Here is my idea of a rock garden. If you do not have much, use what you have ...
The former owner dumped gravel on the side of my house to promote drainage. The subsoil is clay and the water level is right at the soil surface in Spring. This makes for a few very muddy months.
I planted this area two years ago. Do you guys recognize the Penstemon species? If you are interested I sent lots of seed into the exchange.
I quickly decided that I needed weed fabric under the rocks. This project took me bits and pieces of time over the course of an entire year. I removed the top 3 to 4 inches of gravel that had sunk into clay. I piled the gravel clay mixture. I used a sieve from my kitchen to wash the clay and sand out of the gravel. I then put the clean gravel back after laying down weed fabric around the plants. This effort has really helped keep the weeds down making this a very low maintenance garden. My work to clean the gravel has prevented the retention of moisture. If the weeds cannot reach moisture ... then no weeds.
I have been picking out the larger gravel and placing it around the edges. This has created a very unnatural, but orderly boarder. I like the way it looks. I originally started doing this where the water drained out the other side of the garden onto my driveway. This dam of larger sized gravel kept the pea gravel from washing onto my driveway. I liked the look so much I decided to border the entire area with larger gravel.
If someone wanted to try something really cool, they could arrange rocks and gravel so the sizes became smaller away from the point of observation. This would give the garden a perspective of great depth. Of course you would also have to plant larger species in the front and smaller species in the back. This would be the opposite of what is typically of gardeners. If done well you could possibly achieve the feeling of depth that is captured in Lori's photo in a very small package.
The only real rock in my garden is a piece of obsidian. I purchased it because it is dark. I thought it would absorb the sunlight and create a place for my butterflies to get warm. After spending $15 I discovered the butterflies preferred to warm themselves on my neighbors dark roof. Oh well, if civilization colapses at least the people of the future will have a source material for arrowheads.
I think the idea, promoted by some, that a rock garden has to be built with expensive stone is a huge turn-off for people thinking about starting a rock garden. I thought about buying stone, then realized who would be the one forced to move the stone from the driveway to an artistic yet naturalistic position in the back yard, then thought about how many more plants I could put in if there weren't huge rocks in the way. Besides, I had already achieved the desired height with the back issues of National Geographic, broken troughs, tires from cars I no longer owned, etc.
extreme western edge of Denver, Colorado; elevation 1705.6 meters, average annual precipitation 30cm; refuses to look at thermometer if it threatens to go below -17C
The similarity between Lori's pictures of alpines in scree and Bob's rock garden design photo is an example of the fact that alpine plants in the wild are rarely found in crevices between parallel stratified rocks. Mountain flowers more commonly occur in scree, moraine and broken rock outcrops. While stratified rock gardens can be very attractive, a chaotic rock garden like Bob's is an alternative that more closely resembles natural plant habitats.
From the Wet Coast of British Columbia, Canada
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I agree you don't need lots of imported rocks to grow alpines. In the beginning use what you have available, as you become more experienced and have the space and resources then design and build your rock garden, there are plenty of great examples on this and other sites. But a word of warning once bitten by the Rock Gardening bug there is no antidote. Containers are a great way for beginners to start you can use lots of various containers, In Scotland Ian Young has devised an ingenious way to use reclaimed Polystyrene fish boxes. See Ian's article at the following link
I have never bought a stone to use in my garden - all my neighbours carry stones out of their gardens and I carry them to mine! What I lack is a place to build a real rock garden, but I have started the thinking ;D
In nature plants find all kind of places to grow - they need some space to put down roots to get at least some water; minerals they get from the weathering of the rocks.
Here are some examples from different places:
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!
Bob - are all the plants that no one else knows or grows the one's in your book?! (which I hugely enjoyed by the way). I agree totally with the various comments that you don't need loads of expensive rock to grow alpines - all you need is whatever grows them well and what satisfies you. I have had great fun planting in sharp sand. Alan Furness in Northumberland has an extraordinary garden using stone of many different sizes to make a beautifully naturalistic alpine garden. But then Northumberland has a lot of stone! That is the huge delight of growing these plants. The Scots are a canny lot and poystyrene fishboxes are just the ticket, though Joe Elliott at his Broadwell Nursery was very proud of his Saxon coffin!
Trond - do you ever visit the UK? We would love a talk on some of the extraordinary places you visit.
Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
thanks for the kind remarks. Is that a Butia I see in the background in the first picture?The plants in the new rock garden that no one else has are of the same ilk as the piceas 319 and MU 92. One-of-a-kind plants from Jerry Morris. (Which I why I feel like such an idiot killing a few of them. Though rabbits did the initial work.) My favorite kind of nursery is the kind where there is always an area "in back" with a few plants not grown in sufficient numbers to be put out for sale (we're fortunate in having several of those here).Jerry's whole nursery was like that. Quite a few of his named dwarf conifers are in the trade, but in the nursery there were plants with just numbers, or, in some cases, no numbers at all. There was a large wooden trough, falling apart, in back of everything else in the nursery, with several tiny Pinus monophylla in it, and on one visit I made a remark about how much I love that species, and he said the plants were from "broom seed", had not been taken care of for years, and he let me take them home. Among other things. Then there was the tray of scrub oak seedlings grown from acorns collected by Allan Taylor sitting all by itself in the employees section of Timberline Nursery. Most of those are in the new garden.At the same nursery, there was this gorgeous peach-watermelon-mango-raspberry colored Echinocereus reichenbachii cross in the display garden, and I asked the owner if there were any plants for sale, and he said there were some in the back greenhouse, but that a well-known horticulturist (not on this list) had been back there the day before. With a groan I ran back to the back greenhouse, and found four plants left. Should I buy all four? Wasn't that being a hog? What if someone else wanted one? I figured if they did, it would probably die in their garden, so I took all of them. And they're in the garden, too.
Some very inspiring photographs, Tim and Trond!
Rick Rodich zone 4a. Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Bob - yes, Butia capitata. I am pleased that it got through last winter. I used to visit the Palm Centre in London many years ago and they sold small seedlings of many species. We also have a form of Chamaerops, which I imagined would be hardier but was damaged by the winter weather.
"My favorite kind of nursery is the kind where there is always an area "in back" with a few plants not grown in sufficient numbers to be put out for sale (we're fortunate in having several of those here)"
Well, Bob, you are fortunate to have several of those indeed! If only.. we had a few aroundhere. Mind you, I can only imagine how little self control I might have.. I'd probably come home with all kinds of treasures and forget where my grocery list went in my excitement. But I'd surelike to opportunity to test myself...
( Thank goodness for seed lists and mail order! )
Faith S. Gardening in central Alberta climate, from min. -44 c to max. 36+ C. ( not often! ) Avg. annual precip. ~ 48 cm Altitude ~ 820 m. Have "frying pan gardens" up around the house, and also some woodland areas down the pa