If even succulents elude you, a rock garden might be just the solution. But if you're interested in creative rock garden ideas, it's worth debunking one common misconception right off the bat: That is, that rock gardens are composed entirely (and exclusively) of rocks. Not so. While traditional Japanese rock gardens employ stones, sand, and brushed gravel as foundational elements, moss, pruned trees, and bushes are instrumental in creating a holistic space. There are also English rock gardens, which make use of ornate masonry and ornamental shrubbery to create composed and meditative spaces. Finally, a third type of rock garden is one inspired by mountain peaks, where craggy terrain and dry conditions give way to rugged alpine displays. Whatever type of rock garden suits your space, lifestyle and gardening expertise, start with the stone and build outwards with varying textures and colors of plants. Either way, it's a rock solid idea.

1.STONE SCULPTURE

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Here, Greenblott Design installed a pressed stone column sculpture as a focal point in a bed of caradonna.

2.SQUARE BOULDERS

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In this garden space, a low wall of square boulders sets a gravel lawn apart from a green knoll. Shocks of ornamental grass and window boxes add an organic contrast.

3.RAW-EDGED FLAGSTONES

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Raw-edged flagstones are placed atop a bed of gravel leading to a spare hillside retreat.

4.STONE PILLARS

Two large stone pillars with raw edges work as an inviting entryway in this garden.

5.LUSH GREENERY

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Many rock garden plants, like the ones shown here in this space, are notably tolerant of dry conditions, making them ideal for draught-prone zones (or forgetful gardeners).

6.WILDFLOWER BEDS

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A rather composed rock garden; stonework paths and pond create a structure for wildflower beds.

7.ORNAMENTAL STONE SCULPTURES

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Ornamental stone sculptures—like these in a space—are a cheeky accent in sometimes-formal rock gardens.

8.WALLED COURTYARD

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An walled courtyard rock garden.

9.MEDITATION GARDEN

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A streamlined meditation garden features stone columns, a raked stone yard, and a mason watermill foundation.

10.WOODEN STOOLS

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In this stone patio, wooden stools parade as stacked river stones.

11.STONE STAIRS & LICHENS

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In this work, stone stairs become part of the natural habitat, thanks to a variety of native lichens.

12.ENGLISH-INSPIRED

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BDG&C Custom Homes was responsible for this English-style rock garden, which featured a brick inlay clover and an antique lion's head fountain complete with a natural patina.

13.STONE SPHERE & HOSTA

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A polished stone sphere nestle beside majestic hosta in a rock garden.

14.STEPPING STONE PATH

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A rock garden is ideal for rooftop decks, thanks to minimal maintenance and savvy use of limited space. This one with the stepping stone path is by Alan Design Studio.

15.FERNS, MOSS, AND FOXGLOVE

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In this show-stopping San Francisco garden, granite steps lead to a hillside rock garden, which serves as a welcome home to ferns, moss, and stately foxglove.

16.PEBBLE-STONE PATHS

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Pebble-stone paths are the star in a walled courtyard garden with boxwood and fig vine.

17.BOXWOOD & NATCHEZ CRAPE MYRTLES

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An expansive formal rock garden featuring boxwood and Natchez crape myrtles.

18.KYOTO ROCK GARDEN

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In a small rock garden in Kyoto, all traditional elements—an arranged meditation nook with rocks, water features, sand, moss, trees and bushes—are represented on a miniature scale.

19.SPRING GARDEN

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A man-made brook garden features a spring garden of irises, hostas, and a Japanese maple.

20.TRAIL OF ROCKS

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A rock garden doesn't need to be devoid of all greenery. Here, a small trail of rocks lines a brook. Iris and a weeping Japanese maple add luxurious color.

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