­According to the Royal Botanical Garden’s website, rbg.ca, “It was built in 1930-31 on the site of an abandoned gravel pit and the Rock Garden was RBG’s first major display garden. Before its transformation, the surrounding area was littered with billboards and old shacks. As part of a make-work beautification project during the Depression, tons of weathered limestone rocks were brought in from nearby quarries to create the garden’s structure and its charming, irregular network of staircases, linked ponds, bridges, and waterfalls. Decades later, the rocks look as though they’ve been in place forever……… ”.

There is no refuting that the rock gardens at the RBG are spectacular. However, you too can have a spectacular display on a smaller scale since designing and building a rock garden in your own backyard is surprisingly simple.

Few people can deny the magnetism, beauty and interests that rock gardens have as a landscape design. The mixture of rugged rocks and any several species of small flowers can have a dramatic effect to any setting. Even the Japanese extolled the virtues of the calming and meditative effect of rock gardens centuries ago when they constructed the Zen garden.

Fortunately, the time and investment you make in creating a rock garden will pay off in spades. Rock gardens can turn awkward and difficult to manage slopes into a thing of beauty with very low maintenance. By learning a few tricks of the trade, your rock garden can blend seamlessly into your landscape and enhance your property. If you choose to add rippling water along the slope, your rock garden will take on a more expansive dimension where you can relax and indulge in the splendour of your showcase.

If your backyard has a gentle slope that gets plenty of sun, this location is the ideal place to build a natural-looking rock garden. Even if the slope is a sun-shade blend, this will work equally well, especially if there is water running through it.

I. Choose the exact site and section it off with posts and string. On a relatively dry soil day, dig down at least 1 foot (30.48 centimeters) and eliminate all weeds and roots. If you don’t have a natural slope, you can pile up a mound and create a berm, which slopes down naturally on all sides and promotes drainage. Alternatively, you can build a raised bed, which is an elevated plot upheld by walls. Experts suggest that you dig down about three feet (91.44 centimeters) for a raised bed. Whichever route you take, most rock garden plants need soil to be water-retentive and quick-draining.

II. The first layer of drainage you add absorbs excess moisture, so to this end you can throw in a hodgepodge of clunky rocks, bricks, broken pieces of clay pots, or even old pieces of concrete. Pack it in evenly to make up about one-half of the trench’s depth.

III. Nowadd 3 inches (about 7 centimeters) of coarse sand, which acts as a water-permeable base to hold up the topsoil.

IV. The soil layer is the most important layer because it can make or break your rock garden plants. Experts recommend this mix for supporting rock garden plants.

  • 1 part topsoil
  • 1 part leaf mold (peat or humus can be substituted)
  • 1 part small gravel

V-VII. Once the foundation is completed, you can find landscaping rocks that blend in with your background surrounding. For larger, boulder-size rocks dig them into the ground so that they look natural to the site. It’s advisable to let the garden settle for a few weeks and then top up the soil mixture. Decide on your flowering plant selection and get them dug in. Give everything a good watering and then let it alone for a time.

VIII: Enjoy!

Now it’s time to sit back, relax and commune with nature to rejuvenate your body and mind. A rock garden is a wonderful place to unwind and revitalize your senses