The Choice Of A Site
The best site for a rock garden is where it ought to be. That is a sad
truth, for it eliminates some homes from the game; but useless waste of
time will be saved if this is recognized at the outset. First cast your
eye about and see if you have a spot where a rock garden would look as
if it belonged there; that is the supreme test. If one does not seem to
belong there, give up the idea philosophically and take it out in
enjoying the rock gardens of other people.
As a rule a rock garden should not be near the house; it is something
savoring of the wild that does not fit in with most architecture.
Exceptions are when the house is on a rocky site that makes such
planting desirable, if not imperative, and a slope from the rear or one
side of a house that seems decided enough to permit of a sharp break in
the general landscape treatment. Save in these circumstances, it is
better that it should not be in sight of the house. This is not so hard
as it sounds; even on a small place, the spot is easily concealed by a
planting of shrubbery.
Nor should the rock garden, any more than the rockery, be in the lawn
unless it is depressed and therefore out of sight, or mainly so, from
the level. The depression may be a natural or an artificial one, it may
be a brook with high banks or it may be a sunken pathway. The edge of a
lawn is better, a corner of it is better yet, and preferable to either
is a bank sloping down from it. The bank on either side of steps
leading from one lawn level to another is also a possibility to be
Trees need not be altogether avoided; sometimes they are essential to
the pictorial effect. It is not well, however, to place a rock garden
near very large trees. The drip is bad, especially for alpines, and the
greedy roots not only rob the plants of nourishment but are very apt to
dislocate the stones.
Somewhere just outside the real garden is the best place; then it is
only a step from one little world into another that is altogether
different. If the rock garden leads to a bit of wood, either directly or
through a wild garden, there will be all the more to rejoice over. The
more irregularity the site has, or suggests, the better; a rock garden
not only should have no straight lines, but it is not well that all of
it should be comprehended in a single view--no matter whether the area
be large or small.
rough flight of steps. Excavate if necessary. Plant the step crevices as
well as those of the side walls]
What constitutes a good site is well illustrated by one of the existing
American rock gardens. The place is large, and in the rear of the house
the grounds are level for a considerable distance and then drop with a
fairly steep bank to a driveway, below which another terrace leads to a
meadow. Instead of being continuous, however, the bank above the
driveway is broken by a little glen, seemingly leading nowhere, but
actually an entrance to both the rear lawn and the formal garden. In
this glen is the rock garden, or rather the main part of it. Though
bounded on the north--it runs east and west--by the formal garden and on
the south by the lawn, the rock garden can be seen from neither of
these, nor from the house. It is conveniently near all three, yet
distinctly apart from all. A thin planting of evergreens screens it on
the south and east sides, and there is a low hedge between it and the
formal garden. The rock garden overflows the glen and runs along the
bank on either side, the shady section being devoted to an extensive
collection of hardy ferns. Across the driveway there is more rock garden
and then a short stretch of dry wall garden. Such a site as this does
not have to be found all made. Given any grounds with a bank, and a
little imagination, and a glen is a mere matter of shoveling soil. Call
it a gorge, if you prefer. Either, in miniature, is a favored rock
garden form; so are hill and crest.
Thus far the assumption has been that the rocks have to be gathered up
from various parts of the place or brought in from the outside. But
many grounds, especially those of country places, have the rocks; often
more than are wanted. Although sometimes this is the best of luck, now
and then the trouble of blasting and rearranging is about as great as if
all the stone had to be found. It does, nevertheless, make easier the
choice of a site; where rocks are naturally, there they ought to be.
Occasionally the rocks are so disposed that there is no choice; the site
settles itself and it is up to you to make the most of it.
A single boulder, a few scattered rocks, or a rocky bank can be
converted into a simple rock garden without moving a stone. A little
judicious planting and the transformation is complete.
A rock garden with water is a rock garden glorified. Wherever possible,
without injury to the main scheme, the garden should be brought to the
water. Failing that, bring the water to it, if this is practicable;
which can be determined when the site is picked out.