Rock around the plot! It's the latest gardening craze
Smaller gardens and climate change mean that rockeries are back in
In the 1970s, it was the cornerstone of the suburban garden, as common as pampas grass. But by the end of the century, the rockery had plunged from the height of fashion to naffness, with stones and dainty alpines replaced by decking, olive trees and bamboo.
Now, perhaps because of our shrinking outside space and straitened times, the rock garden is on the verge of a revival. The Chelsea Fringe festival next month will feature a rockery as the centrepiece of one of its gardens, while membership of the Alpine Garden Society, a haven for collectors of rockery plants, is rising. Rockeries have also received the Gardeners' World endorsement, with Monty Don creating a miniature alpine garden on the show last week.
John Fitzpatrick, the editor of The Alpine Gardener, the journal of the Alpine Garden Society, said the decreasing size of the average garden had led to a renewed interest in low-growing plants such as thrift, saxifrages, sedums and dwarf narcissi. "Our gardens are getting smaller because more people live in flats and only have limited outside space," he said. "So people are going for smaller plants. Alpines fit the bill for that."
Mr Fitzpatrick said crevice gardens, an updated version of the rockery – where rocks are placed on their ends and packed tightly together, and flowers placed in the tiny gaps, mimicking an alpine slope – were being used increasingly in public gardens, including at the Royal Horticultural Society's home at Wisley and at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire.
One other contributing factor in the return of the rock garden is the declining interest in Mediterranean plants, such as olive trees and oleander, because the hotter summers predicted due to climate change have instead been cold and wet. Mr Fitzpatrick said alpine plants, although originating in dry, windy mountainsides, could thrive in a wet climate – as long as they are on free-draining soil.
Membership of the Alpine Garden Society is around 7,000 and rising, he added.
Rock gardens have not featured at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show since the 1970s, having fallen out of fashion at the world's largest horticultural event long before they faded from most people's properties.
But at the Chelsea Fringe, the grassroots, independent alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show, there are signs of a comeback. The Chelsea Fringe rock garden has been created by Ian Drummond of Indoor Garden Design, and will be on show at the Goldsmiths' Centre in central London from 21 May until 5 July.
There will also be a mini rock garden design competition for children, using mirrored trays – yet another craze from the 1970s.
'The Chelsea Fringe' is from 18 May to 9 June across London and at venues around the UK
Life & Style blogs
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...