DIY alpine slide

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In this article: what is the difference between rock garden and rockery; layout and compositional construction of the rock garden; alpine slide layout options; requirements for stones; two main stages of work on the creation of a rock garden; plants for a rock garden and the rules for planting them; rock garden care.

Rock garden

Creating an alpine slide

Gardens, in which stones of solid size and irregular shape were the main element of landscape design, are traditional for China and Japan. The stone gardens of these countries have been known for more than three millennia; for local residents, they are an important attribute of philosophy. In Europe, the first rock gardens and rockeries appeared about two centuries ago, introducing elements of oriental exoticism into the classic lines of parks and gardens of aristocratic estates.

Two identical alpine slides do not exist, just as there are no two identical stones in nature – it all depends on the imagination of the creators of these decorative garden elements. There are two ways to make an alpine slide: the first is to contact a landscape design and landscaping company; the second is to realize your own ideas, creating alpine slides with your own hands. We will talk about the second method – creating a rock garden on your own – in this article..

Rock garden or rockery

Their main difference is in the role of stones. In the rock garden, they are given a secondary role, the main focus is on vegetation. In addition, alpine slides always occupy a large area, their height starts from one meter and more (usually up to 3 m). In rockeries, the main decorative element is stones laid on a low embankment (the height of rockeries does not exceed a meter), a few plants in rockeries only slightly intersperse the overall composition.

Rock garden

In terms of the complexity of its construction, an alpine slide requires more work, but it will take one of the main places in the overall landscape, giving it greater volume and expressiveness.

Alpine slide layout

First of all, you need to choose a place – such that the rock garden is visible from some distance and is in harmony with the general landscape. It is necessary to take care of the surrounding of the rock garden, for example, a neat lawn will become an ideal environment..

An alpine slide can be placed both on a flat area and on an area with difficult terrain, it is important that the future rock garden is well lit, and the soil under it is sufficiently aerated. Optimal for an alpine slide will be the east or south-east direction – this will create the best conditions for mountain plant species planted on the slopes of the rock garden. On the slope of the southern direction, it is possible to plant those types of plants that tolerate direct exposure to the sun well.

Plants for the northern slope should be selected with particular care, because it will be the most unlit.

Rock garden options

Valley in the mountains

Artistic construction of the landscape of the high-mountainous plateau. You will need boulders and boulders of solid size, the boulders must be buried in the soil by two-thirds. Several chaotic paths are laid, resembling natural paths. Groups of shrubs of various heights are planted, the elements that unite the composition are cereals, erica and heather. Against the background of mossy stones and rubble, plants covering the soil with a single carpet will look good.

Rock cliff

Perfect for building your own composition. Creating an alpine slide of this type will require a steep slope and really huge boulders that mimic the outcropping of rock (granite boulders will not work). Stones are laid by dry masonry. It is better to involve specialists in the construction of such a composition, since the work is extremely laborious (stones are heavy) and requires a professional approach, the presence of an artistic taste. On the “rocky cliff” are planted juniper and mountain pine, alpine plants – bastards, wormwood, sedums, dwarf ferns, etc..

Mountain slope

Alpine slide, quite complex in terms of landscape construction. It is a model of the high-mountainous Alps – a scree on which dwarf pines are planted. To build, a sufficiently high slope is required, on which stone boulders and boulders are located. Heather, creeping conifers, Erica can be planted on the “mountain slope”, in no case should tall conifers be planted – they will seriously disturb the overall composition. Ground cover is planted in small plots close to groups of pines, imitating “alpine lawns”.

Alpine lawn

Alpine lawn

Modeling the vegetation of the high-mountainous landscape. It is a composite element of “mountain” types of rock garden. The main difficulty in creating an alpine slide of this type is to ensure sufficient comfort for the life of wild plants of the alpine highlands (edelweiss, low-growing cereals, gentian, saxifrage, etc.). Under cultivated conditions, wild plants grow actively, constant monitoring is necessary to maintain the required ratio between species.


An element of the general landscape composition, performed with a complex garden design. The slopes of the hills are lined with boulders according to the dry masonry principle. It is especially successful if the walls of such a “gorge” have different heights, improving illumination and thereby allowing to plant various types of rocky plants.

Ravine in the forest

To build a rock garden of this type, it is necessary that the area being designed has a natural hollow. To strengthen the slopes, large stones burst into them, conifers (growing horizontally and bush) and perennial plants resistant to shading (volzhanki and ferns) are planted to form vegetation. The general rule of thumb for planting plants is not to plant them too thickly. The “spring” arranged in the “ravine” will look especially good.

Creation of a rock garden

Small swamp

Alpine slide in the country, created on a site with natural waterlogging. This decision of the rock garden is especially successful when surrounded by a garden planted on a hilly terrain. To create such a reservoir (half a pond, half a “bog window”) in a swampy area, you need to open a small hole (depth no more than 700 mm). In the absence of an area of ​​high humidity, an artificial reservoir of sufficient size must be created. Around the perimeter of the “quagmire” you need to dig round boulders (three quarters of their size). It is possible to decorate the “swamp” with snags. Marsh plants should be planted in the reservoir, along the coastline – moisture-loving plants.

Cascade stream

A variant of a rock garden, created as part of a general landscape construction or as an independent composition. The “cascade stream” is especially successful, with a large alpine slide in the background. Basic rules for a “cascade stream”: an alpine slide, of which it is an element, should in no case have an artificial appearance and be too bulky; the stones forming the cascade and the channel of the “stream” should only be of natural shape. Irises (Japanese and Siberian), ferns and primroses, berry and buzulniks are planted on the banks of the stream. The so-called “dry stream” is also interesting – the water in it is imitated by a scattering of coarse gravel.

How to choose stones for a rock garden

The creation of an alpine slide is impossible without careful selection of stones. Stone selection rules:

  • you should not collect stones from fields or meadows, use exclusively natural stone (no pressed stone or concrete);
  • in the creation of a rock garden, only stones of the same type can be used (for example, only sandstone or only shale, without mixing with stones of other rocks);
  • the weight of stones should be at least 12 kg (it is better if the weight is more – about 100 kg), the best choice would be stones with traces of erosion.

Characteristics of rocks suitable for creating a rock garden:

  • Sandstone– its main advantage lies in the variety of colors (sandy, creamy gray or reddish). Sandstone stones usually have a rounded shape, existing sharp corners persist for a long time;
  • Slate. Its particular appeal is associated with its color – many shades of gray, purple and green. Prone to weathering and smoothing over time:
  • Limestonethe least resistant to weathering, its edges quickly wear out and smooth out. The stones of this rock are favored by mosses and lichens, giving them a “natural” look. On the other hand, this rock leads to liming of the soil, which is why the planted plants grow very poorly. Basically white or gray limestone, more rare golden and bluish limestone. Do not buy cream-colored limestone – it quickly exfoliates and crumbles.
  • Travertine(tuff) – limestone with a porous structure and containing plant remains. It is twice lighter than ordinary limestone, and due to its porosity it is convenient for planting and growing plants;
  • Granitetoo hard, its sharp edges practically do not give in to natural wear. Granite is of little use to create a rock garden, since its artificiality will be striking.

DIY Alpine slides – let’s get started

Work on the rock garden begins in early autumn, the first step is to mark the site. When planning an alpine slide of a large area (from 10 m2), you must immediately mark the position of paths, transitions and steps. An alpine slide is not just a pile of stones, so you need to simulate a natural mountain landscape, marking up “plateaus” and “valleys”, “peaks” and “cliffs”, zones with different intensity of illumination. Before starting the marking work, a plan for the future rock garden should be developed on paper, followed by its transfer to the selected area..

Having completed the marking, we prepare the site – completely remove the sod layer to a depth of at least 300 mm. To create high-quality drainage, you will need gravel, broken brick or slag – we form the bottom 100 mm layer, lay a 50-100 mm layer of coarse sand on top. Before laying each new layer, it is necessary to water the previous layer abundantly with water..

DIY alpine slides

Now we compose an earthen mixture – having carefully loosened the soil extracted from the site for the rock garden, we completely remove the stems and roots of weeds from it (the better all the weeds are removed, the less work will be done to eliminate them in the near future).

We mix the soil cleared of weeds with coarse-grained sand and crushed humus (peat) in equal proportions, pour the resulting mixture over the laid drainage layers, forming a meter-high slide. If it is planned to create an alpine slide of greater height, accordingly, the soil should be removed to a greater depth (up to a meter) and a base should be formed from a mixture of sand, peat and earth of a greater height. Having completed the formation of the rock garden base, we leave the work for three weeks for complete shrinkage of the base layers.

After the expiration of the shrinkage period, we proceed to the installation of stones: first of all, the largest stones are exposed – at the edges, then smaller stones are laid – on the higher part of the earthen hill. Large stones are buried two-thirds of their size in the ground for greater reinforcement and better imitation of rock outcropping. When laying out stone paths in a large rock garden, the stone should be laid flat side up (which is quite natural, otherwise it will be impossible to walk). Test each stone for stability by stepping on it – if it is unstable, place small stones under it, covering them with earth (they should not be visible). Leave enough land between the stones of the paths for planting. Make sure stones of all sizes are stable – you are not planning to make a rockfall.

When creating a rocky landscape, try to form it as asymmetrically as possible, i.e. there should be no correct geometry – this is the only way to get the most complete picture of the mountainous area. A rock garden created only from stones of different sizes should have aesthetic appeal even without planting plants – their task is to enhance the decorative effect. Resist the temptation to somehow embellish your rock garden with artificial elements – pieces of glass, plastic tinsel, etc. – all the beauty of alpine slides is in their effect of “naturalness”!

Having completed work on the creation of a “stone” rock garden, we stop work until the spring warming.

Plants for an alpine slide

While the weather is cold outside, it’s time to prepare for the spring planting of plants in a rock garden created with your own hands. It is necessary to pick up herbal and floral compositions, bearing in mind that an excessive abundance of vegetation will only harm the general appearance of the rock garden.

Plants for an alpine slide

There are several groups of plants suitable for a rock garden, among them the main group is perennial plants growing in the Alps. Thinking over the plant composition, one rule should be followed: the most attractive and outstanding plants should be planted separately, smaller and nondescript plants should be planted in groups. The rock garden will look great throughout the warm season if the plants for the alpine slide are selected so that their flowering does not occur simultaneously – for example, some plants bloom in May-June, some in July, and the rest in August.

As a rule, perennial alpine plants are used in the formation of green plantings of a rock garden: fescue and aubrieta, lavender and speckled speckled grass, rezuha and rock beetroot, soapwort, saxifrage and geranium. For these plants, you need to carefully plan the landing site and monitor their growth – they grow quickly and can crowd out weaker plants, blocking out sunlight. Cracks and crevices between stones are suitable for planting unattractive and undersized plants. In the center of the composition, especially bright perennial plants should be planted – they will attract the attention of the audience to the main compositional elements of the rock garden.

The participation of shrubs in the construction of the overall composition must be treated carefully enough, carefully choosing the place and type of shrub plant. Most often, the following types of shrubs are planted in the rock garden: pieris and Japanese maple, erika and azalea, wolf and white dogwood, forsythia and rosemary, dwarf roses and cinquefoil shrub.

No less careful should be taken to the selection of conifers, giving preference to dwarf and not characterized by rapid growth. Please note that planting young seedlings of coniferous plants will bring a serious dissonance to the overall composition – they will soon grow, and all attempts to trim will only damage their appearance..

So, we add soil in places of subsidence, loosen the soil and plant the plants. Tall plants – first of all, they are followed by undersized plants and the last to plant ground cover. It is necessary to plant plants starting from the highest point of the alpine slide and ending at its foot. Having planted another plant, we form a shallow funnel around the stem (trunk) to collect rainwater, sprinkle each plant with a layer of fine pebbles (layer thickness – about 30 mm) – to protect against excessive moisture and block weeds. Upon completion of planting, the plants need to be watered abundantly.

Plants for rock garden – care

As with any element of the landscape, the alpine slide requires regular care: watering and weeding, cleaning and replanting plants, weed and pest control. Some plants, especially wild ones, are actively growing and need to be cut. And vice versa – cultivated plants require special care, because it will be difficult for them to get comfortable in a new place.

Especially a lot of work in the spring-autumn period. In the spring, you need to clean the alpine slide from fallen leaves, remove the protective film from the plants, eliminate traces of the vital activity of mice, moles and other pests, check the stability of stones, strengthening them if necessary, add fresh soil. As soon as it gets warmer, weeds will appear – they must be weeded in a timely manner.

Rock garden care

The main care of a rock garden in the summer is watering – a rather laborious activity, it will be easier to install an automatic watering system. It is necessary to conduct a fairly frequent inspection of plants – they can be affected by putrefactive microorganisms, mold and various harmful insects that require immediate treatment with herbicides.

In the autumn season, the bulbs of new plants are planted, the stems of faded plants are cut, the tubers and bulbs of those plants that cannot withstand the winter cold are removed, the branches of conifers are pulled with a rope so that they do not break off under the mass of snow. Particularly delicate plants need to be covered with plastic wrap, the rest should be covered with leaves and needles, pressing this natural insulation with a rope net and securing it with stones to protect from strong winter winds.

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