Make a Shady Rock Garden

Transform a dull, shady corner into a pretty rockery. Many shade-loving plants, such as ferns, ivies and violas, love the cool, moist, well-drained conditions.

Shady Rockery

Shady Rockery

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When to Start: Fall
At Its Best: Spring
Time to Complete: 6 hours: preparation and planting

Materials Needed:

  • topsoil (if not working on a sloping site)
  • attractive large stones
  • carpet bugle
  • creeping phlox
  • dog's-tooth violet (Erythronium)
  • hardy ferns
  • hostas
  • ivy
  • violas

Prepare the Soil

If you have a flat site, create a slope with weed-free topsoil in fall, so it has time to settle. If you have a slope already, weed it thoroughly. Dig in some grit if the drainage is poor.

Weed-Free Topsoil

Weed-Free Topsoil

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Select and Place Stones

Set rocks into the soil, with larger ones at the base of the slope and smaller ones at the top. Bury one third of each stone, and angle them so that rain will run off into the soil.

Set Larger Rocks at Slope Base

Set Larger Rocks at Slope Base

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Check Planting Positions

In spring, buy your plants. Arrange them around the rock garden while they are still in their pots, to see where they will look best, before deciding on their final planting positions.

Planted Pots Among Rocks

Planted Pots Among Rocks

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plant and Mulch

Plant in the pockets between the stones, then water well. Mulch with composted bark to help keep moisture sealed in and to suppress weeds. Water regularly for the first year.

Plants Between Rocks

Plants Between Rocks

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plant Versatile Ferns

Ferns are a wonderful choice for shady areas. They will grow in the tiniest of dank crevices, as long as they have enough moisture and a glimmer of light. Sunken pits echo the way ferns sometimes lodge themselves in subterranean drains and peer up from the gloom. You can also try growing them under a bench, where little else will thrive.

Plant Ferns in Shaded Areas

Plant Ferns in Shaded Areas

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plant Around Mesh-Covered Troughs

Ferns are ideal for these mesh-covered troughs, which were designed as a green car-parking bay.

Dazzling Fern Garden

Dazzling Fern Garden

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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