Rock Garden Tips

When planting up the rock garden, tend to use large drifts and eschew tiny patches. Many species, for instance the Gentians, like to grow close together and so have their roots intermingled. Give the vigorous growers plenty of room or otherwise they will smother plants near them. Prolong the flowering season of any particular part of the rock garden by arranging for late types of plants to be interplanted with the early flowering kinds. It is quite a good idea to plant bulbs among the later flowering species, for the foliage and flowers of the bulbs will grow through their carpeting friends quite happily.

Always choose the best aspect for each type of plant. Never cramp the roots and if you buy pot plants see that you spread the root systems out after knocking the plants out of their pots – before you actually set them in the ground. Keep the carpeters towards the front of the rock garden on the whole and the taller plantc to the back. Be prepared to water in May, should it be dry, and give protection from east winds if necessary by putting up a temporary sacking or hurdle screen. This is especially necessary during the first year after planting.

Once the rock garden has been established, each year in the spring all the pockets may be given a light top dressing of compost, i.e. the same type of soil mixture as used originally in that particular pocket or drift. Any rocks that may have been loosened by the frost should be made firm. Hand weed to prevent seeding; a 3-pronged carving fork is useful for the purpose. Control slugs by putting little heaps of blue Draza pellets every 1 m (3 ft) or so if necessary or distribute them evenly over the area.

Keep weeding in the summer and stir the surface of the soil with the hand fork if there is no compost or sedge peat mulch on the soil. Remove the heads of plants as they go out of flower to prevent them seeding. Cut back the straggling plants after flowering, if necessary, by half. Certain of the older plants may need dividing and replanting.

In the autumn it may be necessary after a few years to renew some of the old pockets and supply new compost. Cut back the dead growth and remove any leaves from trees that may have fallen on to the rock garden. Protect the woolly-leaved plants with sheets of glass held in position over them by clips. There are special fixtures for the purpose. The glass should be 125 or 150 mm (5 or 6 in) above the plants. This gives them all the protection they require.

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