Landscaping with a Rock Garden

By Heidi Green , last updated April 12, 2011

To add a beautiful space for contemplation and relaxation, you should definitely consider landscaping with a rock garden. Rock gardens can take many different forms, and there are several exciting and interesting variations on the rock garden theme, ranging from "Alpine" style rock gardens to Japanese style Zen rock gardens. Also, nothing is stopping you from creating your very own style of rock gardening, if you are especially creative. The basic idea behind rock gardens, no matter what type or variation they are, is that rocks, gravel or river stones are used as a major, if not only, design element. Oftentimes, rock garden designers will add hardy plants to the rock garden. Plants that thrive in rocky areas and even Bonsai trees are popular plants in rock gardens. If you have an area of your property that doesn't have the best growing conditions, whether it is too shaded or the soil is too dry, don't let it go to waste. Use the following ideas for inspiration, and add a rock garden.

Berm Rock Garden

To emphasize an interesting shift in elevation, consider adding a berm style rock garden to your landscape. If you have naturally occurring shifts in elevation, or you simply would like to add a berm to your landscape to assist in water drainage, a rock garden is a perfect topper. Many landscape designers keep the edges of the berm rock garden fairly informal, and the use of bordering elements such as cement blocks, wooden planks and stone walls is usually negligible.

To build a berm rock garden, you will start by creating mounds, which are usually composed from a mixture of gardening soil, gravel and sand. After you have constructed the mounds, you can add rocks of various sizes. If you would like to add plants, leave areas between the rocks that will accommodate their growth. Try placing the larger rocks on the mound before you place the smaller rocks, and add elements such as drift wood or statuary to add interesting visual elements.

Miniature Zen Rock Garden

If you have a small corner of unused land on your property or yard, adding a miniature Zen rock garden will create a lovely visual focal point. Typically, these rock gardens contain no plants whatsoever, and they often use large stones or statuary as a centerpiece of sorts, or a place to direct visual attention. There are many different ways to go about creating a Japanese style Zen rock garden, but the easiest way to begin is to acquire as many small rocks or gravel pieces as possible, enough to fill up the space you have designated for the rock garden. Often, this style of rock garden will be bordered off to prevent the small rocks or gravel from spilling out onto the rest of your property, and the use of bricks or landscaping wood will do the trick. Also, choose at least one large stone or piece of statuary so visitors don't confuse your rock garden with a run of the mill gravel pit.

Rock Gardens With Water Features

One popular type of rock garden features the use of water elements in the overall design. There are many different directions you can go when it comes to using water, everything from streams to standing pools or koi ponds are popular choices. If you have sloped land, or gradual shifts in land elevation, you can easily create naturally occurring waterfalls. If you do decide to add water features to your landscape, talk to a professional landscaper to get a better idea of the necessary equipment you might need. Common equipment includes things like water liners, filter systems and methods for recirculating the water.

Desert Style Rock Garden

A favorite style among landscapers that use rock gardens is the desert themed rock garden. Because of the dry and arid climate present in most deserts, rock gardens are a natural feature of the desert landscape. One of the most popular ways to design a desert style rock garden is to use naturally colorful stones of varying sizes. Stones found in the desert are often a shade of light yellow, and reds and vibrant pinks are fairly common shades as well. If you are designing a desert style rock garden, consider using naturally occurring desert plants in your design. Cacti are great choices, as are various types of desert flowers. Although statuary is not as common in desert style rock gardens, if used discriminatingly, it can spruce up and enhance its surroundings.

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