Setting the stones in position will require the following; crowbar, spade and stout stick for ramming soil between the stones. Unless the proposed rockery is tiny you will also need one or more capable helpers. Buy good quality topsoil if the earth in your garden is clayey. Look at the stones and choose one which is large and has an attractive face - this will be the keystone and serve as the centre point for the first tier of stones. Dig out a hollow which is larger than the base of the keystone and roll this rock into place. Use the crowbar to lever it into its final position. Add soil both under and behind it. Ram this down firmly with a stick to ensure that there are no air pockets - stand on it to make sure it is firm.
Follow the same procedure with stones of various sizes on either side of the keystone, this will complete the first tier. Some stones should be pushed tightly together although for the most part I left considerable space to accommodate larger specimens. While traditional rock gardens are splendid I opted for a slight variation, as the area is long and rather narrow. Large rocks are placed at the ends and the implementation of steps achieves an overall appearance of a deeper garden thereby reducing the elongated effect. The concept of limiting my choices to tiny plants would restrict the variety needed to balance the garden. This is part of the planning procedure and I believe the rockery should be given considerable thought before the first stone is purchased.
Avoid a continuous line one stone high. It is much better to arrange the stones in groups, declining in height as the edges of the rock garden are reached. Continue until all the stones have been set in position, stand back now and then to make sure you are achieving the desired effect. Don't worry if you see a stone that looks awkward or unnatural, simply reposition the stone until you are satisfied with the new location. Proper positioning will be beneficial to the appearance of this beautiful garden and proceeding slowly will enable you to admire the work in progress. The last step is to add more soil between the stones, but do not fill the planting pockets to their final level, leave space for the planting mixture.
Nearly all rock garden plants need a soil which is both free draining and water retentive. Ordinary garden soil rarely matches these two requirements and so a planting mixture should be prepared. I used topsoil, peat moss, bone meal and stone chips. The topsoil and peat moss are prepared in the wheelbarrow (one part topsoil, two parts peat moss) with sprinkles of bone meal. Let this settle for a few weeks and then add more mixture which should be firmed so that it slopes gently backwards to the stone behind.
Some garden designers insist that the front of the rock garden should be planted with large specimens and the lowlier ones should be set at the back to give an impression of maximum depth. It is better to go for maximum interest.
Use some bold plants such as dwarf conifers and shrubs as single specimen plants here and there and grow smaller plants in groups in the spaces between. Aim to cover some but not all the rock faces with carpeting plants and also aim for year round colour.
Check the plant's spread, light, and soil type. Do not plant rampant growers next to choice and delicate varieties. Plant lime hating types at the top of the rockery if limestone rocks or chippings have been used in its construction.
My goal from the beginning was to create a garden full of colour, texture and balance. This is achieved through researching plants that are compatible with a rockery and trying new species to attain a unique setting. For example at the foot of my rock garden I chose miniature roses as I adore their prolific blooms and find them to be an extremely hardy little perennial.
Most of the plants flourished in the garden however a few grew too tall and had to be transplanted. A small percentage did not survive but I attribute this to extreme humidity and purchasing (in error) tiny plants.