In 2009, I visited my sister in New Zealand and on one weekend trip we drove down to the city of Dunedin on the South Island. There, before breakfast and while Karen’s hubby slept in, the two of us walked over to the Dunedin Botanical Garden nearby our hotel.
The most impressive garden for me was the rock garden. We walked along a decomposed granite path skirting the hillside above the main gardens. All along this path were rock-edged pockets jam packed with cushiony alpines, dwarf conifers, and low-growing, mat-forming plants. It was simply charming.
Lichen-covered granite rocks formed planting pockets in the rock garden,…we loved the colors and fine textures of the plants. Form and shape of the plants seemed to be most important and effective here and we oohed and ahhed our way down the broom-swept path.
This garden impressed me so much that I was determined to build myself one near the huge granite boulder down the hill from the south end of the house. After Larry brought down a load of rock for my birthday, a friend, Cheryl came to help lay it out.
The boulder dominates the garden and the manzanita may need to be thinned to be in
proportion. We laid out an edge and formed smaller pockets to be filled up hopefully by lush, mat-forming plants someday. It would be nice to replace the log steps with more rock at some point. A few succulents were planted at this time last year, some that were transplanted from other areas.
The next step was to build a rock and log path along one edge and lay down gravel. It’s very steep here and something needs to stop one from running down hill. Transplants from other areas were planted while considering what plants to buy. Cold hardy succulents are a must when the temperature goes down to 20 degrees routinely. So far the ones planted have been from the neighbors or others who live here since many of my succulents brought from So Cal when we moved melted and turned black in the cold of the first winter.
Great plants for Sierra foothill rock gardens:
Armeria maritima ‘Rubrifolia’ Sea Thrift
Cerastium tomentosum Snow in Summer
Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga ‘Flavida’ – Finger Aloe
Euphorbia myrsinites Myrtle spurge
Graptopetalum paraguayense, Ghost Plant
Helichrysum petiolare ‘Moe’s Silver’
Origanum ‘White Anniversary’ Marjorum
Pinus mugo Mugho Pine
Salvia chamaedryoides Blue Oak or Germander Sage
Picea nidiformis Bird’s nest spruce
Sedum album clusianum
Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Golden Carpet’
Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’
Sedum rubrotinctum Pork and Beans
Sedum rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’
Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s blood’
Sempervivum arachnoideum Hens and Chicks ‘Cebenese’
Silene schafta ‘Splendens’ Moss Campion
Thymus praecox arcticus Creeping Thyme
Veronica allionii Speedwell ‘Blue Pixie’
The plants listed are all in my garden now, deer resistant and heat and cold hardy.
California natives good for rock gardens:
Achillea millefolium californica Yarrow
Castilleja attenuata Valley Tassels, Owl’s Clover
Claytonia perfoliata Miner’s Lettuce
Dudleya cymosa Hen & Chicks
Eriogonum grande rubescens Red buckwheat
Eriogonum umbellatum ‘Shasta’ Sulfur Flower
Fragaria vesca California Strawberry
Luzula comosa, Pacific woodrush
Viola pedunculata California Golden Violet
Zauschneria Epilobium California Fuchsia
Here is another view of the Dunedin rock garden. For future, I’d like to add some dwarf conifers, maybe a Chamaecyparis and dianthus combination like this.
Our own native Dudleya would be a great addition and there are some divisions in the works. Succulents are a perfect choice and so far they’ve mostly been for patio pots. This garden will allow them to spread out and grow into their natural size and shape.
This is how the rock garden looked this summer one year after planting. The pink is Clarkia amoena blown over from the meadow across the path.
More rock areas in the garden
I dodged the bulldozer building our septic lines to rescue many of these rocks above. It all had nice squarish shapes perfect for steps. Two broken blocks of concrete from somewhere add a bit of age. Underneath the pedestal is a half-barrel ‘pond’ liner set into the earth and water flows up through and drips out of the terracotta container. At the top of the photo is creeping thyme.
Here is another area with a load of rock needing to be laid into a permanent arrangement. Not a rock garden per se, but the rock will edge the planting bed. This area is meant for mostly CA natives. Centranthus, the dark pink, isn’t invasive here and is so attractive and deer resistant, I may let it stay. Other plants here are coffeeberry, goldenfleece, Big Sage, Artemisia tridentata and California fuchsia.
A future trip to our native plant nursery will be a highlight this Fall. Fun! And as always more rocks could be used whenever we find them here.
Tractor Man helps get rock. He knows I love it.