To most people, a rock garden is an Alpine garden. But did you know that the Japanese typically build their gardens around rocks? They start with carefully selected rocks which they place at the heart of their garden. Beautiful serpentine rocks are often chosen for their striking green color. They usually make triangular clusters containing an odd number of rocks arranged to look like miniature reproductions of large mountains.
The goal is to give off a sense of stability, of the force and omnipresence of nature. Add various types of mosses and a few bonsais and you have a miniature forest right there in your yard. This can be a very good idea if space is limited and you want to be sure that nothing will outgrow the space and take over the whole garden.
But the beautiful harmony of modern rock garden and flower may be more to your liking. So be it. Nordic gardens have things in common with Japanese gardens, but there are some important differences. The biggest difference has to do with plant selection. Alpine gardens typically feature plants found in colder climates and at high elevations. Low lying bushes and small trees, such as crowberries and creeping junipers, ground covers and mosses, bright flowers, such as bellflowers and edelweiss are good choices. And rocks, of course.
Another difference between the Japanese and modern rock garden and flower gardens has to do with how things are arranged: in the Japanese garden, things are more orderly, while in the Alpine garden, the feeling is more natural. The Japanese seem to think there is order and harmony in nature, but the people of Northern Europe apparently don’t share that view. In this case, its just a question of style.
When landscaping a yard at home, harmony is always a good choice. Even in the case of Alpine gardens. Make your rock garden an essential part of your whole landscaping plan. Here are a few pointers you might consider when creating your own garden.
To prevent water in the ground from thrusting the rocks up when it freezes, it may be a good idea to place each rock on a bed of gravel at least six inches thick. This will also make the rocks more stable when the garden is completed. Since people often step on rocks when working in the garden, stability is a good thing.