faced one with a central core of soil, and also the retaining type used to support a raised bed or face a bank. Building a free-standing wall ought to be left to a professional, but to build a retaining type is well in the scope of the normal home gardener. Use limestone or sandstone - a better-to-handle alternative is the dry-walling variety of reconstituted stone block. A wall above 1 foot will require a 6 inch foundation of rubble or concrete. Lay large, flat stones for the lower layers, pushing them together tightly with a fill of planting mixture between the sides and layers of stones.

Rooted cuttings
Each stone should slope downwards and backwards, a 10 degree slope is satisfactory. Plant as you go, placing the specimens sideways. Rooted cuttings are generally easier to use than plants which are pot-grown. Pack the mixture all around the roots. When constructing a wall against an earth face, planting mixture should be packed n firmly to fill the space between the rear of the stones and the front of the bank. Spray the wall with water when planting is finished, also water during dry weather until the plants are established. Recommended plants include Alyssum, Aubrietia, Dianthus, Phlox and Thyme for a sunny face and Arabis, Campanula and Saxifraga for a shady face.

About the Author: Stephen Drummonsy has been a keen gardener for many years and relies on Gardener London when he needs answers or help.
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