Flat Rockery

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Flat Rockery
Flat Rockery
Video: Flat Rockery
Video: Love Your Garden - Rockery 2023, February

Nowadays, the alpine slide has become such a widespread element of garden design that in one form or another it is included in the obligatory "gentleman's set" of the garden's customer. One could be ironic about this, if not for the obvious fact: the rock garden is indeed a very attractive object of garden decoration, which can be the central compositional element of the entire site.


Another thing is that the alpine slide is not always harmoniously combined with other elements of the garden and the style of the estate itself, and sometimes it simply does not fit into the surrounding landscape. It is not uncommon to observe amazing fragments of mountain ranges, which have literally appeared out of the blue, or ancient rounded hills with several stones, usually called in the slang of landscaping workers "a dog's grave".

Competently forming a rock garden and correctly, with taste, placing it in the volume of the garden is a rather serious task that can only be done by a professional or a highly "advanced" amateur gardener. The task is greatly facilitated if the relief of the site is uneven and it is possible to use a natural slope for laying a rock garden. But not all areas are located in areas with hilly or ravine-gully relief, most have a leveled surface. In this case, the appearance of an unexpected hillock on a flat, like a table, the plane of the land plot should be somehow justified.

For example, an alpine slide can quite gracefully support the inner corner of a fence or decorate the roof of a wine cellar that has grown into the ground. A combination of a low rock garden with a reservoir is also possible. The latter technique, by the way, is widespread in the areas, since it is very rational: the soil left after digging the reservoir is used here, in the construction of the slide.

However, there is a more “natural” design solution that allows you to organically “register” a composition of stones and alpine plants on a flat area - the creation of a flat rockery.

Plane advantages

Flat rockery, reminiscent of the natural outcropping of rocks on the surface of the day, is distinguished by discreet beauty and restraint. Such an element of the landscape wonderfully decorates the complex places of the site (the boundaries of various functional zones, blind areas of buildings), fixes the corners of the paths. Provided that the compositions are thoughtful, the flat rockery is able to decorate both the front entrance to the house and a cozy recreation area.

Compared to an alpine slide, creating a flat rockery requires less effort, cost and time.


Firstly, for flat rockeries, there is no need to lay deep drainage and even more so the foundation of their heavy stone blocks, as in the case of an alpine slide.

Secondly, the construction of a flat rockery is relatively cheap, since it does not require as many stones as an alpine slide. Large stones are expensive these days, and considering the cost of their delivery and installation, they may seem gold to many.

Thirdly, a flat rockery does not require careful maintenance, while an alpine slide needs constant attention. On hot days, the slide dries up quickly and must be watered; in the cold season (especially in winters with little snow), the plants planted on the slide may simply die.

Another valuable property of a flat rocky garden is that those plants that prefer neutral or slightly alkaline soils (steppe flora, many alpine species) and acidophilic plants that need acidified soil (rhododendrons, ferns, various heathers) feel good in it. The thing is that the plane allows you to locally regulate the acidity of the substrate: in the first case, by adding crushed limestone, and in the second, by adding granite chips and peat.

A scattering of stones

The rules for choosing stones for a flat rockery remain almost the same as for an alpine slide. Preference should be given to breeds of modest, dull colors - against such a background, the plants look more spectacular. The surface of the stones should be factual - in a flat rockery, stones are laid in one layer and they are all in plain sight.


Of the stones offered by us for single-layer masonry, fragments (with a more or less pronounced flat face) of rather dense dolomitized limestones, tuffs and sandstones of various shades are best suited. It is advisable not to mix stones of different rocks and different colors, as well as very different in size, during the construction of rockeries. One laid large stone looks more interesting than three small ones. You should also not combine flat and angular stones with rounded boulders and large pebbles - often such a neighborhood looks unnatural.

The process of placing stones is one of the most crucial stages in creating a flat rockery, it depends on how natural the whole composition will look. Only when all the stones have found their rightful place can they finally be dug in.

The stones cover the ground at least half of their height, in the most stable position (so that then it would be safe to walk on them). It is good when the flat side of the stones is oriented horizontally or at a slight angle. It is a big mistake to dig in stones vertically.

When laying stones between them, they leave space for planting plants, not forgetting that the root system of woody species must have sufficient volume for growth.

Plant dominants

The list of plants worthy of a place in a flat rockery is very large. These are miniature decorative forms of coniferous trees, and small-sized decorative-leaved and beautifully flowering deciduous shrubs, and of course numerous herbaceous perennials, especially ground cover species.

To create a plant composition, one must start with the selection of dominant single specimens, which can be, for example, conifers with an original crown shape and an unusual color of needles. They will balance the plane of the entire composition and bring color accents in early spring or late autumn, when there is clearly not enough color in nature. Among others, we can recommend conical shapes: thuja western " Ellwangeriana Aurea" (with yellow needles), varieties of Canadian spruce " Alberta Globe" and " Conica" (at the end of winter they must be shaded); spherical forms: thuja western " Danica" and mountain pine " Mops"(dark coniferous dwarf); and also the nest-like form of the common spruce " Nidiformis".

Barberry Thunberg Kobold
Barberry Thunberg Kobold

Such low deciduous shrubs as Japanese spirea " Goldflame" (with golden-orange foliage), the non-flowering variety of the crown mock -orange " Nana" (forms a dense ball of emerald color), Kuril tea " Goldfinger" (from mid-summer to frost) can become magnificent dominants. strewn with large yellow flowers) and decorative dwarf varieties of Thunberg barberry - " Bagatelle" (purple) and " Kobold" (emerald).

Green "filler"

The creeping and cushion forms of coniferous and deciduous shrubs can serve as the basis for the plant filling of flat rockery.

Of the conifers for these purposes, you can use the scaly juniper " Blue Carpet" (with bluish-gray needles) and " Blue Star" (smaller in size), the open horizontal juniper " Golden Carpet" (and indeed, a real golden carpet), and the microbiota is cross-paired (its green needles turn bronze in winter).

Rose Sweet Fairy
Rose Sweet Fairy

Among deciduous shrubs, preference should be given to the horizontal cotoneaster and Dammer's cotoneaster (they should be covered in winters with little snow), the Green Carpet barberry of Thunberg (with small lettuce- colored leaves), and Canadian derain. Ground cover roses, which are very unpretentious and blooming throughout the season, for example, varieties " Baby Carnival" and " Sweet Fairy", can become a real decoration of flat rockeries).

Groundcover perennials will help smooth out the boundaries of a rocky area and create a smooth transition to the surrounding landscape. Almost all types and varieties used for ordinary rocky hills are suitable for flat rockeries, with the only restriction: the height of the plants should not exceed 20-30 cm (otherwise the integrity of the composition of flat rockeries is violated). In all other respects, you can rely on your taste, choosing those saxifrages, sedum, chickweed and tenacious, young, beetroot, thyme and carnations that you especially like.

Perennials should be planted between stones in groups, prudently leaving room for their growth. Do not forget also about planting bulbous and small-bulbous crops, because they provide early spring flowering of a rocky garden.

Finishing touch


When all the plants are planted, there is only one step left for complete completion: you need to decorate the empty space between the stones. For this, crushed stone of fine fractions or gravel is usually used. Around heathers and rhododendrons, it is useful to pour a layer of crushed pine bark as a mulching material (mulch does not allow the soil to dry out and be washed away by rain). Sometimes, for the same purposes, colored decorative dumping is used (while the color of the materials used should be in harmony with the color of the stones).

After thoroughly watering the plants, the work of creating a flat rockery can be considered complete … temporarily … until you want to expand it!

Andrey Lysikov

candidate of biological sciences

(Based on materials from the magazine "Stylish Garden", No. 4, 2004)

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