20 June 2010

Rockin' out: Garden tour with the alpine gardening enthusiasts

No matter how many years we garden, or how old we get, there is always, always something more to learn about plants and gardening. That's one of the appeals for this hobby/ avocation/ vocation/obsession to me. I love learning about plants, being introduced to species I have never seen, developing a new appreciation for a particular genus or variety.

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.


  1. Oh, how I love this rock garden you are showing us! I almost can picture one area in my garden converting to a rock garden. Only I kind of afraid we have too much rain here in south florida. The texture, shape, color and the varieties in this garden are wonderful!

  2. What beautiful gardens! You sure seem like an expert to me! Love the look of your blog!


  3. Thanks for sharing your rock garden tour, jodi -- beautiful and such unique plantings. And I like the new blog template...I think it works very well. :)

  4. Isn't that the truth. There is just so much to learn. So many new plants to see. Beautiful pictures!

  5. Love that your head never rests, jodi! Whether it be life or the garden, always a learning adventure and why it is forever a joy to visit. Like your new look :)

  6. Yes, I am a lover of Alpines too. I would have to make a place for them. Not many of them would grow here without a raised bed in the sun. I can see why you would drool over that sedum. Love the color variation of the leaves.

  7. I'm trying to find out what vegetables would grow in a rock garden, as I have some rocks and some garden!

    It's a plan for later in the year.

  8. Yes...it was a hot one yesterday! I found it to be the high humidity that put the glow on me. I have visited both of those gardens and they are beautiful and have unique plants. Jana & Frank are very proud of their property and have put a lot of work into creating that rock garden and other gardens on the sub-division lot and enjoy showing it off!

  9. Fantastic post Jodi - I was at one garden that all scottish rock garden enthusiasts love to visit a few weeks ago. I was taking so many photos and I had not got a clue what many of the plants were - they were such little jewels just like the ones in your pictures.

  10. Forgot to mention that I really like your new layout :) Rosie

  11. Rock gardens, in my opinion, are difficult to do well. This one has been done quite well. I love the yellows and purples against the gray rock background. And the contrast between hard and soft is perfect! I've enjoyed this garden. Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Jodi:
    Thanks for this and the pictures. I have a new, bare area on ledge with pea stones just for alpines. It is a bit plain and your photo of the ridges alpines is just the ticket. I knew I had to add stones and now I have a vision. Thanks!

  13. Beautiful garden! i like what you said about alpine plants forcing us to stop and look closely. How much do we miss in any garden by not pausing long enough to appreciate the fine details?

  14. Jodi - your pictures are most intriguing. Makes one want to be there, down on the ground getting close to each plant. But that new 'Antonio Banderas' specimen collecting technique - that will take some practice! Hope your pictures turn out well.

  15. aloha jodi,

    i'm enjoying my visit with you of this alpine garden and yes i want a cutting of that sedum also-its really spectacular and unusual...do you know the name of it, i don't think i've ever seen a sedum like this, really stunning!

  16. Jodi,
    I am really grateful for all your beautiful pictures!!
    Last year I started a Hen & Chick (Sempervivum) area in our garden but grow the plants mostly in pots. Location, location in the sun is always a challenge.
    But with the Emerald Ashborer killing one ash tree after another in Ontario perhaps I'll get more sun in the future:(
    Greetings from the G20 City,


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