When looking for landscape designs that work with the Northern Arizona environment and not against it, you can’t go wrong with a rock garden.
The rocky floor of the spaces we inhabit supports hardy plants from delicate blackfoot daisies to mighty ponderosas and oaks. Plants thrive around rocks in the intense sun and biting cold of the climate.
Over time perennial plants tend to move closer to stones and boulders to enjoy the survival benefits they offer.
Because they’re so suitable for our region it’s easy to design drought-tolerant, low maintenance rock gardens to anchor part or all your property.
Look for nearby sources of native rock in building your design.
Solid and stunning granite boulders, sparkling schist, porous limestone, smooth sandstone, glossy basalt and many other locally found materials have a lot to offer to your garden, both aesthetically and practically.
Native mountain plants like penstemon, columbine, aster and lupine are best for any wildlife you want to attract to your garden, and don’t forget hummingbird’s trumpet for a showy and effective pollinator magnet.
Cacti, succulents and grasses like Arizona fescue and blue grama also are great choices. Consider which colors and shapes will look the best with the stones you plan to use, and look for variation in height and texture.
Consider your layout
Perhaps the trickiest part of building a rock garden is making it look intentional without letting it get fussy.
The rocks can be used to provide a tiered structure to your plot or as part of a more organic design when scattered in seemingly random fashion; either works for the rock garden approach.
Start with the largest boulders and rocks to define what you’re trying to do, whether it’s a sprawling simulated riverbed or small, raised garden beds. Fill in between with sandy soil for the compatible plants, then add the smaller rocks.
Make sure there’s enough room to plant your greenery in a way that flows between the rocks without overpowering them.