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How to Build a Rockery


What could be more perfect than your Jack and Jill bench beside a stunning rockery?  It is the confluence of the crafted wooden seat, the strategically placed alpine planting and the beauty of different rocks and stones that will win your heart.

The question of how to build a rockery is not as simple as throwing down some soil and some boulders from your garden centre.  If you want your rockery to flourish there are some essential steps that you should follow.

Step 1: Get the foundations right

To encourage good drainage and give some height to your rockery, lay some bricks and rubble.  This should be placed haphazardly and then covered in upturned turf.  The upturned turf will prevent your soil from disappearing into the cracks between the foundations and blocking the drainage you are attempting to design.

Once you have firmed down the upturned turf, cover this with about 8 inches of general garden soil.  This is where you create the lines and shape of your rockery, so give it some careful thought.  How do you want to guide the viewer’s eyes around your planting?

Step 2: Lay your rocks

You need to choose your rocks carefully.  The colour, shape, size, pattern – all contribute to the overall design of your garden.  Choose stones that will sit well with each other.  Recommendations for the best rockery stone includes York stone, Cotswold stone, slate stone, and Welsh green stone.

Once arranged, you then need to infill the stones with more general garden soil.  You need to pack the soil underneath the rock, as well as between the rocks, to create the necessary stability.  It may mean you have to loosen and reshape the soil beneath the stone later, which will also give room for roots too.

Step 3: Mix up your compost

Now you have the structure of the rockery in place, it is time to make sure you have the compost ready for your planting.  Your rockery will need soil that is free draining, which means using equal parts of compost and sharp sand or grit.  A decent multipurpose compost with a free-draining mix from your garden centre should do the trick.

Once mixed, spread the compost out and level it with a rake as you go.  It is essential that you keep this loose and do not compact the mix.10th

Step 4: Lay out your planting

Now is the time for some fun.  You will have bought your alpines, with a variety of height and spread.  It is now time to consider where you are going to plant them.  You need to give a lot of thought to the growing pattern of each plant, making sure your mature rockery looks as amazing as your newly planted area.

Then, take the plunge.  Remove your plants from the pots, loosen their roots to help them establish in the soil, and plant so that they are level with the surface.  Firm around the plant, carefully pushing down on the top layer of the soil.  Water your planting before proceeding.

Step 5: The finishing touches

The finishing touches will add the quality to your garden that you deserve.  You need to place decorative gravel or grit around the collar of your planting first.  Then, you need to layer the grit across the rest of the area, filling in all the gaps. Make sure to use a dustpan brush to tidy up the grit from the rockery and around the edges of the rockery area.  Such details make the neat finish that will give you the most pride when you step back and admire your work.

Once everything is in place, it is time to water in.  You should thoroughly water the rocks, plants topdressing, enjoying your handiwork as you go.

Finally, some top tips

The best time to start your rockery is in the winter, which makes it the ideal project for that fallow time in your garden.  To help your planting establish itself, you should give the rocks and soil time to settle.  Second, think carefully about the light and how it will hit your planting. Finally, you need to make sure the gradient of the rockery is at an angle that supports the look you want but also means the topsoil can stay in place.

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