A Bit of History About Rock Gardens

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  • Author Stephen Drummonsy
  • Published June 16, 2011
  • Word count 617

Together rock and water were old established garden features a long time before somebody considered having lawns, flower beds or borders. 1000s of years ago the first Japanese garden was nothing more than an area of white stone chippings with an individual Cleyera tree in the centre and the Ancient Persian 'paradise' had an extended canal and fountains at its heart.

The attraction was very easy to understand, these two elements bring a natural feel to any sort of surroundings. Until quite recently however, they were primarily only for the rich. Before the latter part of the 19th century, rocks were used to make very bold structures in large estates but it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that ponds and fountain construction became easy enough and affordable enough for the everyday landscape gardener.

This has taken a long period of time, but both rock and water gardening have at last come of age. There is now massive interest in all aspects of the water garden. Rock garden plants are grown in large numbers, the range available these days in both rockeries and rock-free situations is immense. I find it fascinating that both these natural elements have several features in common.

They can extend for a few square feet or more than 1 / 4 of an acre and both provide the chance to grow a vast range of plants not found within the ordinary, every-day garden. The drawbacks that they share are that careful preparation is necessary and a substantial amount of labour and money is required for their creation. By the latter part of the 19th century the age of the bigger rock garden was all but over. In 1772 the second period of rock gardens began, a garden of rubble and Icelandic basaltic lava was fashioned inside a greenhouse at Chelsea Physic Garden for the development of plants collected from the Swiss Alps. Here the rocks were used as a home for plants rather than to provide just a decorative feature. This second period got off to a slow beginning, although rock gardens were created at various sites all around Britain and the notion of laying stones to present the look of a natural outcrop was created. Things changed in the 1860's and the rock garden finally took its place as a very important part of the British garden. Rockeries were built at Kew Gardens in 1867 and in Edinburgh in 1871.

In 1870 William Robinson's Alpine Flowers for English Gardens was published. During this era and into the early 20th century Pulhamite Stone was manufactured in Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and used to make private and non-private rock gardens all over the nation. The three decades from 1900 to 1939 were the glory days of the rock garden. Reginald Farrer was the leading figure and his 'My Rock Garden' book became the very first bible on the subject.

Plant hunters scoured the mountains all over the world looking for new alpine plants and the rock garden at Wisley was started in 1911. In the years prior to World War II interest in the rock garden declined. Only recently has there been a reappearance.

During the 1920's and 1930's the concept of growing alpines in non-rock situations took root, this coupled with the appearance of the garden centre in the second half of the 20th century produced about the third period in this history. People began to see the complete range of flowers which were available together with all sorts of easy and inexpensive ways for cultivating alpines without having to create a rockery. Interest then switched to the plants and far away from the rock structures, and this is the key feature of this third period in the history of rock gardening.

A great deal of my time is spent in my garden. I have been looking for help on how to develop the perfect pond habitat for the fish which I will stock it with without much luck. To obtain the assistance I will need I have decided to use a company called Landscaping London. Up to now they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for, as and when I ask them for it.

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