A rock garden is a grand place to display your alpine plants. You can shade them with rocks, provide deep root runs and provide rain cover with perspex roofs
In Alpine conditions plants can shelter behind rocks that give them protection from wind and rain and help with drainage. Try to give your plants similar conditions to there original habitat and they will repay you for your attention to detail.
Tips for Making a Rock Garden
A rock garden should be open and unshaded by over hanging trees
There should be a slope either natural or built up. This allows plants on the North facing slope to receive 25% of the sun (and heat) of those on the South slope so those delicate plants don’t fry.
Study the prevailing wind so you know where most rain will fall and plant the rain shadow area with plants that need to stay dry.
If in doubt about drainage improve it by adding grit. If the soil is clay, a pile of brick rubble 15 inches below the surface will aid drainage no-end.
The soil can be average soil but will not need extra nutrients or fertilizer except for special situations. Pack all crevices tightly with soil to prevent unwanted pests like mice.
Plan your rock positions and lay the grain or style of rock all in the same direction. Do not mix rock types or the harmonious effect can be lost.
Do not plant higgledy piggeldy but select plants that fit into a simple plan. Keep slow growing plants needing similar conditions together. Consider haveing zones in the rockery for different plant requirements.
‘Do not forget to pause and smell the flowers’ is an injunction oft repeated but it could also apply to pausing to inspect the flowers. It is easy to see the brash flowers of Dahlias, Peonies of Delphiniums for instance but close inspection of the petal-pattern or the individual florets can open up a new view of gardening.
One flower that fascinates me is the Cyclamen with the nodding head that straightens to a twist of petals what slowly untwist to reflex the petals back towards the stem. A fascinating natural process to observe. Look out for other dwarf bulbs including Crocus chrysanthus, Eranthis hyemalis (yellow aconite), Oxalis and Grape Hyacinth.
For structure in a miniature garden you can do a lot worse than Dwarf Conifers but be wary of slow growers that will eventually dominate like Juniper horizontalis and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Ellwoods Gold’.
Dwarf Conifers under 18″
Juniper communis Compressa is recognised as one of the best conifers for creating a miniature landscape with its slender spire of tightly packed grey-green foliage.
Abies balsamea Hudsonia grows to 12″
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Minima Aurea’ has wonderful golden foliage in a dense conical bush. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Pygmaea Argenta also tops out at a similar 24″ but is blueish green with creamy white tipped shoots.
Juniper squamata Blue Star is a spreading 10″ high contrast to yellow leaved conifers.
Thuja occidentalis Danica is a neat bush with bronzed winter tints.
It pays to think small and to look closely. If you are limited for space it may pay to create a garden in miniature selecting all the small species you would like to see in Acres of space.