ADDING interest to your garden can be as simple as creating tiny landscapes with rocks.
We're talking rock gardens or, more correctly, rockeries, said gardening expert Leon Coventry.
"You know hundreds of plants - annuals, perennials, bulbs, small shrubs and ferns - are suitable for rock gardens,” he said. "Getting a description of any of these is as easy as having a chat with your local nursery.”
That will pay off, said Leon, because the success of your rock garden will depend on careful plant selection.
A well-planted rockery should not be overcrowded with plants to the point of hiding your rocks - a good ratio is to have about two thirds plants to one third rocks.
"The final size of your plants should be considered as large vigorous specimens will soon outgrow the smaller plants which very quickly give up the unequal struggle,” Leon said.
"Plants with strong greedy roots may dislodge rocks or weaken the whole structure.
"A pleasant, balanced effect is gained by using prostrate or creeping plants, cushion or mound plants and clump plantings of bulbous plants with strap-like leaves and taller flower spikes.”
Leon said rockery plants should be fairly permanent so as to cut down on maintenance and to ensure an attractive display of flowers or foliage for most of the year.
"Avoid large annuals planting as you will have bare spaces for a long time, but they can be useful if tucked into odd pockets for extra seasonal colour,” he said.
As well as your perennials such as bedding begonias, gazania and verbena, you can have foliage plants such as dwarf nandina, and bulbous plants such as clivea, agapanthus and dwarf day lilies.
If your rock garden is in a sunny position, obviously choose plants that thrive in full sun and will tolerate heat and anything else our climate can throw out. Succulents and cactuses are easy and trendy choices, as they tolerant drought and neglect reasonably well.
A rockery can also be used to display your own special collection of species and there are many Australian plants that are suited so you can also design a purely native rockery.
Don't forget that your rockery must be well drained, said Leon, and you can spread a pebble or bark layer on top as a mulch.
"Always water well, and depending on your plants you can fertilise your rockery as well,” he said.
You can also use many types of ground covers to beautify your rockery.
"It's all about your design and maintenance that will make your rockery a thing of beauty.”
You can hear Leon on Paradise FM 101.9 on Saturday mornings.
BUILD A ROCKERY
1 Draw up a plan for what your rockery might look like.
2 Next, consider the soil. If it's poor or compacted, dig in several inches of bark or compost to improve soil quality and drainage.
3 Buy or collect your rocks - different sizes are good - and bury your large rocks according to your plan.
4 Be sure each rock is buried to a soil depth of at least one-third to keep the rock securely in place.
5 Next, put in your plants and smaller rocks.
6 Finish by surrounding the plants and rocks with a layer of gravel or pebbles.