What is Rock Garden?
If your property has a slope dotted with interesting or weathered rock formations, you have anideal spot for a rock garden. If nature hasn't provided you with the ideal location, all you need is a few loads of topsoil and some rocks. If you must bring in your own rocks and soil, start small. The job may be bigger than you think. Rock gardens are designed to use a small space to recreate images of rugged mountain landscapes. They have been part of horticulture since the late 19th century. In the 1920s, Great Britain was stricken with rock garden obsession and it wasn't long before the interest made its way across the Atlantic to U.S. gardens. Popularity remains limited, however, as it is a rather intensive form of gardening and many of the alpine plants require special conditions for both growth and survival. Due to the steady contraction of space available to the average homeowner, many contemporary gardeners do not have the luxury of space. Combined with a recent escalation in interest in gardening and availability of unique plants, space efficient rock gardens offer an opportunity to indulge in a passion for plants without the benefit of acres of land or even a yard.
The Rock Garden represents both terrestrial (plants of lower altitudes) and alpine rock gardening. Alpine plants are adapted to the harsh environment of the world's mountaintops and tend to be dwarfed, often with showy blooms. They grow in very little soil. In fact, the growth medium consists of a mix of gravel, sand and organic matter. Because these plants are adapted to cool conditions above the treeline, it is desirable to face rock gardens of lower altitudes to the north in order to minimize the effect of direct sunlight.
The Rock Garden is divided into eight separate areas, which simulate rock gardens of various parts of the world. The areas represented include the High Plains, Balkans, Iberian Peninsula, Japanese, Alps (scree), American, Acid-loving and Miscellaneous gardens. Because many of these plants put on their best show in the spring, the garden is anchored by evergreen dwarf and miniature conifers that also represent plant forms found in alpine conditions. In addition, they provide 4-season interest and form for the winter garden.
Rock Garden Care
Think of your rock garden as a collection of potted plants, and tend them accordingly. Loosen the soil in each area occasionally with a small garden fork. Most rock plants do well in poor soil, but the occasional addition of manure or compost will give them a boost.
Routine care will include cutting back any leggy plants after flowering, clipping off dead portions, and dividing any plants that become root-bound or too large for its space. Check for insects and diseases regularly. Slugs may be especially pesky because they enjoy the shelter found among the rocks. Never let weeds grow in the nooks and crannies. They will easily crowd out plants in small areas.
Because plants in a rock garden are more exposed than plants in a level bed, they may need more protection in winter. A heavy mulch should be applied before the first freeze