• A New Zealand inspired California rock garden

    by  • September 6, 2011 • Design, Garden, Plant Profiles, Projects, Summer

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     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.

    Dunedin Botanical Rock Garden

    Dunedin Botanical Rock Garden

    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.

    2010 September Rock garden laid out

    2010 September Rock garden laid 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.

    2010-9 Path built, gravel spread in rock garden

    2010-9 Path built, gravel spread in rock garden

    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.

    Sedum album clusianum

    White Sedum, S. album clusianum

    Great plants for Sierra foothill rock gardens:

    Armeria maritima ‘Rubrifolia’ Sea Thrift
    Cerastium tomentosum Snow in Summer
    Chamaecyparis obtusa
    Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga ‘Flavida’ – Finger Aloe
    Crassulas
    Echeveria
    Euphorbia myrsinites Myrtle spurge
    Graptopetalum paraguayense, Ghost Plant
    Helichrysum petiolare ‘Moe’s Silver’
    Lithodora diffusa
    Origanum ‘White Anniversary’ Marjorum
    Pinus mugo Mugho Pine
    Pachyphytum hookeri
    Phlox subulata
    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 citriodorus
    Thymus praecox arcticus Creeping Thyme
    Veronica allionii Speedwell ‘Blue Pixie’

    Pachyphytum hookeri

    Pachyphytum hookeri

    The plants listed are all in my garden now, deer resistant and heat and cold hardy.

    Echeveria agavoides 'Lipstick'

    Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’

    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

    ***

    Dunedin-Chamaecyparis , with a daisy and a dianthus, maybe

    Dunedin-Chamaecyparis , with a daisy and a dianthus, maybe

    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.

    Dudleya cymosa Hen & Chicks

    Dudleya cymosa Hen & Chicks

    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.

    July- Rock garden view of meadow

    July- Rock garden view of meadow

     

    Mid-July rock garden

    Mid-July rock garden

    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.

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    More rock areas in the garden

    2010 June- Steps built from indiginous rock form a sort of rock garden

    2010 June- Steps built from indiginous rock form a sort of rock 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.

    May- another new rock garden area

    May- another new rock garden area

    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.

    May- Poppy on the simplest of rock gardens

    May- Poppy on the simplest of rock gardens

    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.

    Getting Rock

    Getting Rock

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.