Building a Rock Garden - Anchors Aweigh
by Sue Leduc
What I'm going to describe is the building of a sort
of hybrid of an outcrop and a raised rock garden. This type of garden
is ideal for the Ottawa area because it incorporates the type of natural
geology we are likely to find, addresses our need for perfect drainage
in the spring and fall, and recognizes the underlying heavy clay soil
that is so common.
Building your first rock garden is an exercise in contradictions.
So prepare yourself for a lot of ‘buts'.
the one hand, you want it to look like Mother Nature herself spilled
the rocks into position and, over centuries, filled the gaps with
soil and plants. You want it to seem to be a beautiful vista perched
part-way up a rugged mountainside with pieces of the earth's own skeleton
peeking out through the soil, and with a background of distant peaks,
their snow-caps glistening in the sunlight. On the other hand, you're
looking at an absolutely flat bit of land. The nearest ‘mountains'
are ancient, low and rounded, covered by forest with an occasional
solid granite cliff. The peaks in the background are the peaks of
your neighbours' roofs. They only have a snow-cap at the same time
of year that you're shovelling the driveway, not tending the garden.
your rocks are all from the same geological formation, your first
step should be sorting them into similar groups. We have two different
colours of pocky limestone, a series we call the ‘rusty' rocks,
the ‘anvil' group, the ‘water-worn' series, and the ‘transition'
pieces that are sort of in between the other groups. All of these
we've collected from rock piles within walking distance of our house.
We have also received rocks that are completely unrelated to any of
the local formations as gifts from friends. We love to include them
in our garden. These ‘groups' should be clustered together as
you build. The ‘transition'
rocks are used to make a credible link from one grouping to the next.
Think of building a rock garden as sculpting a miniature
landscape. The best place to start building is from your ‘anchor'
points. These would be your biggest and most attractive rocks that
you want to show off the most and be the central feature of your garden.
They will establish the heights of the outer walls and the middle.
But, make sure that your middle is not in the absolute middle. If
you don't have any really massive rocks to use as ‘anchors',
a cluster of smaller rocks can be just as effective. This will give
you some nice tight crevices that certain rock plants need to thrive.
is the time to establish the ‘grain' of your rocks. If there
are any strata lines, make sure that they are parallel from the start.
They don't have to be parallel to ground level but they should be
parallel to each other throughout your construction.
When you finish getting your anchors in position, go
get a cup of coffee and your spouse or best gardening friend. Stand
back and take a critical look at what you've done. Do you love it?
It will never be easier to make changes than it is now.
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