So, you’ve decided you’ll start a rock garden this year. That’s great! But what will it look like? Just… rocks? Rocks and plants? Water feature or none? Maybe you hadn’t thought of that. Maybe you’re not as ready to get started as you thought.
If you don’t have all your ideas put together for that rock garden in front or backyard (or hey, even indoors!), then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled 60 ideas I’ve seen and heard from folks who have successfully crafted their own rock gardens and loved it.
Rocky Water Feature
Being a lover of all water features, I always ask first, “Will a water feature fit?” Ideally, in a rock garden, you’ll use rocky elements for the water feature as well, for the perfect synthesis of theme.
Small Rock Oasis on the Lawn
If you’ve not got a lot of space to spare, you might want to consider creating not a full-on rock garden, but rather a smaller rock “oasis” in the midst of your lawn. Just be sure to place it and shape it so you can still mow around it with ease!
Adobe Style Walls and Benches
If you live in a more arid climate, you might want to consider an adobe style wall and bench with arid plants and rocky features. Plants like shrub roses, nasella grass, and cacti will do well in this beautiful setting.
Sealed Stone Pathway
If you love the idea of a stone pathway but have family members who tend towards clumsiness (no names, please!) or folks who often frequent your home who use walkers, canes, or other assistance, you can seal in that stone pathway in your garden. By “sealing,” I mean that you craft your pathway using assorted rocks or flagstones, then “grouting” between each piece to ensure a smooth path for all who travel there.
Zen Rock Garden
Probably the most classic and most well-known style of rock garden is the Zen rock garden. Create a winding path of gravel through the space, use rock walls and raised garden beds. Ideally, having a sandy area for contemplation.
And if you want to get technical, to have a true Zen garden, you have to include eight elements: bridges, flowers and plants, sand, stones, water, waterfalls, islands, and trees.
Koi Pond with Bridge and Rock Stepping Stones
If you love the idea of a Zen garden but don’t have room for all the elements, a lovely smaller version is a rock garden that combines a koi pond, bridge (or mini bridge) and natural rocks as stepping stones throughout the garden. You can make the pond as large or small as you like and use exactly the right amount of space for your situation.
If you’ve ever stumbled through the woods and found rocks covered in moss near a stream, you know the serenity and beauty associated with a moss garden already. They’re fairly simple to create and low-maintenance once they’re built.
Place boulders and rocks in your space – ideally smooth, rounded ones for the nicest aesthetics! – add some moss from your local nursery, then let moss take them over!
Dry Creek Bed
For a dry rock garden for lower maintenance, consider creating a dry creek bed style garden. You’ll shape out the garden to look like what it sounds like – a dry bed – with quartz rocks and boulders, pebbles, and similar stones to give that natural feel. Plant some native shrubs and grasses nearby for the complete look.
Tiny Rock Garden in Planters
For those who are short on space or just have a patio or balcony to deck out, you can create tiny rock gardens in old planters, recycle buckets, or old basins. Just plant the rocks and pebbles, any plants (and soil, if needed) for a minimal landscape you can take indoors when the cold weather hits.
Colorful Succulents Amongst Colorful Rocks
Of course, succulents of all types are a beautiful choice for your rock garden. Specifically choosing succulent species that are bright and colorful and mixing them in with colorful rocks, though, can be a truly eye-catching design.
Stacked Rock Cairns
In your garden, you can create your own rock cairns. These are human-made stacked rocks of any shape or color, stacked on top of each other, largest on the bottom for support and smallest on top. You can do one big one to signify something special for yourself or do many smaller ones to just add some beauty.
Live “River” Rock Path
If you’ve got the space and budget, you can create your own miniature river flowing through your rock garden. Add some boulders to define the walls of the river and combine smooth stones and unique textures (wood, brick, concrete) for the river bed itself.
One lovely idea for a rock garden is making the whole thing Buddha-centric. Find a Buddha statue you love and plant rocks and plants around the statue in an aesthetically appealing manner.
Mediterranean Style Dry Rock Garden
If you’ve got some space and some imagination, you can create your own Mediterranean style dry rock garden. Plant sweet smelling plants throughout and stylize like an Italian villa.
Pathway of Pebbles
Pebbles can be a really fun medium to work with in your rock garden. Specifically, creating a pebble pathway, lined by larger rocks or bricks can be a unique, lovely way to decorate.
White Rocks with Green Bushes
For vivid visuals, consider using vibrant green bushes in your rock garden and bright white rocks surrounding them. The contrast makes for interesting visuals and gives a nice, clean aesthetic.
Rocks and Gravel Steps
If you have any kind of incline in your yard, you might want to consider crafting some rock and gravel “steps” in your rock garden. They’ll add a unique aesthetic and distinct function.
Dry Riverbed with Boulder Accents
If you like the idea of a river running through your yard but don’t have the time or energy to tend to a manmade stream, consider crafting a dry river bed instead. Like the creek bed listed above, just bigger, this beautiful piece can really make your garden stand out. Line the “river” with boulders and large stones, plant trees around, and add some flowers as filler.
If you’re looking for something simple but stunning, consider brilliantly colored blooms of flowers like California poppies, lavender, or yellow alyssum. The bright colors of the blooms with contrast nicely with the earthen tones of the rocks for a unique, gorgeous, natural feel.
Vary Types and Sizes of Rocks
One super easy rock garden to maintain is a simple multi-rock style garden. Instead of focusing so much on plants or matching the stones you have, mix and match different colors of stones, different sizes, and different types of rocks throughout.
If you’ve got the land for it, a fun thing you can do with your rock garden is build yourself an amphitheater! You can then use the steps for more décor, or let them function for outdoor movie nights or family gatherings.
Garden Pond with Rock-Scaping
Garden ponds and rock-scaping are a great way to go, too. Combine a variety of boulders, rocks, and pebbles and surround your garden pond with them in either specific or chaotic layout for a unique feel all your own.
Glass Pebbles and Pea Gravel
For a truly vibrant but low maintenance rock garden, consider using glass pebbles and pea gravel to create a colorful design. Or scatter the two across the area and place potted plants within for an even easier build.
Clear Cut Garden Pebble Path
Another fun little piece of a rock garden can be a clearly marked out pebble garden path. Line the path with larger stones or plants and fill in the path with loads of pebbles for a smooth path.
Rock Garden with Bushes
For a smaller rock garden, you can get really precise with meticulously shaped bushes and designated designs made from your stones. Add some boulders at key points for added emphasis.
Vibrant Ornamental Grasses
One of the nicest touches to have in a rock garden is vibrantly colored ornamental grasses. They blend in naturally with stones of all sorts and add some bright colors (or mellow shades, if that’s what you prefer!) to give you the loveliest rock garden ever.
Japanese Style Rock Garden
If you’ve got the discipline and the right climate, you could create your own Japanese style rock garden. Add some cherry blossom trees, stone statues, pebbled pathways, and, if you’re interested in learning, some bonsai trees.
Succulents and Sand
A natural option for your rock garden is combing succulents and sand together with your rock formations. It’s a beautiful, reasonably simple garden to care for, and stands out from the crowd.