Lotus Temple

The oriental gardens are inspired by the millinery Asian tradition

How to build a rock garden

Today we are less inflexible and we leave more space to the imagination: the rock garden is a personalized corner, composed trying to recreate what is most pleasant to the owners, trying, through design, to make the result as natural as possible.

For this to happen, the planning and the planning have fundamental importance: we must imagine the rock garden as something present always before our eyes, then adjust it according to the passage of time and the seasons, without forgetting that, once prepared, it will not be possible to revolutionize it much.

The keywords are, therefore, planning, study, inspiration.

Yes, because with regard to the arrangement, the choice of plants and colours, one can clearly be inspired. In this regard, referring to other gardens that have struck us is not only useful to the creative part of the work but also, and above all, to that of planning. A valuable tip for those intending to build a rock garden is to go around and analyze examples, noting or photographing, colour and season details, and more technical details.

Once visualized, at least in our mind, what idea of rock garden we have created, we face the concrete part and feasibility, keeping in mind that not everything is feasible and that we must compare ourselves with our reality, that is with our raw material, our available space.

Generally speaking, there are four main categories of rock garden plants that can be combined together:

  1. ground cover plants, which cover the ground.
  2. small plants that form, if put together, spots of colour
  3. the plants of vertical splits
  4. trees, dwarf shrubs, various species that make mass.

Let’s start from the structure

A textbook rock garden is entirely built and made as natural as possible. That is, in the absence of a mountain environment, we work on the ground to obtain a natural and solid reconstruction: we keep in mind that, once built, it will be difficult to make substantial changes.

When creating slopes or rocky areas, we will have to take into account the plants we will use and how they will be arranged according to their need to be in the sun or in the shade.

Then we go on to consider the soil on which to make the plants take hold: the ideal would be to prepare a draining layer of about 30 cm, composed of coarse gravel and shards, then, once the base has been created, it is thought to reproduce, disposing in a shrewd way, the stones.

The spaces between the rocky blocks will be filled with a fairly draining soil. Once this space is filled, proceed with another layer of stones, in turn, cushioned by other ground, and continue, walking on each layer that is going to overlap. Probably in the following days, it will be necessary to add more soil because this “scaffolding” will have settled.

After about ten days the growing medium will be ready and the chosen plants can be planted.

Plants in the rock garden

What may seem to be disordered growth is actually well studied. This is the moral of the floral design of the garden, that is, starting from the natural green base, which predominates in the gardens, it is necessary to plan the choice of plants in relation to the scenography of the rock garden and in relation to each other, especially as regards the colours.

The question is simple: will the flowers in the garden have harmony between them? and yet, will the garden as a whole be able to withstand the changing seasons?

A well-designed garden was prepared by calculating these variables: how?

Keeping in mind the seasonality of the plants and relating them to their colour; again, thinking of the seasons that alternate and the natural result that we want to maintain in general.

Here are some colour rules:

  1. create large areas of colour, never small spots
  2. in order to obtain apparently contrasting shades, it is necessary to go through the use of neutral tones: therefore to combine bright colours with neutral tones of grey-green foliage.
  3. associate the blue with the yellow, the violet with the orange, the blue with the cream colour.
  4. dilute the colour with the green of the foliage
  5. keep in mind the climatic variations and the presence of pools of water.

The rock garden and the four seasons

Based on small rules it is possible to imagine, visualize and therefore design our garden, making it natural throughout the year, favouring the alternation of the seasons.

In winter the green of evergreens will predominate, punctuated here and there by the white of snowdrops or by the colour of some species resistant to cold temperatures. In spring you can indulge yourself by emphasizing the presence of colour. In summer, taking into account the temperatures, you will leave the green light for bells and rock carnations. In autumn, finally, it is important to favour the warm and bright colours of this season, leaving red and golden yellow highlighted, or putting cyclamens in the foreground.

Small tricks like these will allow you to always have a colourful garden.


We have mentioned an inevitable element of the rock garden, the stones. These should be local, a bit for a maximum natural result, a little for cheapness.

Finally, we can consider introducing a body of water in the garden. This, without a doubt, will add an extra touch to the complex, increasing the suggestive spring and winter atmospheres.

Stephanie Gutierres

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