Rocks are among the most popular hardscape items in garden design. They instantly give gardens a weathered, ancient feel---they're the most durable and long-lasting landscape elements. Whether you want to create a stone garden or just include some stone elements as features, rugged rock always adds character to your garden.
Tabletop Zen Garden
If you'd like to experiment with rock gardening but don't want to commit your whole yard to the project, a tabletop Zen garden is an ideal way to do it. Set up a sand container on a sturdy table or other elevated platform in your garden and arrange stones artfully around it. Place the brushes, rakes and other tools on the edge of the table or hang them from the side to keep them in easy reach. For a nice contrast, place lush potted plants on the corners of the table, just outside the Zen as a border.
Stone and Cactus Garden
If you prefer a Southwestern feel to an Eastern one, consider making a stone and cactus garden. Grow cactii and succulents in sandy soil, with red gravel on top of it to hold the sand down and provide more visual interest. Scatter sandstone specimen rocks around to add visual interest. If you have a limited amount of space, grow your whole cactus garden in a pot with a few interesting stones scattered among your plants.
Lava Rock Garden
Lava rock comes in interesting and unique shapes and colors, is relatively lightweight, and evokes the makes the prefect hardscaping for a tropical garden as it evokes the flowing volcanoes of Hawaii. Grow birds of paradise, hibiscus, ferns and other plants with a tropical theme between massive volcanic boulders. Add a fire pit or tiki torches and naturalistic water features to complete the tropical feel.
Alpine Rock Garden
The alpine rock garden is a traditional garden design which makes good use of plants adapted to rocky, mountainous slopes. Build your rock garden on a natural slope by embedding several large rocks at least 1/3rd of the way deep in the hillside with any lichen exposed. Arrange large rocks and smaller ones to create natural enclosed pockets to grow plants between them. Fill in the gaps with sandy, well-drained soil and plant alpine aster, primrose, dwarf baby's breath, ice plant and other rock garden plants in the pockets. Finally, place a layer of small stones or gravel around the base of the plants as a mulch. As the plants grow taller, they will spill over the gaps between rocks, creating a natural mountainside look.