The Rock Garden

In Europe, particularly in England, the rock garden is an established

institution with a distinct following. The English works on the subject

alone form a considerable bibliography.

On this side of the Atlantic, the rock garden is so little understood

that it is an almost unconsidered factor in the beautifying of the home

grounds. There are a few notable rock gardens in this country, all on

large estates,
and in more instances some excellent work has been done

on a smaller and less complicated scale either by actual creation or by

taking advantage of natural opportunities. But for the most part

America has confined its rock garden vision principally to the so-called


Now a rockery, with all the good intentions lying behind it, is not a

rock garden. It is no more a rock garden than a line of cedars planted

in an exact circle would be a wood. A rockery is generally a lot of

stones stuck in a pile of soil or, worse yet, a circular array of stones

filled in with soil.

A rock garden, above all else, is not artificial; at least, so far as

appearance goes. It is a garden with rocks. The rocks may be few or

many, they may have been disposed by nature or the hand of man; but

always the effect is naturalistic, if not actually natural. The rock

garden's one and only creed is nature.

Rock gardens are of so many legitimate--in other words, natural--types,

that there is not the slightest excuse for a rockery. Even that

commonest of excuses, finding a use for stray stones, falls to the

ground. Any close observer of nature is familiar with these types. The

natural rock gardens range from the patches of alpine plants above the

timber line in high mountains down the lower slopes and through defiles

to fields on or near sea level. Not infrequently they come down to the

very sea, while sweet waters commonly define and, what is better, are

now and then incorporated in, them--here a pool, there a brook. The bog,

too, the heath and the desert, they take unto themselves, though perhaps

only the nearer edge. And does man, by ponderous effort, raise up

massive masonry in orderly fashion; one day disorder comes and nature

makes things look natural by another kind of rock garden. Rome's

Coliseum and the ruins of Kenilworth Castle are only two of the

unnumbered examples of this.

Here, in a nutshell, are not only the natural variations of the rock

garden, but the inspiration. No rock garden worthy of the name has ever

been created by man that did not depend upon a study of those that

nature has given the world in prodigal abundance. There were the why and

the how of it all, and man simply saw and made use of his observations.

The advantages of a rock garden are, primarily, an element of

picturesqueness that nothing else can provide, and the possession of a

place in which can be grown some of the loveliest flowers on earth that,

if they flourish at all, will never do as well in the ordinary garden as

in conditions more or less approximating their natural habitat. Also it may

be made a pleasance of extraordinary attractiveness. Occasionally--and

here is one of the most important things to be learned about the rock

garden--it is the veritable key to the garden situation; there are small

places where no other kind is worth while, if indeed it is possible.