GARDENING WITH ROCKS
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner
often means working with or around rocks. These rocks
can be a pain when you want to plant and the hole you
dig has a large rock that is impossible to move. Other
times the rocks that project above the ground can provide
interest and a background for some fun plantings. In
many parts of the state people have to go to great
trouble and expense to bring rocks into their landscape.
A couple recently paid $80,000 to have 40 tons of moss-covered
stones and boulders arranged in the sloping front yard
of their Mill Valley, Calif., home. The rocks form
a streambed, waterfall, pond and curving staircase
from the street. About 70 different species of plants
fill niches within the rocks. The husband, an attorney,
describes the craggy contrivance as his “mini-Yosemite.” That
group of rocks you in your yard may be more valuable
than you thought.
When you are faced with a variety of large
rocks in your yard you can choose certain plants that
will highlight the roughness of the rock while softening
the overall scene.
are often ideal for use around rocks and rock outcroppings.
Ponds and waterfalls made with natural rocks will also
benefit from cascading type plants. Some of the more
common cascading plants like Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus
or Verbena are nice, but there are so many other interesting
plants that trail or cascade. Some of my favorites are
trailing or cascading conifers. Conifers are needled
plants most often associated with trees that grow quite
large. There is also a large selection of trailing conifers.
One of the most beautiful is the ‘Prostrate Blue
Spruce’ (Picea pungens ‘Glauca Prostrata’).
This powder blue spruce will tumble and spread through
rocks becoming quite the eye catcher. The Japanese Garden
Juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’) is
another conifer that will trail over a wall or rock,
clinging to the side creating a waterfall effect. To
add some bright yellow to the rock garden try the ‘Motherlode’ Juniper
(Juniperus wiltonii ‘Motherlode’). This plant
cascades like the Japanese Garden Juniper but is bright
yellow in the summer and has plum highlights in the winter.
Sometimes it’s nice to put rounded
plants that can be tucked next to large rocks. The Mugo
Pine( Pinus mugo var. pumilo) is a nice choice. Growing
tight to about three to four feet tall and six feet wide
it is bright green in color. To get the same affect in
blue try the Montgomery Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’).
One effect that works well near rocks is
to plant up close to the rock a plant that has a strong
vertical effect. One of the most commonly used plants
is the Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus). This is the sword
shaped plant with the tall stems topped with a blue flower
in the summer. Fortnight lilies (Morea irriodoides) also
have sword shaped leaves but with white iris type flowers
on tall stems. The dwarf flax (Phormium) is available
in different shades of red or yellow and only grows three
of four feet tall.
If you are lucky sometimes rock out croppings
lend themselves to becoming a part of a pond and waterfall.
With the flexible rubber liner available nowadays you
might be able to create a watercourse that can weave
is way through the rocks to tumble down into a pond.
You may have to add rocks to create the ultimate effect
you desire, just be sure to keep it natural looking by
matching the type of rocks.
Living in the foothills has its advantages.
Most people would not have thought that large rocks and
boulders would have been one, but with the right attitude
and imagination you can create a wonderful scene, for
a lot less than that couple in Mill Valley.