Wildlife love discovering new places to hide and set up house and a rockery is to ground animals what a bird house or feeder is to our aerial friends. In fact, building a rockery is not just a lovely way to invite fauna to your backyard, it’s also an opportunity to make your property more engaging to look at and more enjoyable to wander through.
When you’re planning your landscape design, or even if you’re just adding a rockery to your existing outdoor environment, you need to set aside a well-drained site that enjoys exposure to lots of sunlight. If the site isn’t well-drained, then you will have to raise the ground in order to provide somewhat of a slope to encourage water to drain away.
Use old turf as a base but install it upside down. You’re not looking for grass growth, just some bulk to raise the ground. Or you could use some discarded rubble which will be very useful to encourage drainage. If the soil in the spot is heavy, mix some coarse sand through it, and even some small gravel.
A rockery should be weed free before you add any plants so while you’re working in the earth, apply some weed killer containing glyphosate and give it three weeks or so before you start planting.
Rocks to Use
Building a rockery seems like all you’d have to do is gather some rocks, pile them up so they look pretty and add some plants. Not so. You need to use flat rocks with rough, natural looking shapes. Flat rocks stack better and look more like what you’d find in a natural rockery.
Set the first layer of rocks into the ground for better stability, and then, when stacking, be sure to leave gaps that will be used for planting later on.
Keep the grain running in the same direction wherever possible as that too will allow for a more natural appearance. Logically, you will place larger rocks on the bottom and smaller ones on top; this helps with maintaining the strength and integrity of your rockery. Don’t be too neat, stand back now and then and envisage how a natural rockery would look.
In keeping with the natural theme, never paint or otherwise ‘dress up’ the rocks. Also try to use just one variety of rocks or when you’ve finished building your rockery, it will look as though it was entirely planned and cultivated. That’s great for cottage gardens and ultra modern, designer courtyards, but not so desirable for a rockery.
Home sweet Home
Depending on the kinds of animals you want to encourage calling your rockery home, try to incorporate little nooks and crannies, shady spots, tiny caverns and some ledges. Lizards love to sprawl out in the sunshine, whereas the more shy critters prefer to hide from view.
If you’re not sure which plants to use when you build your rockery, consult your garden center for advice. Bulbs are particularly popular for a rockery, as are dwarf shrubs and conifers. When you bring your plants home, plan where you will put them before actually settling them into the soil.
Keep in mind the growth rates and the ultimate size of each plant before deciding where they should be planted. Water them into their spots and keep adequately watered until they’re well established.
Eventually, with planning, careful consideration and a couple of days’ medium labor, you will have built a rockery that will provide a great deal of enjoyment, both visually for you, and as a residence for your friendly neighborhood wildlife.
photo by Wonderlane / CreativeCommons