This is one of the reasons I cringe when someone tries to call me an expert gardener. I'm truly not. I'm experienced,sure, but to me experts know a huge amount about a particular subject. I'm a happy generalist, with an interest in most all plants, though definitely there are some I don't like. But I can see myself developing more of an interest in rock or alpine gardening.
Yesterday, I joined other members of the Nova Scotia Rock Gardening club on a tour of a couple of gardens here in the Valley. Each was very different in its own way, and equally stunning. Both gardens aren't exclusively composed of alpines; the owners have a number of plantings, and a few dedicated areas where their delicately lovely alpines are, and some beds that incorporate both standard garden plants and alpines.
This garden belongs to Frank and Jana, and I've never been here at this time of year before. It was extremely hot yesterday so we didn't spend quite as long there as I would have under normal conditions. Plus, with the book deadline looming nearer, I was intent on photographing some plants that are being included in my manuscript, and that I didn't have plenty of real good photos for. Otherwise, I'd probably still be there, asking questions and learning from these enthusiastic, generous gardeners.
With alpine gardening, one of the main components is "location, location, location," as the realtors say. You need to have excellent drainage, and preferably full sun. I remember an enthusiast telling me that part of the lure of rock gardening is that these tough plants will thrive in areas of the garden where most other plants will not.
This same individual told me that the plants thrive on neglect, to a certain extent. I got thinking about this and it makes sense. Thinking of the conditions in an alpine site--short growing season, cold temperatures, and lots of wind--it makes sense that such plants have to be tough, low growing and able to survive a lot of extremes of weather.
Plus, for the person with a small gardening area, you can sure cram a LOT of different species into one garden! This garden is actually fairly large, and I have absolutely NO idea how many species Jana and Frank have included, but it's dozens...probably hundreds. I must ask when I go out again soon--on a cooler day, mind you!
I saw many, many different species and varieties yesterday that generated "I want THAT" response in my gardener's soul. This one generated the biggest reaction, though (partly because gentians weren't blooming yesterday, mind you.) I think it's a sedum.
That sedum or whatever it is affected me so much, I'm going to do the "Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots Big Eyes" look at Jana and see if I can't cajole or buy a little cutting of this because it's gorgeous. Such colours. Such nice textures. Such....want want wantiness!
One of the characteristics that also appeals to me in a rock or alpine garden is that they cause you to slow down, to admire and think and crouch down to look at the various textures and wee blooms and foliage and shapes of the plants. Juxtapose something like the patch of wee ice plants below (Delosperma, I think.) with some of the towering, giant perennials that I wrote about in my Chronicle Herald column today (where they messed up my email by confusing it with my twitter address, sorry to anyone who tried to email me), and you'll see what I mean.
I love big plants, but little carpets of beautiful jewels like this make me equally happy, know what I mean?
Next post, I'll show some snippets from visiting Rosaleen's garden, on the South Mountain across the valley from me.