Japanese Garden: Unique Way to Embrace Nature

Gardening enthusiasts adore the idea of Japanese garden because of the calmness and beauty it brings to property. Shops, buildings, restaurants and other commercial establishments incorporate Japanese garden to their landscape. If you want to have your own Japanese garden at your backyard, then you have to consider some elements.

First, you have to grasp the true meaning of nature. It means you have to design your garden as natural as possible and not to add things that could destroy its natural beauty. If you try to add water features in your garden, you should think of one that naturally occurs in environment like a waterfall.

You must also have the concept of balance. One purpose of Japanese garden is to recreate the real nature into the small garden you have. Rocks can be your mountain, ponds could be the lakes and sand could mean the ocean.

You should be careful when choosing your elements in the garden. You must not lose the concept of nature and balance.

Ma and Sabi/Wabi (Space and Time)

The spaces or Ma are important aspect of Japanese gardening. You must consider the elements that surround the space.

In and yo (yin and yang in Chinese) is applied in this concept. It might be hard to understand at first but it is an essential part of Japanese gardening.

Another important concept is the Sabi and Wabi or the element of time. Wabi is essence of the uniqueness of something while Sabi is the character strengthens by time.

The time and space elements are essential for Japanese garden. As the season changes, your garden must reflect the characteristics of each season. Japanese gardening last until winter unlike the Westerners who stop gardening at the end of fall.

During spring, the garden must show a relaxing effect by offering new blossoms. In summer, the green color and the sight of the pond reflects the true essence of summer, the dramatic effect of yellow or orange flowers during fall and the white snow that dominates the garden during winter.

Spring and winter are two of the most essential growing season in Japan. Snow blossoms or Sekku in Japanese is the snow on braches and the Snow lantern or Yukimi is a snow lantern used in Japanese garden during winter. Winter is the most important part of gardening as it is the sleeping time of the garden.

Garden borders

If you want your garden to be the real escape from reality, then you have to separate it from the real world. In order to achieve it, gates and fences are essential

These borders represent deep meaning for a Japanese garden. These separate you from the worries and problems. The fence encloses you and your garden away from the real world while the gate is where you leave your problems and deal with them once you exit the garden.

This is the concept of Miegakure or hide and reveal. The fence is put up easily and with the use of plants, it hides what is inside the garden. You can have a small part of the fence to be cut down for people to have a look at your garden.

You can also make use of sleeve fences or Sode-gaki to have a view of the garden from the house. Through these borders, you can lose track of time and yourself within your garden.

Three Basic Japanese Garden Styles

All the concepts above are applied to these three styles. You can either choose from the three to incorporate in your backyard.

Hill and Pond Garden (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki)

This style is greatly influenced by Chinese. A space or water feature is surrounded with gravel and hill. This is to show the mountainous areas and vegetation in the area. Stroll gardens make use of this style.

Flat Garden (Hiraniwa)

It is inspired by the flat spaces used by palaces and temples for ceremonies. This is a good place to mediate by yourself and make use of the appropriate plants to create a relaxing effect. Courtyards commonly use this style

Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa)

This style focused greatly on functionality. The dewy path or Roji is the focal point of the garden style with the gates and pond. Plants should be chosen carefully for country look of your garden

Formality should also be considered when using either of the styles. Hill and Pond Garden can be formal (shin), intermediate (gyo) and informal (so). Shin style is used in palaces and temples while Gyo is for residence. The So is for huts or retreats and tea garden is one informal style.

One should embrace the concepts of Japanese garden in your backyard. You may not have used all the techniques but the important thing is you have achieved serenity and a natural garden that is your true escape from the outside world.

4 Simple Steps to Remember When Starting Your Vegetable Garden

This Spring will be different.

You’ll dust off the old gardening gloves (or open the package they’ve sat in for all these years) and start your long-awaited vegetable garden.

How do I know this, you ask? Well, I too, was once a casualty of garden procrastination. It wasn’t until I actually started my garden that I realized how easy and inexpensive they really are. All you need is a little know-how and a few lawn equipment tools and parts.

So, if you’re looking for a guide for the perfect budget-savvy backyard garden, let me help you get started.

garden

What Is the Goal of This Garden?

Before you start making any decisions with your garden planning, it’s important to understand why you are taking on this project in the first place.

  • Is it to get home-grown vegetables from your own backyard?
  • Is it to avoid pesticides?
  • Is it to grow something that can’t be found anywhere else?
  • Or is it just for a fun summer activity?

Depending on the reasoning for your garden, you can narrow down the criteria for getting it started.

Make It Easy

This may seem obvious to most people, but keeping your first garden simple can save you time and headaches down the road. Keep your garden within the scope of your skills and budget. Plant vegetables that are easy to grow. And most importantly, do your research – check out gardening books from the library, search the internet to get your questions answered, and don’t be afraid to approach your local nursery.

Nothing can trump a well-educated green thumb!

What Do You Want to Grow?

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea on what you’re looking to get out of your garden. Now comes the implementation. Take a minute to sit down and map out your garden. Draw a scaled diagram of your garden, with proper spacing for each plant you intend on planting.

For example, you’ll need about 8 inches of space between lettuce. Doing this assures you that you’ll have enough space for each plant to grow properly.

If you’re looking to make your garden as easy and carefree as possible…

I recommend avoiding:

  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • onions
  • artichokes

These veggies are temperamental and will test your patience.

So if you aren’t looking for a challenge…

I recommend using:

  • lettuce
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • peppers

Keep in mind that you can save a lot of time and stress by avoiding seeds and going directly to starters. These starters have already been grown for a few weeks, so their survival rate is much higher than seeds.

And they’re simple — just dig a hole, plant them, and watch the results. These should be available at any of your local nurseries.

Choose the Right Soil

Other than your climate, there’s no aspect of a healthy garden more important that the soil.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to use soil that’s loose and drains well. More specifically, you’ll need soil with proper amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium and even boron.

These nutrients are used to maintain a proper soil pH level. Your goal should be to always maintain a pH level between 6 and 7.

If you don’t already have a pH meter, your local hardware stores and nurseries will carry them for a few bucks. Get one and use it often!

Conclusion

And that’s how easy it can be to start your own backyard garden. Trust me when I say that this will be one of the best investments you can make all year long. Not only will you share the process of growing your own food with your family and neighbors, but you’ll also have delicious, organic vegetables, that YOU grew!

It’s a feeling that I hope everyone can experience.

This article is by no means a comprehensive guide to starting the perfect garden, it’s merely some tips that I wish I would have known before I started my first garden. A solid plan for your garden will pay off in dividends come harvesting season. And who knows, maybe next year you’ll determine that your whole yard would look better as a garden.

What tips do you think are worth sharing with other green-thumbs? Let us know in the comments!
Image source

Eat Your Garden: Best Plants for Edible Landscaping

Not many folks are able to look at their beautiful, blooming landscaping and see their next meal. Most landscaping features a visual quality but lacks gustatory appeal. The good news for hungry gardeners is that edibility can be added to your landscape—all without sacrificing the eye-catching features you’d expect. Welcome to the world of edible landscaping. The following flora are as beautiful as they are scrumptious.

Globe Artichoke

Aesthetically, globe artichokes are one of the best edible plants you can add to your garden. Their spiky jade green leaves and flowering purple blades add visual appeal. Use these tasty vegetables for salads, grilling or the always popular spinach-artichoke dip.

Sunflowers

Classic and gorgeous, sunflowers’ electric yellow petals bloom around a fuzzy brown stigma as they peer up at our star. Their toasted seeds make for a wonderful snack or as a topping for salads.

Mint

Mint’s vibrant green leaves and refreshing fragrance makes it a fitting addition to any edible garden. This herb grows rapidly and its roots (called “runners”) will proliferate through your garden if it’s not contained in a pot, according to ApartmentTherapy.com. Sprigs should be collected prior to the plant flowering. Grow mint in areas receiving both sun and partial shade.

Figs

Plant a fig tree in your yard to please both you and your neighborhood fauna. The tree grows large, glossy leaves and produces the saccharine, purple fruit you know and love. Use them for fig jam, dessert or eat them raw. Use mulch to safeguard the trunk from the lawn mower and grass trimmer as well as to inhibit weed growth.

Nasturtium

Despite its unattractive name, nasturtium produces edible warm-colored flowers. Their leaves can be ingested as well—they’re mildly spicy with a taste not dissimilar to radishes, according to TreeHugger.com. The seeds can even be pickled—think capers—for a delicious condiment.

Chives

Chives are relatively easy to grow and are welcome in any garden. Harvest this perennial’s cylindrical green stalks for use in omelets or to sprinkle on your baked potato. Chives blossom into flowers with starry, pale purple petals—also edible, also delicious.

Elderberries

Respect your elderberries. Clusters of these deep purple berries lend themselves well to jelly and preserves as well as elderberry wine, according to TreeHugger.com. Its butter-cream flowers can be preserved as sugars and syrups.

Chamomile

Similar in appearance to daisies, chamomile’s creamy white petals bloom from a sunny yellow stigma. The plant can be harvested and used as an herbal remedy or for a soothing tea. Several plants share the chamomile name: English, Roman and German chamomile share similar qualities, according to HowStuffWorks.com.

Passion Fruit

The passion fruit is a climbing vine that uses its tendrils to scale any surface, no matter how high, according to TropicalPermaculture.com. The flower of the passion fruit alone is worth it. Even if the succulent fruit fails to grow, the beautiful violet foliage emerges in a stringy pattern that is a pleasure to behold.

NuMex Twilight

The spicy chili peppers of the NuMex Twilight resemble colored, conical LED Christmas lights in yellow, red, orange and purple hues. These peppers are suitable for pots.

Maintaining Winter Gardens Need Not Be Boring

plant-with-snow-in-winterWinter is here to stay and is making great performance of brisk winds and threatening snow storms.

As an avid gardener, you know your work is never done – no matter the season.

The green thumb knows there are a variety of ways to keep busy during the winter.

From planting crops that can handle the winter temperatures to growing plants indoors, winter gardening can be accomplished.

The benefits of winter gardening are vast.

As hibernation season, we stay in more and exercise less, so gardening is a way to get outside and be active.

Another benefit is avoiding the price hike in fruits and vegetables by growing your own. Of course, the benefits of produce itself will ward off illnesses that may attack during the vulnerable Flu season.

Here’s a really cool video I found on how to build a raised vegetable garden:

The best benefit of all is the joy that will come from keeping your green thumb active. What you enjoy most about spring and summer can be indulged by the environment you create with winter gardens.

Now to select your plants!

A bit or research will go into this process as your plant selection depends on your region, location of growth (indoors, outdoors, solar garden) and personality. However, if you are providing a heated environment, you are may choose almost any plant to grow.

Produce – for those who enjoy fewer pests.

  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Parsnip
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • … and more

Flowers – for those who enjoy a beautiful, colorful view.

  • Snowdrops
  • Bergenia
  • Hellebores
  • Camellias
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Snap Dragon
  • Iceland Poppy
  • and Cyclamen

Trees – for the ambitious green thumbs.

  • Japanese Maple
  • Crape-myrtle

Other – for those who dare to be different.

  • Ornamental Grass
  • Winter Berries (such as Nandina, Evergreen Hollies and Beautyberry)
  • Witch Hazel

During this cold and darker season, don’t forget to get the kids involved. It can be fun to help plant and watch the crop grow.

They can take snap-shots of the growth process and create a presentation or they can simply give it as a home-warming gift to a family friend. There are many options that are fun and educational.

This post was written by Philippe Allaire, a guest author with over 15 years experience in the home improvement field, from landscaping to kitchens renovations, together we are sure to accomplish any project around the house you may have.

Adding a Little Sound and Feng Shui To Your Landscape

chimesWhen designing your landscape, it’s important to think not only about stuff like:

  • your budget
  • what size plants to get
  • irrigation
  • trees

… you know, “stuff”.

It’s also important to think about the feel of your yard, or put another way, the mood. Is it going to be a funky array of colors, sounds, and smell or a relaxing Zen kind of garden?

In this post, I’d like to talk a little about adding sound and mood (or emotion) into your landscape design.

The Wonderful Connection Between Wind Chimes and Feng Shui

Those that purchase wind chimes and hang them in the doorways in their home commonly do so because of their decorative value.

There is just something uniquely appealing to the look of these chimes. Of course, the calming sound they make adds even more to their unique value. Beyond the common aesthetics, are there more benefits that can be gained from the placement of wind chimes.

For those that weave the chimes in with the principles of Feng Shui decor, the results could literally be holistic in nature.

At this point, some might find it incredulous that Feng Shui and wind chimes are capable of working so well together.

How is this possible?

Once you understand the basic principles of what Feng Shui is, you will discover that it might be quite easy to tap into the amazing energy flow Feng Shui manipulates in order to deliver on its holistic merits.

What is Feng Shui?

For those not familiar with the concept of Feng Shui, this is an ancient Chinese method of tapping into the universal life flow energy traveling through the earth. This life flow energy is commonly called Qi (aka Chi) and it flows through the meridian points of the human body.

When Qi flow is blocked, the body can become ill. When Qi flow is enhanced, then the health of the body might be optimized. Most means of cultivating Qi center on breathing exercises, seated and moving meditation, and physical exercises.

Feng Shui takes things into a completely different direction.

The words Feng Shui are translated as “wind-water.”

This refers to the notion that Qi flows freely through the air, but can be trapped in water. Since it is believed Qi is flowing through the air, it becomes obvious how there just might be a solid connection between the placement of wind chimes and the ability to direct external Qi flow from the earth.

The Connection between Feng Sui and Wind Chimes

Before delving into the relationship between Feng Shui and wind chimes, it is important to note there are many different schools of thought when it comes to how the chimes should be used to cultivate Qi energy.

No one, single approach can be considered right or wrong. However, there may be certain strategies that are better for you than others. A little bit of research and trial and error may be required.

Feng Shui commonly revolves around the placement of objects in order to help direct the flow of Qi. So placing items in your garden in specific areas is something you’ll need to do to achieve the proper flow of Qi.

Through effectively placing objects in a set way, Qi energy can be manipulated in a manner that yields the most positive results. While wind chimes are traditional placed in an environment that puts them in the direct path of wind, those hoping to cultivate Feng Shui might put them inside the home in a manner more preferable to working with Qi than the wind.

The prime purpose of mixing wind chimes with Feng Shui will generally be intended to get rid of negative Qi energy.

Contrary to what some might assume, not all Qi energy has a positive effect.

yin-yangKeeping in accordance with the theory of Yin/Yang, positive Qi energy cannot exist unless there is also negative Qi energy.

This does not mean, however, you have to be at the mercy of negative Qi energy. There are ways to address and reverse the presence of it and wind chimes would be the most common way, especially in your overall landscape design.

Specific Strategies to Eliminate Negative Qi Energy In Your Garden

In order to eliminate the negative Qi energy from a home, simply hanging wind chimes in an errant manner will not work.

Feng Shui is all about the deliberate placement of items in the home and garden. Through following along with common, well established strategies, it might become much more likely the chimes do as is expected of them.

The placement of the wind chimes in a northwest direction would be one traditional strategy that can be employed with a metal wind chime. If the chime is made of wood, southwest would be the better direction. Symbols and numbers on the wind chimes will further enhance their ability to deliver results. 6 and 8 would be the best numbers.

buddaSimilarly, there are symbols such as a Buddha or two hearts would be helpful to the chimes.

Looks do count!

And also…

In addition to helping reverse the presence of negative energy from a home and garden, Feng Shui wind chimes can enhance the look of an interior. For many, if the chimes do this, then they have done their job!

Landscaping Tips for Creating a Japanese Garden

japanese-style-gardenNothing is more elegant and relaxing than a proper Japanese garden.

You may have visited one at a botanical garden or Japanese cultural center (this one leads to the Hawaii location) and marveled at its architectural ingenuity and harmonious layout.

Japanese garden designers are widely considered to be masters of creating highly stylized, abstract landscapes in compact spaces. If you want to make the most out of your small space, you should definitely consider incorporating a touch of Japanese design philosophy.

Japanese gardens come in many forms; they can be easily adapted to fit the needs of your particular climate and existing landscape.

The typical garden that most Americans have seen is the strolling pond variety (see image above). In this design, the pond is the centerpiece, and can be traversed with an arched moon bridge or simple, uncut slabs of stone. The pond, which is meant to look like a miniature sea, is often partially bordered with large stones that contribute a choppy, natural feeling to the landscape. Ferns, moss, and deciduous trees surround the pond as well.

Though Asian carp are the traditional pond dwellers, you can substitute native species of fish and frogs rather easily.

Tea gardens, or chaniwa, are more rustic variations of the Japanese garden.

tea-garden

Typically, they are small and minimalist. A stone path curves through the landscape; its winding shape mimics a stream bed and enables the viewer to see the garden’s pines, flowers, and shrubs from many different angles. Architectural elements include stone lanterns, a central tea house, and a gate that marks the beginning of the pathway.

Zen gardens, or karesansui, are often called “dry landscape” gardens.

zen-garden

Instead of the lawn space that American gardens typically use, zen gardens use carefully raked gravel or sand as its base. Designers of zen gardens have been mostly inspired by ancient Chinese landscape art; thus, they often look like still life paintings.

The raked lines are meant to look similar to water ripples, and create a very relaxing effect. Large rocks are arranged to look like small mountain ranges, with mossy islands sprinkled throughout.

Small courtyard gardens, or tsuboniwa, are most commonly found in Japan’s densely packed urban areas. Their major design aspect is their size: they are often no bigger than the total area of two tatami mats lying side-by-side (approximately 36 square feet).

The layout and appearance are similar to tea gardens, but at a much smaller scale.

Think of it as a bigger bonsai garden. Since these gardens are mostly geared towards tight urban spaces, they primarily use shade-loving moss, plants, and ferns.

You can mix and match the elements of Japanese garden styles to create a unique design for your home landscape. The key concepts for each of them are:

  • replication
  • scaled-down formations
  • asymmetry
  • flowing movement

More contemporary Western gardens incorporate these concepts, and many upscale landscaping companies are knowledgeable about them as well and can help provide some landscaping tips for you come up with a design that works for you.

Replication

Many gardens include formations that mimic landscapes that the owner has sentimental memories about. For instance, several of the gardens of Heian-era nobles included monuments to their hometowns. In your own garden, you can create an abstract replica of a stream from your childhood, or a mountain range that you’ve always wanted to climb.

Scaled-down Formations

As you can already tell, the Japanese-style garden is all about creating miniature worlds. The ideal garden should be a universe unto itself; this sense of completeness makes even the smallest space seem huge. Best of all, you can build those worlds with just a few basic ingredients: large rocks, sand, moss, and water. With just a little bit of intentional arrangement, your garden will be filled with mountains, seas, and forests.

Asymmetry

The prevailing idea behind much East Asian art is asymmetry. Instead of faithfully mirroring set patterns, a truly Japanese design will play with diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines to create a complicated view of its features. When tall trees, slanted gates, and horizontal ponds interact in the same space, they create a variety of interesting displays from all viewing angles.

Flowing Movement

The best way to view such a garden is by walking through it, via short paths or rough bridges. Zig-zag and winding paths can stimulate a meditative mood and calm the soul. If you don’t have room for a path, you can place rocks in strategic positions that will draw the eye and create a distinct visual flow.

Image Credits: sozolandscape, billmcintyre, tanaka_juuyoh

Mediterranean Garden

Med garden - Intro

A handsome, well-structured garden with moderate maintenance and irrigation needs is easily achievable! The Mediterranean garden combines all the above advantages, while entertaining all five senses, and creating an ambience that will make you feel like being on vacation at home all year round…

Elements of a Mediterranean garden

The elements comprising Mediterranean gardens arose out of sheer necessity. The need for food, the dry soil and the shortage of water led to the cultivation of specific plants which are resistant to drought, edible and offer fruits.

  • An inner courtyard (patio) is one of the most characteristic images of a Mediterranean garden. While in the past it served as a safe area for family gatherings, its most distinguishable feature today is a pergola with climbing vines, bougainvilleas, and other climbers, or a big tree that will offer valuable shade during the long hot hours of its native area.
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  • Med garden, water featureStone is the backbone of these gardens: alleys and terraces, low and dry walls, fountains, ponds, wells and cisterns, waterpaths… On the other hand, prefer smaller paved areas, as a large one would store heat.
    .
  • Water, although in shortage, is essential for life and for a hint of freshness in this little-demanding garden. A well, a fountain, a little cistern, even a few water paths, will create a wonderful ambience, where the promise of a cool sip of water will blend with the murmuring of running water, satisfying a number of senses at once.
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  • Extended plains and prairies are not what you would find in a Mediterranean landscape, so avoid grass lawns which, in addition, have greater water and maintenance needs.
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  • Another trait of this type of garden is the paved or cobblestone floors, as well as the colorful mosaics. A pathway laid with colored gravel or with compacted soil and gravel, so that good drainage is ensured, can also be interesting, especially if it leads to a charming secluded area or to a fountain.
    .
  • Landscape in Mediterranean countries is characterized by terraced slopes for the purpose of increasing the scarce cultivable ground. In your garden, you can build different levels and stairs, features that will contribute to better water management and to the development of different plant species (vegetables, vineyard, fruit trees, etc) according to your needs.
    .
  • Perennials (e.g. cypress, olive tree, myrtle, laurel, lentisk, rosemary, lavender, sage) are representative of Mediterranean areas. You can use them repeatedly in tufts.
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  • Remember that the Mediterranean palette does not include dark green, shiny leaves, or big, impressive flowers. Think of the olive’s green-silver leaves, of the different textures and the nuances of green, of small gracious flowers, of the play of shadow and light upon surfaces.
    .
  • Aromatic herbs play a huge role in this type of garden. Just close your eyes and bring to mind the smell of dried oregano, of lavender and thyme, of the beneficial influence of essential oils extracted from Mediterranean plants.

 

Italian Gardens

Italian garden I  Italian garden II

Italian gardens developed during the Renaissance, when rich and powerful monarchs and aristocrats wished to embelish their homes and surroundings in a showy manner. The gardens were geometrical with very well-defined shapes of beds, trees and shrubs.

Here we see two examples of Italian gardens in northern countries (both in the UK): the left one (Trevarno) reminds slightly of Pompeian villas, while the right one (Garnish island) is representative of the more austere, yet pretty elegant Renaissance style.

 

Greek gardens

Greek garden II  Greek garden I

Those of you who have visited the Greek islands may remember the scorching summer heat and the glazing sunlight as two of the main features of the country.

Greek gardens are an enchanting picture of colorful dashes on white or earthern background, pergolas with vines and other climbing trees creating deep shades, as well as raised beds and pots of various sizes and shapes giving home to the arduous plants of the region.

 

Spanish Gardens

Med, patio de la lindaraja, alhambra    Med, Alhambra, fountain

Gardens and landscaping in Spain took off during the Arab occupation of the country. Some excellent samples of this trend can be seen at the gardens of Alhambra, Andalucia.

The outline of the garden is once again geometrical, usually in a cross-like form. Lines are straight and water plays an important role in the composition.

Plant selection for the Mediterranean garden

As we already mentioned, perennials prosper in Mediterranean climate, as very easy to cultivate in dry and poor soil conditions.

A Med garden is, above all, a fragrant garden: sage, thyme, rosemary will please both your smell and your taste buds, as you can use them in the kitchen… They’re not tall plants, and they are perfect for edging strips or in a mini rock garden, on well-drained and not too humid soil. You can also accompany them by succulents, like sedums with their countless varieties, or aeoniums and aloe plants whose beautiful flowers will make a wonderful winter ornament.

Citrus trees: If the climate allows you, dare to plant orange, lemon or tangerine trees – preferably near the house, so as to protect them from the cold winds. Imagine opening your windows and letting the elegant fragrance of orange trees invade your room during blooming season…

med, oleanderOleanders make glorious fences: they bear lots of flowers in varied colors: from white to fuchsia and everything in-between, plus some more – a magnificent palette at your disposal. An additional advantage is that the blooming season may last up to six months.

 

The silver-green foliage and the twisted trunk of olive trees is, of course, the trademark of Mediterranean landscape. Despite generally accepted ideas, olive trees can grow virtually anywhere, as some species can withstand temperatures well below zero. One thing to remember: olive trees don’t tolerate stagnant waters; a well-drained, pebbly, light soil, as well as a maximum amount of sunlight, are necessary for their survival. During the first three to five years you must be careful of ice; covering of the roots in the winter is a good precaution in cold climates.
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Image sources:

Beehive urn and lavernder, garden statueItalian garden (Trevarno),
Italian garden (Garnish island)Mediterranean terrace garden, Cyclades bougainvillea,
Patio de la Lindaraja (Alhambra), fountain in Alhambra gardens, oleander flowers

How to Create a Rock Garden

Although not a very recent concept, stone gardens have gained in popularity over the last few years – not unjustly so, as they feature many qualities that make them an easy-to-apply and really attractive solution for all types of gardens:

  • they can develop in large areas, or they can accommodate themselves in a tiny corner of your yard, and look equally beautiful in both instances;

Colorful rock garden: Flowering Kurume azaleas in May (Leonardslee Gardens, UK)

  • they can be built in sites with a lot of moisture and deep shadows or in dry and sunbathed places during most of the year;
  • their construction presupposes a reworking and reformation of the ground, thus offering an opportunity for very ornamental results;
  • they can really transform and show off a site which otherwise you wouldn’t know how to exploit.

 

Rock garden, nature’s tameless child

The most important thing to remember when designing and building a stone garden is that it is basically an imitation of nature, as we might see it in a somehow wild state.

Forget about orderly flower beds, square fences and conventional garden designs following the western standards (like French gardens and Victorian parks, for example). Quite on the contrary, imagine yourself up on a mountain or at a rocky area and try to figure how a landscape like this might have been created — with stones large and small, with pebbles drifted by the waters of dashing winter streams, with plants peeping out through every probable and improbable crack of the rocks and the ground.

There are two basic rock garden landscapes in nature:

  • Those developing on mountains or in desert areas: the vegetation is low, the plants creep and show a tendency of growing close to the ground. The environmental conditions, the wind and the sun, are harsh and require tough plants, species that will be able to withstand adversities. In this case, you must choose drought-resistant plants, such as agave, Texas lantana, desert willow, lamb’s ears, sedum (or stonecrop), etc;
  • Those developing in deep-shaded slopes and ravines, perhaps by the edge of a creek or some kind of water stream: these are plants that can grow well without ample sunlight and can tolerate moisture, such as ferns, which are also very decorative and give a forest-like image to your garden.

 

Water stream in a forest. See how the rocks are randomly heaped, covered by moss, with little tufts of green leaves here and there.

 

In both instances, you should keep in mind that the water, after being absorbed where it is immediately needed, is quickly lost due to sharp drainage conditions. This plays a huge role in the selection of the plants that you will be using: no plant types that require really damp ground will ever thrive, or even plain survive in a rock garden.

 

Why choose to build a rock garden

Stone gardens are usually designed in order to exploit sloping sites; in this case, you can easily achieve a striking naturalistic effect. However, you can just as well build one on a perfectly flat site by importing rocks in order to create raised beds, especially when you have to work with more restricted areas. In fact, you can create a miniature rock garden in no more than three square feet and make it look lovely and luscious, a tiny corner of serenity in your yard.

 

Miniature rock garden with ramonda and lewisia

 

If you are thinking of building a low wall in your garden, perhaps at the side of a driveway or as a means of containing an elevated bed-ground, you might just as well consider constructing one made of stone. Then you can have various plants grow out of the cracks and crevasses, thus creating a varied, playful effect – definitely more pleasing to the eye, adding character to the whole yard, and offering a beautiful view from your house windows. One more advantage: you don’t have to use any fancy stones for this kind of wall, as the plants sprouting from it will steal the show and make up its real charm.

Finally, rock gardens are ideal for areas suffering from drought during most of the year and especially in the summer. In this case, you will go for a desert or Mediterranean look, with succulents and aromatic herbs, such as thyme, that will thrive in those arid conditions and that will look perfectly acclimatized even during the worst heat waves.

 

How to design and build a rock garden

Choose a location: The most natural place to consider for the creation of your rock garden is a steep slope. Or, you may choose to exploit a part of your yard where nothing else seems to grow. Whatever the case, you’d want to build it at a spot that will be clearly visible, perhaps close to where you will be sitting, so that you’ll be able to really enjoy it after all the time and effort you’d be putting into its creation.

Clear the ground: Create a clean area on which to work by scraping the weeds and removing all vegetation that is there now.

Improve the drainage: Since rock gardens are usually found high up on the mountains, their natural tendency is to have fairly good drainage.Sandy soil is the best for this type of garden; if, on the other hand, you have to work with a clay soil, you will have to loosen it up. For this purpose, you will mix it with sand – then, you will add some compost to the mixture, because sand is a quite infertile medium.

Be random: A rock garden, as an imitation of nature, is not a strict geometrical creation. Variety is the key here: use varying rock sizes, distributed in random groupings of big ones, with some smaller ones scattered around. Basic geology dictates that a specific area abounds in the same basic type of rock – the difference consists in the sizes, the shapes and the way they are thrown all around the place.

Create a natural look: Partially bury the stones in the ground: from two inches up to one third of the stone. This will make them look as if they are a natural part of the milieu and it will add a deceptively pleasing effect to the composition.

Add coarse texture: Put the final touch by scattering some fine gravel or pebbles around, an imitation of what occurs in nature – somewhat like debris collecting in a valley bottom. The gravel will have the additional advantage of discouraging weeds from growing and making their removal a whole lot easier for you.

 

Image credits:

Colorful rock garden, Water stream in a forest, Miniature rock garden