How to Build the Perfect Rock Garden

 In General

You can own a garden that doesn’t have many (if any) plants at all. We’re talking about a rock garden, and they’re a viable option for homeowners who want an alternative to a lawn or flower bed. 

With that said, a rock garden can still have some plants in them if one desires. Rock gardens are visually pleasing and sustainably focused regardless of the approach you take, and homeowners won’t regret having one if they make the right choices. 

This post will examine rock garden ideas and how homeowners can “plant” the best ones possible. See the illustration below:

When installing boulders, be sure to “plant” them to at least their widest measurement point to avoid that “fallen off the truck” look.

A failed rock installation. Not “planted.”

Determine the Style of Garden You Want

Building the perfect rock garden boils down to two considerations: picking the correct type of rock and then choosing an arrangement style for the rock garden. 

It’s not much different from painting a picture. The type of rock you use is akin to the brush and the color palettes, while the arrangement style of the rock garden is the equivalent of the brush strokes and the composition of the picture. 

Types of Rock Gardens

  • Decomposed Granite – The rustic appearance of decomposed granite comes from its sandy texture and reddish-brown shade. It works well as ground cover and top dressing for plants that have dried up.
  • Pea Gravel – As its name implies, pea gravel is a layer of tiny rocks that are pea-sized and typically rounded and available in colors ranging from brown to white. It makes an excellent substitute for mulch.
  • Flagstone – Although flagstones don’t typically make up the surface of a rock garden, they do make great stepping stones (literally) since they are used in walking paths or pathways. They can also be used as a base material or to provide a decorative and functional border for a rock garden.
  • River Rock – These rocks resemble pea gravel, but they’re a little larger and typically smooth in appearance. They retain heat from the sun and overheat plants, so you wouldn’t want to use them for mulching species. However, they are highly decorative and compatible with other plant species.
  • Lava Rocks – If you want an exotic rock choice and a low-maintenance material for your rock garden, go with lava rock. They are often red (due to their volcanic origins) although sometimes black, and if used appropriately, you rarely have to water your garden, even with plants among these rocks.
  • Brick chips – As the name suggests, brick chips are small or tiny pieces of brick that have been broken up. They’re one of the more vibrantly colored types of rock out there, typically reddish in hue, and they’re great for brightening a rock garden and controlling weed growth.
  • Large stones and boulders – Bigger rock masses don’t work as ground cover, but they add an aesthetic appeal to a rock garden. They come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, meaning you can establish exciting patterns and designs within a rock garden.

Best Approaches to Creating a Rock Garden

There are various reasons to choose a rock garden over an utterly organic one containing your typical plantain flower arrangement. I see a rock garden as an option for people with three types of goals: convenience, aesthetics and functionality.

Build a Garden for Convenience

The reality is that a full-on plant garden or flower bed is not appropriate for everyone.

That’s why a rock garden is excellent because once it’s installed, it needs little maintenance afterwards. 

With the proper selection of rocks, you can create a garden that is almost as dazzling as a plant one. A simple assortment of different types of stones is enough to beautify a landscape.

Build a Garden for Aesthetics

Rocks and stones don’t have to look dull and dreary. 

Remember, there are many colors to choose from with rocks, not to mention they come in different sizes and shapes. When artfully arranged, you can make a vibrant mosaic. Also, rock gardens can have plant and water elements as well. For example, a combination of rock, plants, water and other matter can add character to your garden.  

rock garden knoxvile tn

Build a Garden for Functionality 

From a practical standpoint, rock gardens benefit your wallet and save you time since they are low maintenance. But rocks also have a practical use in the garden. 

If you decide to add plants, remember that rocks anchor your soil, preventing erosion and loss of nutrients. Also, certain types of rocks are known to retain heat. Those rocks benefit some plant species that need to maintain warmer temperatures to survive.

Work With a Landscape Architect in Knoxville: Like Me

Depending on the size and scope of a rock garden, you may be able to get away with a DIY approach

More ambitious projects will significantly benefit from the expertise of a landscape architect. 

Working with a professional with a background in landscape design will help you make the most of your vision.

Are you looking to build a rock garden but not sure where to start? Get in touch with me for a consultation to help you get started. 

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