Rock Gardens forum: Just Thinking About It

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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Feb 17, 2014 9:13 PM CST
Ever since this forum opened, I've been thinking about what I could do with the bare spot on the slope that takes up half of my back yard.

When I read @growitall 's comment on Bellflowers Database: Castle Crag's Bellflower (Campanula shetleri) and that it was a native of Trinity County, I started thinkin' again. When I read "Can be challenging to grow, particularly in areas of winter wet.", I wrote to Lori to find out what she considers a "wet winter". We get anywhere from 25 to 50 inches of rain during the winter months with no rain during the summer months.

I am guessing this plant is found at the higher elevations in the Trinity Alps and is generally covered with snow during the winter months. Since I live at a lower elevation, I get more rain than snow.

However, that bare spot on my slope certainly meets the lean soil test. It is rock with a dusting of soil over it. Since it is at the top of my property, I have to haul all materials up from the street level to the top of the slope and then haul them down to the area I want to work.

I am totally a novice gardener in all things except roses and would love some suggestions about how I might make this part of the slope more interesting.

I can tell you now, hauling any kind of soil and actually building beds, is probably something that won't happen. I've been hauling stuff from the street level to the house pad level for almost 10 years, and still have more work to do on that level.

I am looking for plants that can adapt to the slope with little work from me.

Here are a few photos of the slope:


Thumb of 2014-02-18/RoseBlush1/532762


Thumb of 2014-02-18/RoseBlush1/f0cd7b


Thumb of 2014-02-18/RoseBlush1/65fa1c


Thumb of 2014-02-18/RoseBlush1/a1e69c


Thumb of 2014-02-18/RoseBlush1/9a2cb0

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Plant Identifier
growitall
Feb 17, 2014 9:32 PM CST
And to answer... Here's my response to Lyn's question about growing Campanula shetleri, in quotes below, which seems relevant to repeat here.

Note that the concern is not a "a wet winter" but the conditions of drainage (more specifically, not enough drainage) that leads to "winter wet" .

"Winter wet is the biggest foe for people trying to grow alpine plants - much more so than cold, which most are perfectly adapted to handle - but it's combatted by good drainage. Drainage is what alpine plants are adapted to, growing on rocky slopes, in scree and in vertical cliffs. In other words, those 50 inches of rain (more than 3x what we get here, by the way, most of which is in the form of snow and melts and runs off while the ground is still frozen), or several meters of snow, don't soak into humusy soil around the base of the plant; instead, conditions are lean - there is not a lot of organic matter in alpine areas, due to harsh conditions and slow plant growth and slow decomposition. The snowmelt instead drains away through highly permeable rocky substrates.

Sure, by all means try it, particularly if you are already growing alpines and have built suitable beds or troughs with lean soil and excellent drainage. This is a plant that I was unable to grow in regular soil conditions here; this is an area, where, due to generally dry conditions, we can grow quite a few good alpines easily even in regular soil. But with the proper conditions, it is certainly growable.

You may be able to find it from alpine plant specialist nurseries in your area, or if not, you can get seeds from alpine seed specialists, or by joining alpine plant societies (NARGS, SRGC) and taking part in the annual seed exchanges."

The slope looks like a great spot for a rock garden!
[Last edited by growitall - Feb 17, 2014 9:36 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #557543 (2)
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Feb 17, 2014 9:58 PM CST
In general, I always encourage gardeners to try what they want, but also put in some other types of plants that should do well there. You may find that you like the other plant(s) even better, and with less care to boot.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Feb 17, 2014 11:24 PM CST
Rick ...

That's the problem. I don't know what I "should" want or how to go about it.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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dirtdorphins
Feb 18, 2014 8:09 PM CST
Hi Lyn!
I can totally see why you could be so inclined to think about it.
Looks to me like you already have a rock garden, maybe just not one that pleases you so much.

That is quite a slope and I am wondering ...do you have something behind that fence retaining the earth or is it literally like a rock outcroping that is not moving much to speak of? If it really is just 'rock' with a little crust, then I would surmise that you would not have a poor drainage issue with the slope run-off, lack of soil, and thirsty evergreens even in your wet season.
Ideal spot for a rock garden!
So are you just looking to fill in the "bare spot"? What's the aspect?

>>That's the problem. I don't know what I "should" want or how to go about it.>>

What a fun problem. Start looking at western mountain rock dwellers (sorry, searches respond better to 'plants' and qualifiers like 'alpine' and 'native') to see what might want to grow there; branch out from there and start looking at the enormous variety of rock dwellers that might be equally happy if you tried them, and then try to narrow it down to that which you can't seem to resist.
I'd start with several small plants for instant gratification and consider direct sowing for some of the practically impossible to plant rock and/or tucking in seedlings where you can.

[Last edited by dirtdorphins - Feb 19, 2014 6:07 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #557983 (5)
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Feb 18, 2014 8:45 PM CST
Hi Dirt ....

>>>> Looks to me like you already have a rock garden, maybe just not one that pleases you so much.

Very true. I'm finding it hard to describe. The glaciers that created the Trinity Alps stopped at a higher elevation than where I am located and I am told this slope was created by glacier debris.

Mrs. J planted four types of juniper all across the slope and they have been there for about 50 years. I know they play a role in stabilizing the slope. They also hide the fact that there are small cliffs under them. (I found that out the hard way when I was pruning them and found myself hanging onto the junipers with my feet dangling in mid-air.) So what looks like just a solid mass going across has a few gaps .... Smiling and it is a lot steeper than it looks. I cannot get up to that area from the bottom, but have to climb down.

They faced the slope with large rocks, kind of like a rock wall, but following the topography of the slope, so the stones behind the fence are more like a wall, but I doubt if they are holding the slope in place. It may be moving a bit, but not so much that I notice it.

The slope "breathes". In other words, during the rainy season it seems to hold water well enough that I never have to water the junipers even during the dry months of summer and I've never seen water running off of the slope. I've been told there are a lot of underground streams all through the slope, but they don't seem to have caused any problems.

There is very little soil on top of the rocks you see in the photos. I think that's why Mrs. J didn't plant much there. I've tried direct sowing some seeds in that area, but they did not germinate ... California poppy.

When I saw this forum, I started thinking I should do something there. I am such a novice that I can't even begin to figure out how to start.

What do you mean when you ask "What's the aspect?" ?

Smiles,
Lyn



I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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dirtdorphins
Feb 19, 2014 6:55 PM CST
aspect...what direction does the slope face?
I see a lot of trees...trying to get an idea of how much sun the area gets. I imagine it gets enough for the roses at the base. Shrug!

Apparently, I did something stupid and cut off the rest of my previous post--so I fixed that above, hopefully.

Truly, you have an envious natural resource here for an amazing rock garden!
(I'd go hog-wild and remove the fence and a couple junipers and plant the 'wall' too--but I'm quite fond of rock and not very sensible)

It's probably good that you don't see run off--means it seeps down through and more for your roses Smiling
I still don't think you would have much of a drainage problem on that slope. I'd suggest you try a few different plants and see what happens.
I can't quite tell how tall your fence is ? but I have a wall that I just put a ladder up against to get up on it and I also plant and weed from the ladder. Just a thought...

here's a source for seeds and instructions
http://www.alplains.com/

I've purchased plants locally and from the sites below. Some of these also have really good info to peruse.
http://www.wrightmanalpines.com/
http://www.laporteavenuenursery.com/
http://www.wildgingerfarm.com/
http://www.arrowheadalpines.com/
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
RoseBlush1
Feb 19, 2014 9:15 PM CST
Hi, again ...

The slope faces south-east and gets full sun, blistering hot sun, from late spring to early fall all day long. My average summer temps are in the high 90s to low 100s.

Yes, I do plan to remove the fence some day. That's why I haven't bothered to paint it. The fence is about five feet tall.

I have lots of rock ! I am gardening on five levels, if you count the flat area behind the junipers. I've got the soil in the rose beds to be viable soil and have almost finished getting all of them placed. The beds are bordered by the same rock you see on the slope. I had planned to add some rock-loving plants to the rock borders this year ... I am not going to plant any more roses .... Smiling

Thank you for giving me a starting point. I've been somewhat overwhelmed by all of the information I've been gathering. Also, thank you so much for the links.

I'll keep lurking on this forum for photos and ideas.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Feb 20, 2014 2:45 PM CST

You might scope out some of the plants in the Sempervivum and other succulent area.
We have lots of great plants that might work for you

http://garden.org/forums/view/chooks/

Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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dirtdorphins
Feb 20, 2014 5:22 PM CST
Yes, by all means check out semps, and succulents, and general drought-tolerant/heat-loving type or xeriscapic type plants as well.
I forgot to mention [url=www.highcountrygardens.com/gardening/category/blog/]www.highcountrygardens.com/gardening/category/blog/[/url]
as well--lots of good ideas in the blog pages. I have gotten plants from them also, (but I was rather disappointed with the AM version of them last year...)
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Feb 20, 2014 8:05 PM CST
Yes, I am planning on a semp and succulent bed under the eves of the house on the house pad level. That's the only place where I thought I could plant them without them getting too much rain during our rainy season. I had to stop reading about semps and succulents for a while because my list of projects, both on-going and pending, was getting too long.

One of the street beds is becoming my xeiscape garden. There are also some very large rocks down there which will lend themselves to a rock garden and I have been planting drought-tolerant/heat-loving plants down there.

It's just that viewing posts on this forum got me to thinking about the slope again.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Image
dirtdorphins
Feb 20, 2014 8:13 PM CST
Thumbs up by all means, think about it...it will still be there whenever you're ready Smiling
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
RoseBlush1
Feb 20, 2014 8:40 PM CST
Thank you. You've already given me a starting point. That's big.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Image
dirtdorphins
Feb 22, 2014 12:45 PM CST
Gotta love these random ideas that pop up on the home page Smiling

I just spied this one and it is very relevant:
http://garden.org/ideas/view/Emma/1219/Sempervivum-Companion...
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
Birds Region: New York Irises Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Lilies
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ge1836
Feb 23, 2014 4:38 AM CST
dirtdorphins: I agree. What a beautiful set of photos.I have a Wild Ginger order coming.Nice to see the vendors gardens.
Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
Kaspar-scourge of daylily seedlings
Region: Australia Annuals Canning and food preservation Herbs Tropicals Foliage Fan
Plays in the sandbox Cactus and Succulents Garden Photography Hybridizer Composter Sedums
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Gleni
May 9, 2014 9:14 PM CST
I am thinking of getting two large rocks and putting them on the lawn as a replacement to grass. The area where I am planning to put them is shown by the normal sized buckets.

The rocks' sizes I can buy are indicated by the buckets.

Why do I want the rocks?

1. As a feature
2. To replace an area of lawn that dies in the dry.
3. To plant around the rocks and on them.

Does this sound an okay thing to do?

Thumb of 2014-05-10/Gleni/a6b74a Thumb of 2014-05-10/Gleni/89c1f0


Thumb of 2014-05-10/Gleni/cd0e5a Thumb of 2014-05-10/Gleni/026e94

Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
Birds Region: New York Irises Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Lilies
Image
ge1836
May 10, 2014 2:43 AM CST
Are the last 2 photos of rocks you already have ?
How about an odd number of rocks in various sizes.
Are the 2 buckets shown in an area that doesnt grow grass ? If so it looks pretty good.
Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
Kaspar-scourge of daylily seedlings
Region: Australia Annuals Canning and food preservation Herbs Tropicals Foliage Fan
Plays in the sandbox Cactus and Succulents Garden Photography Hybridizer Composter Sedums
Image
Gleni
May 10, 2014 4:45 AM CST
Jo Ann, the rock piles are the ones offered for sale from which I have to make a selection.

Yes the two buckets show the area where I want to drop them. When the rains cease it will be brown there in a flash, alas.
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
Birds Region: New York Irises Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Lilies
Image
ge1836
May 10, 2014 5:26 AM CST
My aching back.
They do look good tho. Nice selection of sizes. My only tip is what ever you choose be sure to keep it an uneven number.
Name: Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Plant Identifier
growitall
May 10, 2014 9:42 AM CST
Placing two rocks out in the lawn (if I'm understanding correctly) might look a little odd and random, especially if they are gallon pail-sized rocks - the bigger the rocks, the better. If they are large rocks, it would help to make it look like an intentional design. Even better would be if it was just the beginning of a plan that would increase the size of the bed over time with more rocks and plantings - that would make it look more in scale with your yard, as well. Just my opinion... feel free to ignore it! Big Grin

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