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The rock garden


The rock garden takes up only a small area in our overall scheme - but it's one of my favorite areas. And since it straddles the front walkway, we all get to admire it up close every day.

I can't call myself a rock garden afficionado - that would mean I'd know the ins and outs of alpine soil types, know how to place all the rocks for the most authentic look, and I'd feel comfortable throwing words like "scree" about. But I learned early on that a rock garden is the best way to showcase small perennials, especially those that require excellent drainage. And a few years ago I finally joined the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS), so I guess that officially makes me a rock gardener.

To provide for the needs of those small perennials, our rock gardens are somewhat elevated from yard level, and the native clay has been generously amended with sharp sand, granite grit, rocks dug up from other garden areas (there's a use for everything in our garden), and some compost.

Our original rock garden was a strip between the driveway and the front walkway. It is badly in need of help at this point - the yucca we planted there originally gave up, but left lots of babies that come up all over, amid the tangle of various creeping or sprawling thugs, such as Kamtschat, blue-spruce and dragon's blood sedums, myrtle spurge, catmint, woolly thyme, and sea thrift. We now call this part the rock garden annex.

The newer part of our rock garden, carved out of a corner of our front yard, was originally called the "front corner", but steadily morphed into a rock garden. It is now our main showcase for small alpine species. The photo above was taken a couple months after the most recent upgrade, with many of the plants coming into their own nicely. The blooming specimens include Dracocephalum nutans, Linum campanulatum, Sedum kamtschaticum, Coreopsis auriculata, and Penstemon hirsutus. The photo below shows the garden on the same day in late May, from the opposite direction.

A problem with the rock garden is that I like it so much, I make it just a little bigger every year. That's fine with most types of garden - just cut away a foot width of grass, plant some low-growing perennials in the newly plantable area, and voila! But with a rock garden, it means rearranging the whole deal, to maintain a semblance of slope (I'm not pursuing the boulder field look) and natural rock placement. Ah well, it keeps me busy.

A list of plants we grow in the main rock garden

Acaena myriophylla (cadillo)
Aethionema glaucinum
Aethionema grandiflorum (stonecress)
Allium carolinianum
Allium daghestanicum
Allium senescens (broadleaf chives)
Anemone altaica
Anemone baldensis (Mt. Baldo windrose)
Anemone palmata (yellow anemone)
Anemone x lesseri (windflower)
Antennaria plantaginifolia (pussytoes; lady's tobacco)
Aquilegia bertolonii (columbine)
Aquilegia buergeriana 'Calimero' (columbine)
Aquilegia desertorum (Arizona columbine)
Aquilegia fragrans (sweet-scented columbine)
Arabis alpina 'Snowcap' (mountain rockcress)
Armeria maritima (sea thrift)
Armeria welwitschii (thrift)
Asphodelus albus (white asphodel)
Aubrieta deltoidea (purple rock cress)
Barnardia japonica (squill)
Campanula incurva (bellflower)
Campanula trachelium (bats-in-the-belfry, nettle-leaved bellflower)
Crocus sativus (saffron crocus)
Crocus speciosus ssp. speciosus (autumn crocus)
Crocus vernus (and hybrids) (spring crocus)
Delosperma cooperi (hardy ice plant)
Dianthus deltoides (maiden pink)
Dianthus giganteus
Dianthus myrtinervius (Albanian pinks)
Dianthus turkestanicus
Draba norvegica (rock whitlow-grass)
Ephedra minuta (miniature joint fir)
Ephedra regeliana
Eryngium agavifolium (agave-leaved sea holly)
Eryngium venustum
Gentiana occidentalis ssp. aragonensis
Gentiana siphonantha (gentian)
Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus (corn flags)
Globularia nudicaulis
Globularia repens (matted globe daisy)
Hypericum kiusianum var. yakusimense
Indigofera pseudotinctoria 'Rose Carpet' (prostrate indigo bush)
Iris tectorum (Japanese roof iris)
Lathyrus vernus (spring vetch; everlasting sweet pea)
Oenothera perennis (small sundrops)
Orostachys malacophylla var. iwarenge (Chinese dunce caps)
Penstemon cardinalis ssp. cardinalis (cardinal beardtongue)
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (foxglove beardtongue)
Penstemon grandiflorus (large-flowered penstemon)
Penstemon hirsutus (hairy penstemon)
Penstemon hirsutus var. pygmaeus (dwarf hairy penstemon)
Penstemon kunthii (Kunth's penstemon)
Penstemon neomexicanus (New Mexico penstemon)
Penstemon pinifolius (pine-leaf penstemon)
Penstemon tenuis
Penstemon venustus (shrubby penstemon)
Petrorhagia saxifraga (tunic flower)
Phyteuma vagneri
Potentilla argyrophylla
Potentilla neumanniana (spring cinquefoil)
Potentilla nevadensis (Nevada cinquefoil)
Primula veris 'Sunset shades' and 'Red Strain' (English cowslip)
Saponaria pamphylica
Saxifraga stolonifera (strawberry begonia)
Scutellaria pontica (skullcap)
Sedum 'Angelina' (stonecrop)
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (showy stonecrop)
Sedum 'Stardust' (showy stonecrop)
Sedum aizoon (stonecrop)
Sedum ellacombeanum (stonecrop)
Sedum glaucophyllum (cliff stonecrop)
Sedum kamtschaticum (Kamtschat sedum)
Sedum sexangulare (watch chain stonecrop)
Sedum sieboldii (October daphne)
Sedum tetractinum (stonecrop)
Sempervivum (hens and chicks; houseleek)
Sisyrinchium idahoense (blue-eyed grass)
Veronica spicata (spike speedwell)
Veronica spicata 'Red Fox' (pink spike speedwell)

A list of plants we grow in the rock garden annex

Allium cristophii (star of Persia)
Allium tanguticum (lavender globe lily)
Anemone altaica
Aquilegia alpina (blue alpine columbine)
Aquilegia atrovinosa (columbine)
Aquilegia desertorum (Arizona columbine)
Aquilegia pyrenaica (Pyrenees columbine)
Arabis blepharophylla 'Spring Charm' (rose rock cress)
Artemisia 'Powis Castle'
Athamanta turbith ssp. haynaldii (candy carrot)
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam' (feather reed grass)
Carex buchananii (leatherleaf sedge)
Clematis recta var. purpurea (ground clematis)
Colchicum 'Waterlily' and 'Giant' (autumn crocus)
Dasiphora fruticosa (bush cinquefoil)
Dianthus superbus (fringed pink)
Dracocephalum canescens (dragonhead)
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)
Erinus alpinus (alpine balsam)
Eryngium planum (flat sea holly)
Euphorbia corollata (flowering spurge; poison spurge)
Euphorbia myrsinites (myrtle spurge)
Hylotelephium spectabile (showy stonecrop; tall sedum)
Iris reticulata (reticulata iris)
Lavandula species (lavender)
Leibnitzia anandria (Leibnitz daisy)
Liatris spicata (blazing star; gayfeather)
Lilium henryi (trumpet lily)
Linum campanulatum (yellow flax; western flax)
Lychnis x arkwrightii 'Vesuvius' (Arkwright's campion)
Morina afghanica
Nepeta racemosa (catmint)
Oenothera fremontii 'Lemon Silver' (evening primrose)
Opuntia humifusa (eastern prickly-pear)
Penstemon venustus (shrubby penstemon)
Penstemon whippleanus (Whipple's penstemon)
Phuopsis stylosa (creeping crosswort)
Potentilla neumanniana (spring cinquefoil)
Raffenaldia primuloides
Salvia nemorosa (meadow sage)
Saponaria pamphylica
Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap)
Scutellaria orientalis ssp. oreophila (skullcap)
Sedum 'Matrona' (stonecrop)
Sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' (stonecrop)
Sedum kamtschaticum (Kamtschat sedum)
Sedum rupestre (reflexed evergreen stonecrop)
Sedum sieboldii (October daphne)
Sedum spurium 'Dragon's blood' (caucasian stonecrop; two-row stonecrop)
Sedum spurium 'Tricolor' (tricolor stonecrop)
Sedum telephium 'Red Cauli' (stonecrop)
Teucrium orientale
Thermopsis chinensis 'Sophia' (dwarf southern lupine, pea bush)
Thlaspi bellidifolium
Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme)
Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle)

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Last modified: February 12, 2011
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