Build a Rock Garden
Rock gardens don't have to be designed on a grand scale with pools, paths, screes, and streams. They are ideal where space is limited, because the compact nature of the plants means that plenty can be packed into a small space, and the raised construction is ideal for close viewing.
The key to success is the design. Try to make rockeries look as natural as possible, mimicking the way the rock strata project at ingles from the ground. If possible, visit the mountainous areas of the world to see what nature's own rock gardens look like in the Alps, the Rockies, and England's Lake District; take photographs and modify their magnificence to suit your own back garden.
Rock gardens should be in a sheltered, open, sunny site, away from overhanging trees. Sloping sites have a distinct advantage because it is easier to make the rocks appear as though they are naturally projecting from the ground.
One of the great bonuses of a rock garden is that the planting "pockets'' can be filled with different types of compost to accommodate a wide range of plants. Most alpines flourish in a gritty, free-draining medium with some organic matter. Those eking out an existence on screes will need added sharp sand and grit. Some species prefer limy conditions, others grow only in and soil, so the composts can reflect these needs. Many will thrive on a mix of one part peat substitute to one or two parts horticultural grit or sharp sand and one part sterilized loam. Scree-dwelling plants need three to four parts grit to one part good loamy soil. Acid-loving plants need four parts peat substitute, rotted forest bark or similar, to one part coarse sand.
On alkaline soils, planting pockets for lime-hating plants should be sited toward the top of the rock garden because alkaline water draining down will eventually make the compost at the base of the rock garden alkaline. Lining the planting pockets with butyl liner or plastic sheeting with drainage holes in the base helps to contain the different soil types.
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