what is a rock garden?

kbug(zone 7?)June 3, 2004

i keep hearing about rock gardens. what exactly is it? plants that grow in rocky areas?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alanrocks(z6 KY)

In a word, yes. Some plants grow in deep humous soil, some in sandy areas, others in a rocky environment. A rock garden can be in shade or sun, and the plants grow between (or occasionally in) rocks. It can include trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs. Do a web search for "rock gardens" or read old postings in this forum - you will learn a lot.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2004 at 9:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kbug(zone 7?)

well i guess that means i can grow one. i have huge rocks in my front yard. i will figure out how to upload pictures and maby everyone can give me ideas on what to plant. :-)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2004 at 8:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Well I guess it depends. Alpine gardeners use the terms alpine and rock interchangeably. In other words, alpine gardens and rock gardens are the same. They emulate the alpine landscape: the parts of mountains above the tree lines. So they are not shade gardens, there are no trees. Water availability can vary. Sharply draining soil. Consequently, certainly plants have evolved to survived such conditions. They are usually small, even tiny plants with an excessively deep root system. We call thees alpine plants or rock plants. I am a member of the North American Rock Garden Society, and this is our definition of a rock garden.

Not to belittle gardens with lots of rocks since they are a useful aspect of the garden genre, but to me that is what they are: garden landscapes that use rocks. These gardens could be in any environment: sun, shade, wet, dry, sand, clay ... whatever.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 9:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Check out the North American Rock Garden Society, or the Scottish Rock Garden Society or the Alpine Garden Society web sites.

Here is a link that might be useful: North American Rock Garden Society

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 9:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alanrocks(z6 KY)

In the midwest US, we have a rocky ecosystem called a glade. They tend to have a thin, poor soil. It is alkaline when the underlying rock is limestone, and neutral to acidic when it is sandstone. Like the alpine environment, the glade ecosystem often has plants that are rare anywhere else in the same region. Glades are uncommon and some of the associated plants may be found on state endangered species lists.

Consequently, it is not kosher to collect from glades, unless they are going to be covered with a shopping center or housing project (which shouldn't happen because of the same laws that protect endangered species). However, it may be possible to find similar plants that are commerically available to mimic the ecosystem.

A beginning gardener shouldn't feel obligated to emulate nature unless you want to do the research first. I suggest you look at obtaining the hardiest plants suitable for rock gardens and start there. Joining NARS and going to the library or book store to get books on rock gardens is also highly recommended.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 10:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kbug(zone 7?)

well thankyou much! i will check out the website.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2004 at 9:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A Rock Garden is anything done by a humans hand involving stone. The human hand is the key. And to what extent you make that control visible to the viewer will define the style of a rock garden. In my mind I dont see the exact duplication of nature as a garden. Such as models built in a museum of natural history. I donÂt see my vision of the word garden looking at this magnificent model of plants and stone in a museum or Botanical institution.. I still see mans hand even if clearly disguised in the model making project. Human control needs to be defined when explaining the difference between garden and model. Otherwise we would never be able to express ideas. The vernacular of a rock garden is probably the oldest study of mans development. I'm really weak in words so I depend on emotion. gut instinct more often than not. I like to think of a rock garden as the development of all the sciences into some metaphor of the experience of life on earth. Like a poem or the Greek classics of mythology. Looking like a model but telling a story of how nature lended materials for teaching practical ways to live life. No different as the Greek monuments, Japanese monuments or Easter Island monuments of stone represented during the time those ancient societies reached their Golden Age of stone gardening. Each gardens material had meaning now lost. Garden materials were not models like we see in a Botanical museam. Each item was a method of record keeping beyond just the name and species. Rock and stone can be Symbols of ideas. And like any human symbol we keep adding new ideas to them. The oldest ones lost leaving the bones of the garden intact (Stone)

I'm not one to like the rock garden advertised as a type of model making using stone and plants to represent the new concepts of ecosystem and environmental conservation of rare, distant or disappearing places on earth. Maybe because I collected rocks and plants when younger and found it boring.Letting the plants die and misplacing the stones or giving them away.Not liking the technicle and unintroduced to the mythical or language of those collections. Modeling in another way of rockery can be seen owning a rare reptile and duplicating its natural setting in the terrarium.The rockery in the terrarium doesnt have the essence of human experience to me. Its just a mimmicking of nature. That seems to represent Alpine gardening well. Other rock gardens seem to be of a painters definition.An idealized landscape. Such as dictionary definition of the word Landscape. Landscape being seen from the last few hundred years from the Artists eyes of European influence. Here we can use a rockery to paint colors and textures without showing any farmers plowed fields or urban city constructs. Like the new concept of English cottage gardens in magazines. I Âm learning how to interpret a rock garden as I type. Gathering bits and pieces from members on the Garden Web and the few books IÂve decided to read this spring. Alpine rock gardens, English style rock gardens, Japanese rock gardens, (American rock garden- is there one?) etc. Very confusing if you dont read many books.

For me before becoming a Garden Web member or purchasing a few books on rock gardening I thought of a Ârock inspired garden as follows. A rock garden is the ability to see the expanse of time that existed before me. How stone is the easiest focal point for time immemorial.Eventually leading to the use of stone as a building material for those ideas having no words to express easily. How to put into words that unimaginable length of time while looking upon a stones surface.Adding plants to show how time is still relavent to the stones eroded/weathered surface. I try to look at the fissures of a large stone as imaginative analogies of a river ravines erosion. Planting white flowering ajuga where I see the rapids in the rocks crevices in my immagination. Stones are the easiest way for me to express what I feel but cannot put into words like a Doctor of Geology, Philosophy or Religion could. As a child I grew up watching my family building stone walls or repairing old ones on a property with existing walls and patios. I remember lugging stones from the property to match existing work. Having to think not as just repairing an old farmers rubble wall with purchased stones from a supplier but having to continue the living walls qualities. The scope of work was not just stone cutting and setting but an aquired aesthetic. Something a kid cant solidify into concrete ideas and action since the role of time is not well comprehended when young. Time can not be bought. Its priceless. Using living stones with the same mossy, lichened qualities as the wall meandered from full sun to deep shade. My grandfathers brother who is a stone mason and taught me the trade was teaching me how to fool the eye and mind. You quickly learn what mossy stone didnt fit a sunny environ the following day. Even within hours. It becomes ugly brownish yellow and out of place. So a sunny moss or lichened stone has to found for a sunny stretch of old wall. This was mainly when working close to the home. That craftsmanship is all about fooling the customers mind into believing the space has continuity. You can see both forward and backwards into time.Many times I wonder if the customers taught us or we taught the customers since this type of work in my family goes back four generations on a few properties I worked on as a child.Nobody in my familly went to school for this. And I find many guys my age who have schooling never heard of being so picky. I rarely worked with my family when young. They let me grow up playing with friends instead. So I have to learn these things of easthetics on my own now.Its not so easy without a teacher. And now IÂm wanting the same wall to be an extension of respect for previous generations of hard labor.How thier laber is now accepted by the wild uncontrolled aspects of nature. In essence the feeling of agelessness. The notion of respect for timelessness for the work done before you and youre ability to find meaning in the past is what a rock garden embodies. Mans hand hidden with layers of meaning. Thats why antique dealers love new woodwork done in Cherry wood. They get that darkened antique look quickly and can sell the new item for more money. It looks old. Sometimes not well understood by the average person but beautiful. ThatÂs why I think painted rocks are gaudy in the rock garden. Painting stone means you are creating a new style.Getting too far ahead of tradition. Painting stones white is not part of my human experience and memories while learning how to garden. So in the end I have empty feelings. Maybe if my uncle had painted stones while we worked and so did previous generations of my familly line, I would find the feelings to emulate a rockery of white and pink and blue stones. Yuck!! Not yet.

Something like white marble chips from a quarry perplex me as well. Building a rockery using jagged chunks of quarry stone chips. If I could see that in nature it would be the debri piles at the bottom of table top mesas out west. When you see a mountain with square jagged chunks as a rubble field at the base of the cliffs hundreds of feet high. A rockery is like mimicking nature into a small space but the emptiness between making an exact copy of the mesa and how the debri field is related is suggested. At least you can place materails in some sence of a timeline. So the color, shape, size, all qualities of the stone materials used need to connect to a viewers collective memory of erosion,weathering and freshly broken stones. The rockery needs to have some stones sofened and degraded while placing the harder more durable ones in a logical artistic place respectivly. Now you can place the stone meaterial in some natural timeline and perspective. Like michaelangelo chiseling a staue and leaving the last few feet of the base untouched to show the natural references of timelessness. Maybe the base had a perfection no hand could improve such as the weathering of dense unforgiving marble. The feet clearly standing atop weathered stone. Fooling the viewers mind in respect to the age of work.Where did mans hand stop?

Add the love for plants. Add the love of weather. Add the love of flowering seasons. Add the love of folklore, mythology and religion as equally relaive to the cycles of gardening and you begin to understand Rock Gardening. Rock Gardening becomes the Exposition of human experience.Some rocks never touched by mans hand. New stones looking alike planted by mans hand to resemble the first wild stones. A few stones carved and maybe one a sculpture. By accident I found Japanese Rock gardening styles one day. From that day on even with little knowledge of Japan I can truly be in touch with a rock garden beyond my own sense of timelessness and how one interprets the expanse of future. Mans hand in Japanese rock Gardens are really like Greek Mythology. Rich. Almost too rich at times to comprehend.

All people and the land they are from experimented with styles of Rock Gardens. The oldest and most related to placing our existence as part of the earth is the worship of inanimate objects such as a boulder. Maybe we saw rocks as part of the living world. I like to believe such a fantasy and sometimes live it while walking among glacial deposited boulder fields. Somewhere along the route to todayÂs technologically advanced societies with immense ability to record and account the learningÂs as no other living animal has we have preserved those feelings. To still see rocks as part of the living world. Rocks planted to grow among us. Validating our need to be in touch with iconic images. Like a mountain range that was always perceived as the end of youre known world when a child. To see it later flying over in a jet. Then to hike the summit of that range on a hiking trip. To go back home owning a piece of property and saying to yourself IÂm going to build a rock garden never putting the dots together. Having no idea how one builds a rock garden. Rocks are the symbol of recording the human experience and enabling the human hand to last far into the future. Even if memory of the original intentions were to be forgotten in the past. ThatÂs why we depend on rock garden styles having a name and definition. Codified and well laden with rules and ideas as to the perfect design criteria.

Physically weak. Hardly a rock to be found. Too poor to buy them. No matter what state of life you are in. A simple stone. One stone planted with passion. Can be a garden in of itself. And if you are bleesed with so many stones as to think ..What do I do !!?? You will learn you are rich with pennies. So many stones to use the immagination!!

A stone planted against the laws of nature within the boundaries of the urban setting will still give in to those laws. Then add the laws of probability induced by man. The winter spreaders of municipal road services burying the rock garden in sand and salt. A hose used too strongly eroding the soils perrnials and mosses planted. A huge thunderstorm with a massive downpour dislodging a slope built with a rockery. Rocks now unstable and willing to follow gravity. The suns not so delicate bath of radiation. Sterilizing the soil and stones surface. Along with any mossy lichened stone you cherished. A nieghbors removal of trees will give a good dose of understanding the political landscape. Building a rock garden is not a solution to avoiding the cycles and patterns that will be out of youre controll. The rocks in reality should anchor you to accepting the role of time and acknowledging the need to think really hard before you start planting and setting stones. The easy acces to inexpensive annuals and perrenials in containers can make you forget about the importence to look ahead into future changes with unwanted consequences.

Other things that make up a rock garden is understanding plants. How many plants can have abilities beyond even the comprehension of stone and the age of earth and the universe. Still a new science. Such as the ability of plant life to increase their temperature. Thawing the space they are growing in. Melting snow. Moss wars are exciting to watch in the alpine garden. Chemical wars are really cool.Allelopathy.

All in all rock gardening is fun. The rocks are what keep me interested. Plants alone were never something that kept me dreaming. The hundreds of years old mottled Sycamore tree such as that of folklore in size. Growing in a pasture is awe-inspiring. To see that tree in a pasture but rooted with smooth exposed bedrock at its root flare is magical. A wise old tree growing on another older ancient. And to see a disk of lichen growing upon the boulder even older than the old Sycamore is inspiring and a testament to times overlooked placement on the tree. To follow the exposed roots like rivulets into the moss and then pasture full of wildflowers. Seeing more exposed boulders and bare bedrock dappled throughout the pasture. It was not the Sycamore that kept me going to that spot. It was the stone within the sycamores trunk. Seeing how the wood conformed to the stones shape. It all starts with the stone for me. The tree lichens and mosses second. And the flowers after. I guess thats why I like Japanese Rock Gardens of a particular Zen Sect. Finding how to quantify time and space in the natural world. Stone goes back into the formation of the universe. The lone tree goess forward with us in time. Witnessing the human experience easilly forgotten. A silent observer. And the flowers embody the colors of human experience when time and reality will blend into the movement of the artists immagination. Colors touch the pallete of emotion. A color in Japanese Zen rock gardens is a magicall experience. To see a flower petal fall of a tree and land into the moss of a rock garden with racked white gravel. Time slows. You accept emotion to enter the calm of emtiness. And the color of the falling flower petal has the richest meaning to an emotion.

Rock gardens to me are about freedom for me to become my own gardener. Finding myself unique yet able to ackowledge people have done this better than I could ever fathom. I'm an initiate. Finding Reflection. Meditation. Not really to study every plants name, exactly how it lives and things like design principles and the such. No bragging rights about the style of rock garden or keeping up with the JonesÂs rockery built for the new swimming pool.. Historical accuracy, all those scholarly things can take a rest too. Keeping my thoughts quite when I know this line of writing is innapropiate and a waste of time for the listener.

In the end a rock garden is about gut instinct. Having fun. Being happy. Not expecting all the answers to come at once. A randomness. Slowly planting the bones of the Garden (Stone) with one species of plant at a time. Patience. Knowing what scale,proportion, ratios, color scheme is who you are mentally. A rock garden properly designed will always give you room to be youreself.

I've never built a stone garden expressing my thoughts as of yet. Only a few very small ones. Someday I'll find a huge ledge to practice on!!!!:)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2004 at 11:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
redblossom40(z8-9 sierra)

Here's a picture of mine.
Hope this helps, To me a rock garden is what you make with rocks and plants Tamara

    Bookmark   June 20, 2004 at 3:34PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Why is this happening
I have a Fraser Fir tree in very rich black soil (lot...
Is this soil mix good for rock garden, and these plants???
This Wednesday a truck full of 25-to-30 200lbs moss...
where to buy this dianthus
Hello! I lost all of these mini dianthus plants over...
Calceolaria Darwinii(uniflora)
Hey guys, i was just wondering if anyone had or knew...
Can you grow Sempervivum from seed?
I am in the process of starting a rock garden around...
Sponsored Products
Kenroy Home Hadley Collection Outdoor Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
Gray Garden Fence Wool Rug
$29.99 | zulily
Butterfly Garden 9-piece Bed in a Bag with Sheet Set
Bistro Set: Palazetto Fleur Cast Aluminum Bistro Set
$239.99 | Hayneedle
Campania International Mini Tall Reef Square Cast Stone Planter - P-586-AL
$59.99 | Hayneedle
Dark Brown Rosie Indoor/Outdoor Rug
$34.99 | zulily
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Courtyard Terracotta/Beige 2
$35.98 | Home Depot
Martha Stewart Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Martha Stewart Living Rugs Fretwork
Home Depot
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™