What to do With a Side Garden that Floods

As with pretty much every green thing under my care, I’ve been struggling with what to do about the side garden. It’s on a gradual slope, and it becomes a river every time it rains. Hmph. This strip of dirt is roughly four feet at its widest point and runs twenty-four feet long between the house and sidewalk, and it gets a couple of hours of sun daily.

Last summer I thought I had it figured out. I put down landscape fabric, planted a few hostas, covered with mulch and scattered some large rocks around to keep everything in place. I scavenged the rocks from another area of the yard and did a little switch-a-roo. It was pretty, and I was pleased. Until the first rain took all the mulch away. Right around the bend and into my front yard, actually. By the following Spring, the landscape fabric had been pushed around so much that it looked like a pile of laundry. And the hostas were sprouting beneath it, not able to find the holes I had cut in the fabric six months earlier.

What. A. Mess.

I thought on it for quite a while (read: I avoided it for a long time). The hostas were doing well where they were planted, and they seemed unaffected by the raging river of rainwater. So I knew I wanted to plant more hostas, but what ground cover to finish it off that wouldn’t wash away? The mulch was a joke, and gravel would be bullied just as easily. I thought about a rock garden with substantial rocks, but didn’t want to commit to the budget for that.

Then, like a rock garden angel whispering in my ear, my neighbor told me about a landscape supply company in town. “Supply” anything usually means less than retail pricing. Now I had an idea. As I pulled into the dirt parking lot, I got a sinking feeling that this was one of those places that only sells to contractors. No M’am! I could buy whatever I wanted. And the price was right.

I imagined beautiful hostas sprouting from a river of rocks.

The catch is that you can’t just buy 10 or 15 big rocks. The smallest amount they sell is a quarter yard. It was a grand total of $12 for a quarter yard of basketball and football-size rocks. TWELVE DOLLARS! You know I love a deal. Budgeting is in my blood! The other particular is that a quarter yard is roughly 700 pounds of rock, and it’s a “you load/you haul” kind of operation.

Load it yourself, Lady!
Four trips. I probably could have done less, but it still has that new car smell. I didn’t want to break the vehicle so soon.

The guy in the front-end loader pushed a 700 pound pile of rocks to the side for me and I began loading them into the trunk of the Altima. Pretty quickly I saw that the wheel well-to-tire space was disappearing. It took four trips of loading and unloading, but I got those rocks home. It was 98 degrees with a thousand percent humidity, and by the time the last rock was out of my trunk and on the pile next to the house, I walked away from that hot heavy mess and never looked back. Well, not for about a month.

I never wanted to see these rocks again.

By the time I was ready to look at it again, it was August and all the garden centers were picked over in the hosta department. So I did what any respectable gardener would–I yanked a few from other areas of my yard. Ha! It’s like rearranging the living room, only outside. I love this!

There are four varieties of hostas in the rock garden.
The rocks are gorgeous pink, gray, and slate colors.

I transplanted the container hostas and introduced them to the side garden hostas. Then I once again moved 700 pounds of rock as I placed every last one just so. I now have a rock garden/river of hostas along the side of my home. We’ve had some substantial rain and not a thing has moved. I think it’s actually preventing some of the erosion that had been occurring. But best of all, it’s beautiful.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the project is complete! No washing away of mulch or gravel, no-fuss hostas!

If you have a piece of land that isn’t up to par for flowers or vegetables, consider a rock garden. You might even get plants to grow that would otherwise have been victim to wind, rain, or rushing water.

So go ahead, rock on with your bad self!