Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass, Whah de branch'll go a-singin' as it pass An' w'en I's a-layin' low, I kin hyeah it as it go Singin', "Sleep, my honey, tek yo' res' at las'." Lay me nigh to whah hit meks a little pool, An' d... Read more of A Death Song at Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational
Home - List of Herbs and Articles - Rock Garden

Most Viewed Rock Garden

The Choice Of A Site
Plants For A Rock Garden
The Rock Garden
Water And Bog Gardens
Planting The Garden
The Wall Garden
The Work Of Construction

Least Viewed Rock Garden

The Choice Of A Site
Plants For A Rock Garden
The Rock Garden
Water And Bog Gardens
Planting The Garden
The Wall Garden
The Work Of Construction

The Work Of Construction

Spring is the best time to make a rock garden. When the important matter
of the proper site has been put in the past, a definite scheme must be
planned. Upon the definiteness of this scheme, much of the success of
the rock garden will depend. Here desire will have to be subservient to
the situation. It is not so much what you want as what is best in the

Do not attempt slavishly to copy the rock garden of some one else. All
the money in the world would not create an exact duplicate for you,
since nature has made no two rocks precisely alike. Study them, of
course; get all the ideas you can. But study first, and most,
nature--more particularly its ways in your own neighborhood. Anywhere
there is abundant opportunity. Take a leaf or two from the book of the
Japanese gardeners. They are past-masters of the art of making rock
gardens, with a bit of water thrown in. They make use of comparatively
few blossoming plants, but their example is invaluable in the
disposition of rocks with simple effectiveness, in the simulation of
height and distance, in the proper employment of turf, and in the
planting of such small trees and shrubs as are suitable for a rock
garden scheme.

Measure carefully the space at command, and then lay out the plan on
cross-ruled paper. Call each of the little squares a square foot and the
labor will be made easy. Next, figure out a good entrance, and, if
possible, an equally good exit--the one invisible from the other. Then
outline the main path, which should be as devious as the situation
allows, and, if byways cannot be added, provide for bays, or more
pronounced recesses. Remember that you are not merely to simulate
nature; you are, by a process of compressing much in little, to
epitomize it.

Then comes the selection of the rocks. Usually the rock close at hand,
perhaps on the very grounds, will answer every purpose. If you are not
fortunate enough to own any, very likely there is more than one townsman
who will be glad to give you all the boulders and smaller rocks that you
want, if you will only remove them from spots where they are not
desired. The cost of removal, even in the case of boulders of fair size,
is not great.

Barring quartz rock, which does not look well, almost any kind of
natural stone may be made use of to the best advantage. Artificial
stone should be shunned like the plague. Limestone and sandstone are
good materials; granite is better. Granite, however, does not stratify,
and if stratified effects are desired, another stone must be selected. A
good plan is to use more than one kind, but to keep them properly apart.
Weather-beaten granite is excellent material, and, in general, it is
well to have the rock look anything but newly quarried. Pick out some
rocks with a growth of lichen on them, and be sure that this is not
disturbed by the moving.

has a soil pocket to itself. Note the effective background and irregular

Boulders may run up to several tons in weight. Where none is readily
obtainable, one can be simulated by ingeniously combining a few small
ones and concealing the joints by the planting of such things as
stonecrops in earth--which, save in rare cases of sheer necessity, is
always used in the construction of a rock garden in place of mortar.

If the site is level, the next step is to change all that--first on
paper. Unless the lay of the land is all right at the outset, the
configuration of the rock garden must not depend wholly upon the
upbuilding; there must be some excavations, but no depressions deep
enough to catch and hold water just where you will want to walk.

Aside from the path levels, building begins with the rocks, not with the
soil. This is a highly important point. Place the boulders first; they
are the big effects. Aside from that, the heaviest work will be out of
the way. Then start in with the outlining base rocks. These should be
placed with the largest surface to the ground and should vary in size.
It is not essential that the lowest rocks should be slightly buried in
the ground, but that course is preferable.

When the paths and outer margins have been thus defined, scatter more
rocks over the intervening surface, placing them fairly thick but not
close together. Next, fill in with soil, packing it firmly and ramming
it hard into every crevice. If it fits in with the day's work, it is not
a bad plan to water the rock work well in order to pack the soil, and
when resuming the labor on the morrow, to add more soil, well pressed
down, before proceeding with the second layer of rock.

This second layer should have the rocks placed with the front edge
slightly back from that of the lower row in order to form a slope,
though an occasional overhang may be fashioned if required for a certain
plant known to abhor a drip from above. The construction then proceeds
as before, until the desired height is reached. The height is entirely
arbitrary, but some points should be at least as high as the line of
vision, as one of the great advantages of a rock garden is the pleasure
of enjoying some of the typical rock plants without stooping. The rocks
used as fillers should overlap here and there to give strength, but care
must be taken to contrive plenty of long soil runs. Eighteen inches
should be the very least. A plant like the alpine androsace is a tiny
rosette, seemingly requiring no more than an inch or two of soil, but
its roots are likely to be found following an earth-filled crevice in
the rocks to the depth of a yard or so. It is because of this deep
penetration of roots that the soil should be packed so very firm; the
roots must be in no danger of loose soil or of striking a hidden

even with soil between, the pressure may be relieved by the use of small
stones. The soil run need not be straight, but it must be continuous, so
that the roots of the plant may find their way from A through to B]

At no point between two stones should the layer of soil be less than two
or three inches thick after being packed hard. If an upper stone is
likely to bear down too heavily and crush the plant roots, this may be
avoided by placing small stones here and there in the layer of soil. The
roots will work between these stones, but there must be a continuous,
though not necessarily straight, soil run from the front of the rock
work to the solid filling of earth. The run should slope downward

Rocks calculated to simulate a natural stratification ought to be laid
on an incline for proper drainage. Such pieces of rock may also be
employed sparsely in wedging, and in the making of the so-called

These pockets are of prime importance in the construction of a rock
garden. They hold the only considerable spaces of soil and are the chief
means of colonizing plants, thus providing for pronounced color effects.
They should break the slopes and be irregular in size, shape, and
distribution. The large ones may be easily subdivided by small stones
when the planting is done if a further separation of species is
desirable. The soil must slope a little from the top, so that there will
be no standing water.

shallow (A) and deep (B) soil pockets; tilting and wedging of rocks (C);
bridging (D), and perpendicular crevice soil run (E). Two to three
inches of soil between all joints. The lowest rocks are partly buried]

The drainage of a rock garden is of vital importance. There must be
plenty of moisture stowed away behind the rocks against the heat of
summer, but all excess must be carried away. The garden should drain
naturally, as the hills do. If any doubt exists, make a drainage bed of
eight inches of clinkers before starting to lay the stones.

The soil should be a good loam with a little peat, and stones varying in
size from a mustard seed to an almond. A little manure may be used, but
it must be old.

Next: Planting The Garden

Previous: The Choice Of A Site

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