Charming garden design with rocks and flowers for your backyard

Rock garden designs can range from sprawling, naturalistic creations to tricked-out riverbeds to rustic piles of rocks, soil and plants. It all depends on your preferences and how much space you have to work with. If you have a small area, often the best design is a simple, round raised bed made of selected stones. This design can fit into any well-chosen nook and cranny and won’t get in the way when mowing your lawn. If you plant it wisely, it won’t require much maintenance either.

Clear the area of grass or other organic matter, if necessary. Be sure to dig up peat and other plants under the roots to prevent new shoots from emerging later in your rock garden. Lay out a circle of stones as the perimeter of your base, making the diameter about 4 feet (or as desired). This forms the foundation of your garden and creates some height above the surrounding ground. You can use most of your largest, least attractive rocks in this bottom layer, but it doesn’t require rocks larger than about 12 inches in any dimension.

Fill the area inside the first course with sandy soil, which provides good drainage. If all you have is clay soil, add sand and compost to promote better drainage. Walk the earth to pack it down.

Plan the second course with stones. This may simply be a smaller version of the first course, forming a circle within a circle, or it may take the form of one or more stone bands passing through the center of the bed’s perimeter. In any case, the second course should allow plenty of space for planting between the perimeter of the bed and the stones of the second row, as well as in any additional spaces created by the second course.

Place the second part of stones according to your plan. Since you used your heaviest stones for the first course, you have lighter, more maneuverable stones to use for the second course. Try to use the prettiest stones here (any size is fine) as they will show more than the base stones.

Begin your plant selection by choosing a color scheme that will work well with your rock. For example, if the garden is mainly made of red sandstone, you will want some plants with a hint of red in them, as well as some plants that show silver, yellow, white or other complementary colors.

In addition to choosing color, choose plants that thrive in well-drained soil. Also confirm that the plants have similar watering requirements and are suitable for the amount of sunlight the garden receives. Drought-tolerant plants are best, although you can make an exception for a particularly handsome specimen that you can treat as an annual. Finally, seek variation in plant height and leaf texture for maximum visual impact and interest.

Arrange the plants in your rock garden while they are still in their pots. Usually it’s best to plant in threes: group three of the same type of plant together or in a strategic arrangement. Keep in mind that you will mix rocks among the plants.

Once you’ve decided on a layout, start planting with additional soil as needed, adding rocks for decorative effect as you go.

If you want to cover small areas of soil with stone compost (to prevent weed growth), use small stones of the same type (or at least similar color) to the larger stones that form the rock structure.