Routine maintenance is essential for your rockery. This does not call for skill or heavy work, just consistent care and monitoring to promote new growth and control weeds. Weeds in the beginning will not trouble you and the plants will flourish in the well-drained conditions you have provided. Regular maintenance is something you cannot ignore. Leave a shrub border untended for a season and no great harm may result, but leave a rock garden for a year and it may well be ruined.
Treat rock garden care as a routine weekly job during the growing season, in the same way you treat houseplants and lawn maintenance. Weed control will be the major task. Keep the area free from dead plants and debris, and water only when necessary. Deadhead spent flowers where practical, especially if the variety can become a nuisance by self-seeding. Label plants which die down for part of the year and trim back unwanted growth.
Autumn is the major overhaul time of the year. All fallen leaves must be removed and the stems of rampant plants must be cut back. Do not leave this job for the spring. Cover winter-sensitive plants. In spring renew mulch, feed, and remove winter protection. Firm plants which have been lifted by frost and look for slug damage.
If the rockery is overrun by weeds and is covered with straggly rampant alpines due to past neglect you will have to start again. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of constant care and attention that is needed to create an impressive rockery.
Invasive plants demand close watch or they will literally spread everywhere killing off surrounding plants and detract immensely from the overall appearance. Either prune the plant, propagate the new growth, or remove from the garden.
Another important factor to remember is the location of your rockery. The site is easier to monitor when positioned close to your gardening tools as this garden will demand regular usage of a small shovel, little bags to collect weeds, buckets for mixing soil, and a little stool for weeding. I use a pail turned upside down and this enables me to scrutinize the area for those camouflaged weeds.
My rockery is in front of the garage and the equipment I need is just steps away. The reason I mention this point is because I was considering another rockery at the back of the house. However I changed my mind after my experience with this rock garden. The reason being the site is too far from the wheelbarrow, buckets, bags, soil, hose, pruners, gloves, stakes, plant food, acidifier, watering can, pots for propagation, etc. The area slated for a second rock garden is approximately two hundred feet from the garage. The items required for upkeep are stored at the back of my garage and the thought of hauling those items to an inconvenient area didn't make sense. The estimated time spent on the rockery created in the spring would average about thirty minutes per day. This includes watering, general weeding, and a brief inspection of the various species and their progress.
Aside from the daily maintenance the rockery requires an additional one to two hours per week. This time is spent deadheading, staking, performing thorough weeding, propagating and cleaning any debris from the site. The reward is a breathtaking view of colour, texture and balance. Personally I enjoy the various chores associated with this pretty area and encourage anyone interested to put their plans in motion and build this delightful site which will accommodate numerous perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs and annuals. The variety alone is worth every minute spent tending to the needs of the plants and you are afforded the opportunity of planting species that otherwise would only be seen in books or other gardens.