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Rock Gardening With Native Plants
Rock Gardening With Native Plants
Published by Porterbrook
06-09-2009
Default Rock Gardening With Native Plants

ROCK GARDENING WITH NATIVE PLANTS

By
Frank W. Porter
Porterbrook Native Plants

Rock gardening is a highly specialized way of gardening with plants normally adapted to high altitude growing conditions. It was at one time the preserve of wealthy landowners, especially in England, who had the means not only to create rock gardens but enough influence to gain access to the rare and difficult to grow species to plant in them. Plant collectors searched far and wide to satisfy the demand for these plants. It was not long before gardeners in the United States joined in this rock gardening mania. Specialized nurseries came into existence, offering rare and unusual species from every continent.


The creation of the North American Rock Garden Society in 1934 made it possible for more gardeners to enjoy this unique hobby. In recent years, rock gardening has once again grown in popularity. While enthusiasts continue to search the globe for plants to add to their collections, many aficionados are surprised to learn that there are beautiful native species growing in the Ohio Valley perfectly suited to use in rock gardens.


Constructing a rock garden does not necessarily have to be an expensive or labor- intensive endeavor. One sure way to ensure success is to start small and learn through trial and error. There are six important steps to follow: plan carefully; prepare the site; be prepared to move the stones; set the stones in position; make up and use the planting mixture; and select the plants and proper mulch.
Another way to enjoy rock gardening is to use troughs, more commonly known as hypatufa containers. Hypatufa containers are planters for alpine species and diminutive plants. Hypatufa is a mixture of Portland cement with peat moss and perlite. It is much lighter than concrete. Growing plants in troughs allows one to cater to the individual needs of different species and to grow many more plants in a restricted space. It also brings you into close proximity with your plants. Imagine, also, the ease of weeding, watering and controlling pests.


What to grow? There are a surprisingly large number of native plants from our region that suitable for use in rock gardens or hypatufa containers. Three species of Sedums are essential to any rock garden. Sedum ternatum (Wild Stonecrop) is a low, sprawling perennial that grows on rocks, logs, or even bare soil and prefers dappled shade. It possesses small fleshy leaves and attractive starry white flowers. Sedum telephoides (Allegheny Stonecrop) enjoys full sun and humus-rich sandy soil. It has glaucous leaves and pink starry flowers in flat-topped clusters. Sedum glaucophyllum (Cliff Stonecrop) prefers partial sun and well-drained gravelly or shaley soil. It forms an extensive mat of compact rosettes of gray-green fleshy leaves resembling pinwheels. Numerous white four-petaled flowers sparkle above the foliage.


Native Irises add an attractive element to the rock garden. Iris cristata (Dwarf Crested Iris), found in partial shade and growing in rich, well-drained soil, reaches about six inches in height. Beautiful three-inch blue flowers with a golden crest, nestle among the arching leaf blades. Iris verna (Dwarf Iris) grows in sandy or rocky open woods. It has straight, narrow, bright green leaves which reach six inches in height. The showy, lavender flowers, however, do not possess the crest.
Pussytoes, whose name refers to the resemblance of the flower heads to catsí paws, make a welcome addition to the rock garden. Antennaria virginica (Shale-barren Pussytoes) thrives in full sun to partial shade with poor shaley or sandy soil. This low spreading plant forms attractive colonies of silvery rosettes with fuzzy, white flowers. Antennaria plantaginifolia (Plantainleaf Pussytoes) can withstand very dry soils. The leaves are pale green above and woolly beneath. The flowers are white or purplish.


Phlox subulata (Moss Pink) is densely matted with semi-evergreen, awl-shaped leaves. The flowers range from pink to rose-purple to white and possess a dark eye. It prefers dry, rocky habitats in full sun. Phlox stolonifera (Creeping Phlox), which prefers moist woods, has trailing stems that can root at the nodes. The flowers range from bluish to rose-purple.
Paronychia argyrocoma (Silverling) grows on open rocky slopes, outcrops or ledges and forms mats or tufts. The numerous silky-hairy stems hide small white flowers that grow at the top of the stem.
Meehania cordata (Meehania) is a trailing plant that requires shade and grows in moist humus soil. Its heart-shaped leaves and pale blue, one-inch flowers will enhance any rock garden slope.


No rock garden should be without examples of native grasses and sedges. Danthonia spicata (Poverty Grass) is a denizen of dry woods. Reaching only four inches in height, its foliage remains green during the winter months. Luzula acuminata (Hairy Woodrush) grows in partial shade with average soil. Its grass-like leaves are adorned with wispy, white hairs. Luzula multiflora (Common Woodrush) can withstand full sun. Its leaves are a beautiful reddish brown. Carex flaccosperma (Blue Wood Sedge) highlights a winter day with its blue foliage. Carex platyphylla (Silver Sedge) likes dry, dappled shade. Its silvery green leaves stand out beside rocks partially buried in the garden.


The list of native plants suitable for rock gardens or hypatufa containers is extensive and varied. Gardeners interested in learning more about using native plants in rock gardens are invited to contact me at the email address below. Joining the Ohio Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society should be on your list of New Yearís resolutions.


This article was first published by the Marietta Register
  #1  
By Dirty Knees on 09-08-2009, 12:54 PM
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Wouldn't all of these plants work in planters?
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  #2  
By Porterbrook on 09-08-2009, 01:39 PM
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Some would. Some would not. The plants mentioned here were to be used in a true rock garden. Those mentioned in my Hypatufa article could be used in planters, but planters do not create the same growing conditions as a hypatufa container; and I fear that the plants would not fare well during the wet winter months.
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  #3  
By KarliM on 10-31-2011, 07:55 PM
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My driveway runs on the side and that's where my bald spots are. I'd enjoy some Moss Pink ideas.

How much is it costs for the Rock Garden Society?
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  #4  
By Porterbrook on 11-01-2011, 07:05 AM
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It sounds as if you have an excellent site and opportunity to create a very satisfying rock garden. The secret is to create a suitable growing environment and use a combination of species to make it visually appealing.

You can contact the North American Rock Gardening Society via their website: www.northamericanrockgardensociety.com They will provide all of the information about dues, meetings, and publications. I would suggest that you do a little bit of research about rock gardening before starting your own garden. It is so much easier to plan the garden on paper and then do the actual planting. If you need a list of plants suitable for the rock garden, send me your email address and I will mail a list of species to you.

Good luck.
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  #5  
By dapjwy on 11-02-2011, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porterbrook View Post
It sounds as if you have an excellent site and opportunity to create a very satisfying rock garden. The secret is to create a suitable growing environment and use a combination of species to make it visually appealing.

...If you need a list of plants suitable for the rock garden, send me your email address and I will mail a list of species to you.

Good luck.
Porterbrook,

Could you please post the list here so we all can benefit? Thanks.
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  #6  
By Porterbrook on 11-02-2011, 09:27 PM
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Hi Dapjwy,
I did post the list of plants. It appeared on this post, but is now gone. I will attempt to post it again.

NATIVE PLANTS FOR ROCK GARDENS
Sedum ternatum
Iris cristata
Iris lacustris
Silene virginiana
Liatris microcephela
Penstemon canescens
Heuchera villosa
Zizia aptera
Salvia lyrata
Phlox stolonifera
Phlox ovata
Allium cernuum
Antennaria neglecta
Antennaria virginica
Asarum canadense
Liatris squarrosa
Scutellaria ovata
Scutellaria parviflora
Ruellia humilis
Campanula rotundifolia
Aster linarifolius
Sedum glaucophyllum
Sedum telephoides
Krigia biflora
Krigia montana
Silene caroliniana
Eriogonum allenii
Taenidia integerrima
Draba ramissimosa
Arenaria stricta
Anemonella thalictroides
Saxifraga virginiensis
Oxalis violacea
Hepatica americana
Hepatica acuminata
Hypericum muticum
Hypoxis hirsutus
Viola pedata
Hexastylis arifolia
Hexastylis heterophylla
Talinum teretifolium
Houstonia longifolium
Claytonia virginiana
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  #7  
By dapjwy on 11-03-2011, 04:20 PM
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Thanks, Porderbrook.

Please add more when you think of them...and any other advice you or others have.

I'm pleased to see that I actually recognize about 70% of the botanical names! Looks like a lot of good suggestions. I'll have to look up some of them though.
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  #8  
By Porterbrook on 11-03-2011, 05:44 PM
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There are many good books that provide detailed information about rock gardening. Before starting your own rock garden, I suggest that you take a look at the following publications. Familiarize yourself with the concept of rock gardening and how to use plants--in your case native plants--effectively and properly.

Thomas H. Everett, Rock and Alpine Gardens.

Jack Ferreri, ed. A Rock Garden Handbook for Beginners.

These publications are available from the North American Rock Garden Society. You may also find used copies on Amazon.

I enjoy using native plants in a rock garden setting, because it allows me to grow species that otherwise would not fit into or survive in a normal garden setting. In addition, you can plant many more species within a smaller area. Once you have learned the basic techniques, you can experiment and try new species.

Let me know if you have any questions.
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  #9  
By dapjwy on 11-03-2011, 05:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porterbrook View Post
There are many good books that provide detailed information about rock gardening. Before starting your own rock garden, I suggest that you take a look at the following publications. Familiarize yourself with the concept of rock gardening and how to use plants--in your case native plants--effectively and properly...

I enjoy using native plants in a rock garden setting, because it allows me to grow species that otherwise would not fit into or survive in a normal garden setting. In addition, you can plant many more species within a smaller area. Once you have learned the basic techniques, you can experiment and try new species...
My mother gave me several rock gardening books that belonged to my dad. I'll have to look through them. I'd like to take advantage of a rocky outcropping in the yard and showcase those beloved natives that are appropriate to the site.

Anyone else interested in creating a native rock garden please chime in. Posting pictures would be great too.
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create, dry, dry soil, garden, gardening, gavel, native, native plants, plant, plant list, plants, rock, rock gardens, rocks, rocky, rocky soil, sandy soil, stone, stones

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