There’s a great deal of options open to us these day to produce an amazing rock garden if we put our minds to it. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
A scree in nature is a plot of land containing loose rock on the bottom of a gully or cliff. Small stones predominate, but there can be some sizable boulders included. In this competition-free environment a variety of splendid alpines might flourish, and there are ways through which a scree can be created within your own garden.
The most satisfactory method is to dig out a strip of soil from a well, shade free part of a rock garden – ideally this should be between large stones and widen out as it descends. Inside this dug-out area place an 8 inch layer of scree compost ( one part top soil, one part peat or leaf-mold and three parts of grit or gravel ). Another place to position a scree is at the boundary between a lawn and a rock garden. Use an edging to hold the little stones off the grass. Where a rockery is absent you can produce a scree bed in a sunny spot in your garden. Remove soil from an area and fill it with an 8 inch layer of broken bricks or stones topped with a 2 inch layer of coarse sand or gravel. Add an 8 inch layer of scree compost to bring the level to the surface.
When planting, shake off as much compost that you can from the roots, when planting is finished place a 1 inch layer of chippings to cover the surface but under the leaves. A quantity of small stones bedded into the surface around the plants will improve the look of your scree. Suggested plants include Aethionema, Erodium, Penstemon, Phlox and Silene.
This is certainly an increasingly popular method of growing rock garden plants, easier, cheaper and less space-demanding than a rockery. A height of three feet is recommended and the retaining walls can be created using bricks, stone, reconstituted stone or railway sleepers. Where space permits, an upper terrace or a number of terraces may be built on the bed to produce extra interest and a spot for trailing plants. Clear away any perennial weeds before you begin, and lay a concrete foundation if the walls are going to be more that 1 ft. high. Provide weep-holes at the base if mortar-bonded bricks, blocks or stones are the building material.
When the walls are finished, add a layer of bricks, rubble or stones if the soil below isn’t free draining. Cover with grit and fill with standard planting mixture. Leave a 2 inch space between the surface and the top of your retaining wall and wait a few weeks before introducing the plants. Top up if necessary. Choice and planting techniques are identical as for the rock garden.
The use of trailing types of plants to partially cover the top of the retaining walls is particularly important. Cover the soil with a 1 inch layer of stone chippings – using larger stones is a matter of personal taste but they are an aid to plant growth because the plants themselves can grow over the rocks and create a wonderful look.