How to plant a rock garden and illuminate garden features

A rock garden adds a bit of rugged drama to sunny, open sites and is a good way to plant on an awkward slope. For best results, the soil shouldn't be too rich and you should avoid overhanging trees, which will drop leaves on your display.

How to plant a rock garden and illuminate garden features

What you'll need

  • Shovel
  • Hardcore or builder's rubble
  • Sharp sand
  • Assortment of large and small rocks and stones
  • Trowel
  • Plants
  • Bulbs
  • Pea shingle (optional)

Start with the stones

Get your stones from a builders' merchant, garden centre or quarry: they will deliver if you're buying a large enough quantity. Limestone resists frosts and weathers attractively but isn't good for acid-loving plants, such as summer-flowering heathers. Sandstone is lighter and cheaper but less frost-resistant, and tufa is excellent but expensive.

  1. Dig the topsoil to 30 centimetres (12 inches), creating a slope downwards from a plateau.
  2. Add 15 centimetres (six inches) of hard core or rubble to help drainage. Cover this with 5 centimetres (two inches) of sharp sand, then 10 centimetres (four inches) of topsoil.
  3. Place rocks and stones in tiers, embedding two-thirds of each below the surface and placing all grooves and fissures running in the same direction. Butt some up closely and leave planting spaces between others.
  4. Allow soil to settle for three to four weeks, then plant with alpines, such as alyssums, sedums and saxifrages.
  5. Mulch with small stones or pea shingle.
  6. Plant bulbs such as miniature daffodils, alliums and tulips in early fall, followed by heathers and dwarf shrubs and conifers in late fall.

Illuminate garden features

With the right type of lighting, features such as ornaments and statues, as well as individual plants, can become the stars of your night-time garden.

  • The simplest option is to use lighting that doesn't need cabling, such as garden candles or solar-powered lamps.
  • Mains-powered lighting should be installed by a professional. To protect cables from damage, they should be buried under walls, lawns and paths, which is easiest when creating a new garden.
  • Low-voltage lights are easier to install, as the cable need not be buried. DIY kits are available with a transformer that just plugs into an existing electrical socket in the house or garage.
  • Uplighting works particularly well for picking out individual garden features. Simply place a light right at the base of the item.
  • Spike-mounted lights are good for illuminating pathways or providing light for a garden bench.
  • Water features take on a new lease of life if lit at night. Submersible lights, to which coloured lenses can be fitted, are especially effective.

Adding rocks and stones to your garden is an easy way to give your garden a makeover. By using these simple tips, you'll add a bit if impact and drama  to your home's garden.

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