In essence, I aim to create a situation where the opposites of hard and soft, sharp and smooth, are living in harmony within the site. A prime example of the achievement of this hard/soft harmony is to be found within the rock garden, the rocks and gravel represent the hard textures, with the soft textures being filled by the lush alpine planting.
Building a rockery is a project that many of you out there may happily undertake this coming summer, so over a few articles, I shall give you some insight into rockery layout, creation and planting.
Keep it natural.A simple traditional rockery should be designed to resemble a natural rock out-crop, with plants positioned to reflect mother natures irregular seed sowing pattern. This area should use only one type of rock e.g. limestone, granite or whatever stone is local, try also to select some character-filled rock with cracks and fissures. It goes without saying that concrete blocks, bricks or pavers should not be used to make up the numbers within your alpine construction. Unfortunately, all to often, this combination of incorrect rock selection, straight planting lines and symmetrical plant placement immediately exposes a poorly built rockery as man-made and contrived. An obvious crock of a rock(ery).
Locations.There are certain areas of your garden that may lend themselves very well to a rockery placement. For example, a bank of sloping ground that grows grass well enough, but proves un-mowable due to its steepness, this could actually be a blessing in disguise. If this situation exists within your garden, lucky you, utilise it, as rockeries often look their best when built into sloping ground or banked against a wall even. Also, seek out sunny locations, constructing your rockery or rocky out-crop in a sun trap will benefit the growth and blooming of the particular types of alpine plants which look most at home amongst the rocks. Do not position the rockery near trees due partly to the shade factor; another problem with trees is the fact that water falling from the leaves outer edge (drip-line) onto alpine plants can quickly reduce them to soggy rotten specimens.
It would also be ideal if the rockery had some shelter from harsh winds, enabling the plants to retain fresh new growth and flowers for as long as possible.
Part 2 "Treat your Alpines to a Free Draining Mountain Slope"....
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