Low Maintenance Gardening (Part 2): Rock Garden

Part two of Low Maintenance Gardening describes another phase of our dry creek bed project.

I very briefly talked about the sustainability of tearing out the grass and replacing it with a dry creek bed in Part 1.  Building a rock garden continues with our goal to reduce maintenance and increase sustainability in our yard: the plantings are all drought tolerant and don’t require added watering to keep them thriving. A rock garden is a great way to put water conserving into practice!

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Once we had the dry creek bed in place, the corner of our garden where the fences intersect needed some interest. I didn’t want to fill in that corner with cedar or evergreens as I’m not too fond of them. Instead, we built a rock garden to complement the back corner of our tiny back yard.

To get a sense of the area we had to work with, here’s an overhead shot of the corner of the yard where we built our rock garden.

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To start construction, we first built backer boards to be placed against the fencing to contain the soil to the height we wanted to raise rock garden.  Hubs decided to build it in one piece in the garage and then move it into the backyard as one unit.  He used galvanized metal strapping and corner braces to hold it all together (in addition to glue).

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Hubs buried the backer board below the fence line and drove some wooden stakes in front of it to keep it secure, making sure it was level.  He didn’t screw it into the fence itself because it backed onto two of our neighbours’ backyards and it needed to be independent in case they ever decided to repair or replace any of the fencing.

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We dry stacked boulders in a semi-circular pattern spanning from one corner of the backer board to the other (you can see the shape on the overview of our plan below).

Landscape Plan

Then we stacked on the second row of boulders. We recessed this second row further into the rock garden than we placed the first row by adding soil underneath to support it along the back edges. We wedged the boulders together like a jigsaw puzzle, however we didn’t use any glue. We weren’t too fussy with the esthetics of stacking the stones because we wanted it to look rustic and time worn.  We filled in the entire space with dirt (keeping below the level of the backer board).

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In between the cracks in the rocks, we packed in more dirt so we could plant some succulents.

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We planted a miniature Ginko tree and the rest of the plantings went in (all low maintenance and drought resistant plants).  Surprisingly, the Ginko tree is drought tolerant after the first three years too!

As you can see in the bottom picture below, the succulents filled in the crevices between the rocks beautifully, but some of the other plants spread too much and crowded out the others. The white billowy culprit you see below is called ‘Snow in Summer’.  It looks beautiful spilling over the edge, but only in moderation so each spring I have to pull most of it out to scale it back.

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Over the years, I’ve experimented with switching up the plants and also the ‘decor’ in and around the rock garden. One year I added a sitting frog on a concrete base to give a bit of height interest. You can also see the chair planter nestled over the fern to the right of the rock garden.

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To help keep the ‘Snow in Summer’ at bay, I introduced these creepers. They also spill over the edges to soften the hard rock.

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Once the rock garden was done, we turned our attention to finishing the dry creek bed (as you saw in Part 1):

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Rock garden complete; now onto the dry creek bed!

To recap, here’s the before and after of the complete dry creek and rock garden projects.

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When it was all complete,the south east corner of our backyard went from a lonely patch of grass to this lush green space.

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The dry creek bed and rock garden have really added a wow factor to the garden!

For more wow factor, check out my other inspiring garden posts where I’ll show you how to build trellises and privacy screens;

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A coordinated mirror and shelf to expand any small outdoor space, and;

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Creative planter ideas:

Planter Ideas

Stay calm and relax on this summer!  If these projects have inspired you, please pin and share on Facebook.

At Birdz of a Feather, we’re feathering the nest… one room at a time. Follow my blog here or on Bloglovin’ to see other DIY projects, in and around the home.

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18 thoughts on “Low Maintenance Gardening (Part 2): Rock Garden

  1. I absolutely love your dry creek bed and rock garden! I’m in Tulsa, OKlahoma, and we have frogs here that sit cross-legged like yours called ‘Peace Frogs’. I have plans for part of my backyard to do something similar to your dry creek bed and rock garden. Do you have to take your succulents indoors in winter?

    • Hi Debbie – thanks! Interesting about the frogs!

      There are only a few things that come in and they just go into the garage. We only put it away if it’s in a container such as a hosta that we have growing in a vintage enamel bucket (to slow the rusting).

      Sometimes the succulents that are in the hypertufa container that sit on top of a chair (beside the rock garden) go into the garage too, but we often just nestle it beside the rock bed to protect it from wind. Since they are hardy, they can stay out.

    • Thanks Michelle; I love frogs – I have several others through the garden (and house). When I post the DIY on the pond we installed in the back, you’ll see some of the others 🙂

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  3. I love the meditating frog. I collect frogs in all shapes and sizes but haven’t seen the ones you have anywhere. You did a beautiful job on your garden. So peaceful!

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  6. Have been looking for ideas for such a long time. We have the exact layout as your backyard. I love it all and will be starting this summer. Thank you for the clear instructions and great pictures. You two are a great team!

    • Thanks Nellie; I think we’re a great team too 🙂 Best of luck with your own backyard – I’d love to see pictures when you’re done!

    • Thank you. If you do decide to attempt this, you can find some great sales on plant materials in the fall and save some $$’s 🙂

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