Planning the Rock Garden

I have decided to plant a rock garden to organize two of my plant collections, and make a more attractive space out of a former catch-all afterthought garden.

First, calling it a rock garden is probably a misnomer, because I refuse to use any kind of gravel mulch, because it’s so darn permanent, but since it is on a rock retaining wall, we will use the term for convenience.

My brilliant idea came to me while I was sitting at an economics conference, and my mind wandered, as it often does, to a problem area of my garden. This area is so bad, I don’t really have a picture of it, which is remarkable given the number of pictures I take of my garden.

best photo of my future rock garden

At the top of these rocks is a small, 10×10 foot bed on a fairly steep slope. This area has been a problem for me, not in terms of plants’ willingness to grow- they seem very obliging, but almost entirely in terms of my complete lack of ideas of what to put there.

This area is one of those “difficult to mow” areas on our tiny property, owing mostly to the crabapple featured in Time to Prune Your Trees. As I like to leave the branches low enough to allow both our neighbors and ourselves some privacy, it took me awhile to realize what I should do there. When we first moved in, I started growing some succulents in the rock crevices- and they have done well and been very entertaining.

My plan is take out the weirdly placed hostas, daylilies, russian sage, black hollyhocks and anemones and plant most of my Dianthus collection (which is quite considerable) here, along with most of my succulent collection- and make a multiseason, low growing, flowering carpet for this area that is baked by early morning sun and cools off only in the late afternoon. I’m going to move some sedums from around the property to add height along the back of this steeply sloping area, and to help hide the electrical meter.

The other advantage of this plan is that neither Dianthus nor Sedums are bothered by Japanese beetles, so I am one step closer to my dream of man-made-chemical-free summer gardening.

The only downside I can see (after I dig all the plants out of the bed) will be grass. Dianthus is a grass catcher, as are low growing sedums and sempervivums. The first year will require considerable efforts to keep grass out of the bed, particularly on the steep slope, while plants get established. I have found that grass is only too happy to help with erosion control in this bed, so I will have to be extra vigilant.

The other problem may be the eviction of our groundhog, whom I suspect lives in the rock wall. I trust that between our cat, dog and neighbor, we will take care of that.

In the months ahead, I will try to give you updates about the rock garden’s progress, the plants I will buy, and the real and imagined traumas of getting the bed ready.

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3 Responses to Planning the Rock Garden

  1. Christine B. says:

    I’ve been there. Keeping grass out of new and established beds is probably my number one chore. Or was until I put edging in: hallelujah, my beds were much less maintenance after that! Good luck on you new rock garden.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. nina says:

    well, that is certainly some big rocks you’re growing there.

    we have a rock cairn that I have added plants to – we sifted them from a couple dumptruck loads of dirt we had planned to use to re-level the back yard, but decided to build a box around it and leave the dirt where it was. We did sift the rocks out though.

    dirt project: http://ntrygg.wordpress.com/home-index/diy-projects/

    garden photos: http://ntrygg.wordpress.com/home-index/gardening/

  3. gwendolyngarden says:

    I’ve always wanted a cairn- but I keep finding uses for my little rocks so haven’t been able to pile them. Maybe now I will!

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