Gardening With Rocks

Rocks, Rocks Everywhere

We live on a rock - a sandstone based island with thin soil, towering firs and cedars, salal too thick to beat your way through.

Our house is built upon and pinned to the solid bedrock that is never far from the surface. In fact, when we built, the house had to conform to the rocky terrain that stepped down in several levels. As we excavated, more and more rocks, of all sized and shapes were lifted and stacked in huge piles.

The Rock is Everywhere

A typical rocky beach, Drumbeg Park, Gabriola Island. I live just a few minutes from here.
A typical rocky beach, Drumbeg Park, Gabriola Island. I live just a few minutes from here.

So, here I am, someone who loves to garden, working out just how to do that when the biggest component of my yard is - rock.  What soil I could find was sandy and stony, too thin to support the gardens I was envisioning. So, I had to learn to work with and around all this rock. And I've found rock can be a blessing in disguise.

Work With What Nature Has Provided

We straddled this rock wall as we built on the solid bedrock
We straddled this rock wall as we built on the solid bedrock

An Artist With His Machine

The biggest rocks have been used for retaining walls and raised beds, created by a skillful artist on a really big machine. Imagine someone who can delicately lift a 500 pound rock, set it gently within an inch of the house wall, and tap it into place without touching the wall!  I'd envision and sketch out a plan, and Gerry would find just the right rocks from the piles to make my visions a reality.

He built retaining walls to define the upper driveway, made stone steps leading to the back door, created pathways edged in rocks, and even set a tall, flat stone in place vertically to mark the entrance to our driveway.

Artist and His Works

Gerry, hard at work.
Gerry, hard at work.
The path to my back door
The path to my back door
Using what Nature provided
Using what Nature provided

Use What's There

Other large rocks, still in their natural original positions made the corner of the raised garden just outside my kitchen door where my herbs are planted. Smaller rocks make low terraces in the gardens. The focal point outside the dining room is a natural rock face that drops 12 feet, sheer and beautiful. A trio of large rocks makes a statement in one of my flowerbeds, surrounded by rhodos, columbine, and ground covers- thanks to my amazing backhoe artist.

My Herb Garden

My raised bed herb garden outside the kitchen door.
My raised bed herb garden outside the kitchen door.
Natural rock, retained to make a corner of the raised bed.
Natural rock, retained to make a corner of the raised bed.

I've learned to garden around all this rock. Sure, much of the soil in my raised beds is imported. My yard doesn't have a pretty lawn - the soil just doesn't grow nice grass, and besides, we have to be water-wise here where we rely on a well.

But my rocks glisten after a rain. The varied levels, textures and colors of the rocks add dimension to the landscape. The thyme is starting to crawl over the edges of the raised beds, and when the winter wet comes, green moss and white snow on the dark rock is beautiful.


My Favorite Garden

A Master's Masterpiece - my favorite sunken garden, tucked between a natural rock wall and the house.
A Master's Masterpiece - my favorite sunken garden, tucked between a natural rock wall and the house.

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Comments 2 comments

nms profile image

nms 7 years ago from Cochin

nice photos


Fluffy77 profile image

Fluffy77 5 years ago from Enterprise, OR

We live near the great Wallowa Mountains in Northeast Oregon and these rock gardens are becoming slowly more popular again. We have done two so far, but are planning another one to I am proud to say I helped with. Thanks, for sharing these great looking gardens, inspirational!!

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