Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New plants for the "rock garden"

Ok, maybe one of these days I'll get caught up with these posts. The last week and a half haven't been very conducive to writing for me. The following is a small project I completed about two weeks ago. I'm pretty excited about some of the plants included in this post, and the location is fairly prominent, being right off the back patio and visible from the kitchen and dining room so I thought I'd share it's latest developments. I like to refer to the bed off of the back patio as the rock garden, though it fits the term only very loosely. It has a few rocks in it, sure, but the soil has a high clay content and it's basically the uncovered part of the compacted mound on which the concrete patio was laid out. At least the significant slope helps a bit with drainage.

The entire bed before the additions of this spring. Granted it looks especially bare because the perennials had only barely begun to grow in this photo. 

Though I won't be planting anything found on scree slopes that require that rocky, sandy soil and perfect drainage, I can use this bed to feature dwarf conifers and a few other choice plants. This bed hasn't seen any new additions for several years, so it's about time I injected some fresh foliage into the mix.

A more recent shot of the north half of the bed, with the addition of one of my very sad-looking beargrass divisions. It does appear to be growing new roots, a good sign, but the foliage had a tough time in those heat waves.

The south end of the bed. You can see the dwarf coral barberry in the center, variegated Japanese iris in back at the edge of the dry creek bed, variegated purple moor grass to the left, and scarlet monkey flower behind that. You can also just barely make out the newly planted Lonicera crassifolia at the base of the rock on the left edge of the photo.

In addition to the beargrass, Lonicera crassifolia, and a Penstemon pinifolius (planted to the left of the beargrass), I decided to plant a Larix laricina 'Blue Sparkler' from Wee Tree Farm, a Gaultheria miqueliana (Miquel's wintergreen) from The Barn, Rhododendron 'Carmen's Cross' from Down's Rhododendrons, and a Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue' and Podocarpus alpina 'Blue Gem', both from Lael's Moon Garden.

Most of these plants found their "perfect" spots quite readily. I'm especially excited about the larch, podocarpus, and Miquel's wintergreen. The rhododendron had a bit of trouble fitting in, but I'm fairly happy with it so far. A gardener never knows how their garden may change as time rolls on.

The north side of the bed, with the deodar cedar to the left of and behind the large rock, the larch in the middle of the dwarf balsam firs, and the rhody hanging out in one of the spots I was toying with for it.

The south side of the bed, with the podocarpus to the right of the barberry and the wintergreen to the right of the iris.
 Once I settled on an arrangement I was happy with, it was simply a matter of planting the new additions. Due to the compacted nature of the soil, I dug relatively large holes to provide as much loosened soil as possible for the roots of these new plants.

The deodar cedar and the larch didn't really move. As the larch slowly grows up above the dwarf balsam firs and they all fill in, the fuzzy blue needles of the larch will really pop. My vision for the cedar is to train it up towards the rock so that it can eventually dangle a few branches gracefully over the rock. We'll see how that works out.


The podocarpus and wintergreen also went right into their spots and I have to say I love these two plants combined with the upright Japanese iris. The iris and podocarpus share a distinct blue tone while the wintergreen contrasts with bronzy new growth and in winter it will bear glossy white berries. After much hemming and hawing, the rhododendron finally found a home to the left and in front of the barberry. 
Several hot, sunny days ensued directly after planting these newbies. The delicate new growth of the podocarpus and cedar was scorched where it was in close contact with the dark mulch, but it was only a few shoots. Surprisingly the little rhododendron didn't miss a beat under that hot sun and I feel confident that it will perform just fine in its new home. The waxy, dark red flowers will be a welcome early shot of color for this bed, coming before the orange flowers of the barberry.

13 comments:

  1. Choice planting there Evan with the dwarf conifers, rhododendrons and all. Looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next few weeks!

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    1. Thanks guys! The perennials along the dry creek bed are growing fast and should provide a good summer show.

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  3. I've been searching for that dwarf coral barberry; no luck so far, but I'll keep looking for it. I love the thought you put into planning a bed. I try to visualize an area months and years into the future, especially since I made so many errors as a beginner. Please share future pictures so we can see how the bed fills in and your vision comes to be. Surprisingly, it doesn't take very long at all.

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    1. I hope you find your barberry. It's such a cute little plant. I just noticed in the last couple days that mine are sending out a few bright red new shoots. They're always doing something interesting. I'm amazed sometimes how quickly plants grow and fill in, even dwarfs.

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  4. The running commentary of your thinking behind placement makes it seem like you will avoid planter's remorse, an affliction I suffer from all too frequently.

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    1. Thank you for the compliment, but you may be overestimating me. I have experienced my share of planter's remorse, and am still struggling to rectify past mistakes. Once in a while I think I get some inspiration, but only time and growth will really show whether it was divine or devilish.

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  5. Great additions! Can't wait to see what it looks like when it's all settled in! Rock on dude!

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    1. Thanks! I can't wait either! Why do dwarfs have to grow so slowly? lol

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  6. Looks really great, Evan. Nice job.

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  7. It looks like a great spot for the garden you envision. I'm impressed by the well-thought out placements too. I also look forward to seeing future updates as the plants take off.

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    1. Thanks, Kris. I can only hope that these plants do well here and perform as I expect them to.

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