Getting beauty from a stone: Building a Rock Garden

Why a rock garden?

Although not as well known as formal flower gardens, nor iconic as a Zen water garden, rock gardens offer a low-maintenance, sustainable, and natural aesthetic.

When we consider the focal point of a garden, we usually think of towering tree trunks or bold architecture; however, the planet has been providing natural centrepieces in the form of rock formations since long before Alan Titchmarsh slid on his first pair of wellington boots.

The beauty of these formations is that they are wholly unique and their rustic appearance at the heart of their charm means that once space is established, there is very little follow-up work to be done.

Moreover, the robust, craggy structure of natural stone means that they provide sturdy root foundations and shelter to less durable planting varieties as well as offering excellent natural water conservation. Their pocked, uneven surface areas often conspire to create corridors of trapped moisture and microclimates that also foster further biodiversity in your garden.

How to build a rock garden

Choosing a Site

Although rock gardens can be successfully established pretty much anywhere, choosing the right spot can save you a lot of work down the line and provide a lot of benefits unique to its locations. Foremost among these is the possibility of utilising the site’s natural surroundings to create a dramatic backdrop – particularly if you have nearby woodland or natural features like hills or mountains.

Ideally, as with most gardens, you want to establish your rock garden in a wide-open space since this will broaden your choices for planting later on since you’ll have access to more sunlight.

Perhaps the most important thing we can say about building a rock garden is that there are no set dimensions and if this is your first then perhaps consider using a small portion of your space to perfect your process before expanding.

Preparing the Site

Due to their inconsistent structure and shape, as well as how crowded your rocks will be, Rock gardens can often become flooded as they gather moisture within the stones themselves as well providing shelter from the sun and thus delaying top soil evaporation.

As a result, if you have particularly claggy soil – a result of naturally forming clay deposits – you should add a few bags of sand to the site to improve drainage.

The second stage for site preparation is all too familiar since it is common to most any garden – weeding, remove as many as you can but be sure to check out our blog on medicinal weeds before you do!


Your shopping list for a rock garden is fairly simple although it includes perhaps the most important decision you’ll make which is the type of stone in the garden. Take care to budget according to the space you want to fill and then start shopping for suppliers.

Depending on the size of your garden you’ll want just a few larger pieces to act as focal points and then plenty of smaller stones to fill out the gaps around them. It’s also wise to invest in several bags of a dry medium like grit or sharp sand so that you can reconfigure your soil in the event of flooding or even just heavy rain.

The plants you select will depend largely on the size and distribution of your stones as well as how much sunlight space gets throughout the day. Pasque flowers can provide a vibrant burst of colour, Houseleeks are succulents that will form adorable clusters using the trapped moisture in your rocks, and Aubretia can provide a bright spread of pink/purple shades that will sit neatly on top of a sunny rock.


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