Garden Spaces: Create a Rock Wall Garden

| February/March 2011

  • Click on the IMAGE GALLERY, then NEXT, for the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford
  • Click on the IMAGE GALLERY, then NEXT, for the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford

• Design Plans: Grow These Rock Wall Garden Herbs 

Any gardener lucky enough to have a rock wall in a sunny location has a great spot to tuck in a whole garden full of drought-tolerant plants to creep, crawl and cascade over and under and between the rocks. Many of the herbs that hail from the Mediterranean region, with its rocky terrain and dry climate, appreciate the excellent drainage that a rock wall delivers.

The thymes, in particular, love scrambling over rock and working their little roots into every crevice—they’re the ultimate rock-wall plants. Try as many different types as you have room for, including lemon thymes and the tiny-leaved woolly thyme. Prostrate rosemary and oregano are also good candidates, and chives can add their pink pop when they bloom in early spring. The lovely dianthus can be tucked into rock pockets. Avoid plants that require moist conditions or those that are too rampant in their growth habits, such as the mints.

Other logical candidates for a rock-wall environment, at least in dry climates, are the plants known generally as succulents. Watch out, because once the gardener becomes smitten, these are addictive. Gardeners in mild climates have more choices, but there are some hardier varieties to be found as well, if you hunt for them.

{TIP: Keep a collection of aloes and other succulents in the driest edges of the rock wall garden.}

I find the succulents intriguing; they bring out the collector in me, and I like the contrast in form to the herbs and flowers that can grow here among the rocks. Succulents are among the most drought-tolerant of all plants, so plant them toward the top of wall, and perhaps on the edges where they’re not within range of any automatic sprinklers. Then forget them, as they thrive on neglect.

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