Rockery garden ideas are more prominent in recent times as we look for water-saving and drought tolerant garden design solutions as our changing climate continues to impact our beloved Australian outdoor spaces.
A rockery garden is, put simply, an arrangement of beautiful, natural rocks with surrounding plants that complement and highlight the featured rock forms. Rockeries are typically created as focal points in landscaping, with garden design and rock placement being key as they should look like a natural, organic part of the landscape. Naturally sloped areas or spaces that are exposed to the elements are ideal spaces for a rockery garden.
In low lying areas of your garden a rockery could be designed as a river bed, or on sloping sections creating a rocky outcrop would provide a visual impact in areas that are inaccessible. Other rockery garden ideas include a Japanese or Alpine inspired theme, utilising plants that thrive in these regions and that will tolerate your soil and climate conditions. Using plant selections that naturally grow in these locations helps give a natural look as though they have always been part of the landscape.
Planting out your rockery garden
As with the rocks that you choose, careful plant selection is important to get the best results. Look at naturally occurring rocky areas around you to see what types of plants are growing well in local conditions. This will help you to select plants that will fit the particular rock garden theme you are creating. Choose plant varieties that will not completely hide your rocks as they grow larger.
If your rock garden is in a sunny position, obviously choose plants that thrive in full sun and will tolerate heat. Likewise, if the rockery area is exposed to the elements, your plants will need to be hardy to tolerate anything else our climate can throw at it. If your rockery is in partial shade, select plants suited to those growing conditions.
Succulents and cacti are easy and trendy plant choices for a rock garden as they tolerate drought and are very low maintenance. There are also many Australian natives that are suited so you can also design a purely native rockery. Australian native plants have grown in popularity in recent years as the “Australian Garden” becomes a style of its own and are now considered a sensible and practical option as they are better suited to our harsh climate. Native plants are not only hardy but also help attract beautiful Australian birds and wildlife.
These plants are well suited to a rockery garden:
- Sempervivum/Echeveria succulents (Hen & Chicks)
- Senecio (Blue Chalk Sticks )
- Casuarina Glauca (Cousin IT plant)
- Agave (many varieties)
- Blue fescue (Grass Plant)
Your rockery garden should have good drainage and you can spread a gravel or pebble layer on top as a mulch to minimise weeds. For best results, use several large rocks to serve as anchors for your rockery and having a mix of interestingly shaped rocks that are native to your area is very effective. Rocks with lichens or moss add texture, colour, and a feeling of having always been there (they don’t look all shiny and new!).
How to build a rockery garden
1. Plan your rockery garden design on a piece of paper
2. Next, consider the soil quality and drainage in the designated rockery area
3. Gather your rocks (from your outdoor space, purchase from a landscape supplier or even buying artificial rocks could be a solution) – various shapes and sizes are good
4. Bury your large rocks according to your design, be sure each rock is buried to a soil depth of at least one-third to keep the rock securely in place
5. Then plant it out and add in smaller rocks to balance spaces
6. Finish by filling gaps between the plants and rocks with a layer of gravel or pebbles