GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2008 show44
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Show #44/1405
Rock Garden Plants


Introduction
Homeowners are increasingly turning to professional garden designers and landscape architects to create that beautiful and special look around their home or business.

Click here for more info

Rock Garden
We start in the rock garden area. Bob likes these plants because there is so much diversity. One can have color all season long and can put a huge number of different plants in a small area. That is a huge charm for most people because they have become bored with the common stuff and they want something different.

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New Plants
Eric notices among the rock plants many that are small and dainty, outstanding little selections. Delosperma and the little Veronica are examples and are small mounded, type plants. Bob says the classic rock plant has a hard dome, almost like a green rock. They're hard and imbricated. They're grown for the foliage, not the flowers. One example is Baby's Breath. Most think of this plant as 2 feet tall, a huge thing. This plant has teeny tiny white flowers right on the cushion. That's a prototype rock plant. Other plant material in alpine form, due to the harsh conditions, grow very condensed. Even something like Thyme. Most think of Thyme as bigger, mat forming. We view one, high alpine, Thyme. It is very, very tight and imbricated and is perfect for growing between stepping stones and other similar forms.

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Conifers
We next look at Conifers. Conifers mix well with rock plants. Bob doesn't think most know of the diversity in the world of Conifers. When we generally think of a Conifer we think of a big green triangle, something used as a privacy screen. But there are a number with beautiful deep blue hues and gold splash Conifers. There is every form and color under the rainbow.

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Hemlock
The Hemlock is tolerant of shade but will take full sun. It's very adaptable.

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Daphne
We next view shrubs for the rock garden. Daphnes work well in a rock garden. Daphnes are unbeatable for fragrance and wonderful foliage and for the flowers they produce.

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Plants for Dry Shade
Epimediums do really well in dry shade, they prefer this environment. Cyclamen is another plant great for dry shade.

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Making a Trough Garden
Eric is sold on rock garden plants and wants to know how to get started. Bob feels a great place to start is with a trough garden.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Boyden House B & B

Arrowhead Alpines

Hypertufa

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.

Arrowhead Alpines, One of the Best Collectors Nurseries in the
Country

In this show Garden Smart visits Michigan and Arrowhead Alpines. They feature unusual plants and some dwarf plants, but all are interesting. Since more gardeners are seeking unusual plants, this show addresses that issue and provides some great ideas.

HOMEOWNERS ARE INCREASINGLY turning to professional garden designers and landscape architects to create that beautiful and special look around their home or business. In this show we speak with Dan Crowe, with Outdoor Expressions, one of the leading landscape designers in the state of Michigan. Dan has designed a number of elite, elegant home landscapes, not the least of which is the Governor's Mansion, which he's worked on for a number of years.

Eric asks what makes Outdoor Expressions unique? Dan says they treat each design like a piece of art. They start out with an empty palette and paint a picture with plant material. By playing with lots of texture and color, by adding hints of surprise into the garden design the end result is unusual and stunning. Dan believes that one of the most important elements in a great landscape is great plants.

One of his favorite designs was a contemporary home on a lake outside of Lansing. A ruin, or a falling down wall is the backdrop for the garden. Moving forward they incorporated a water feature with a meandering stream running down to the lake. They then built the garden around these elements. They used lots of unique plant material - dwarf conifers, dwarf shrubs, unusual trees, perennials and incorporated a lot of color into the garden.

Eric knows homeowners are looking for rare and unusual plants for their landscape or garden. Dan agrees and tells Eric that Arrowhead Alpines is one of his favorite nurseries in mid-Michigan, if not all of Michigan or the Midwest. They have a large variety of plant material. Bob and Brigetta are great plantsmen. They're highly knowledgeable and can always answer questions.

Eric next meets Bob Stewart, part owner of Arrowhead Alpines. Eric is already impressed with the array of conifers and woodland plants, Geraniums, even Poinsettias, plus so much more. He wants to know how Bob got into this business.

Bob explains. He is a zoologist by training. He went to college and studied zoology but hung around with botanists and they corrupted him along the way. He started by growing common stuff, like everyone else, things like Hostas, Day Lilies and other easy things. Over time he decided he wanted to grow more challenging plants. They have propagated a lot of different plants over the years. Here they have their own propagation setup and it has evolved into a nursery over the years that has a huge mix of rare and unusual plant material. They propagate 10 to 15 thousand different species and cultivars, an amazing mix. They do unique things, like living fossils. If it's monotypic genus they probably have it. They do have some common plants but unusual plant material is their main focus. Top

WE START IN THE ROCK GARDEN AREA. Bob likes these plants because there is so much diversity. One can have color all season long and can put a huge number of different plants in a small area. That is a huge charm for most people because they have become bored with the common stuff and they want something different.

Eric notices a Dionysia. Many are really unusual. Bob says they have that most are now dead. Sadly, it's not one of the easiest plants to grow. People grow them for the challenge. If one manages to find a dry land garden that looks like a cliff side in the middle of Afghanistan, a place that looks like it's on a vertical cliff, they do pretty well. But if put in the open garden they'll probably toast in the middle of August, in the summer rain.

Gentianaceae x Gentian is also tricky and difficult. It has huge flowers, gorgeous color and is moderately challenging. It's not as tough to grow as the Dionysia but it's certainly not easy.

With these type plants, research is needed. Know what the plants want and where they should be placed. Siting is everything. Put them in the place they're happy. Water when dry, other than that there is no care. Put them in the wrong spot and they tend to go away.

For an introductory type gardener looking for a plant for a rock garden, something that's not real tricky, something more bullet proof, something not so sensitive Bob recommends something like a Sedum or Sempervirens. He thinks they are basically un-killable. Similar plants, yet more unusual might be something like a little Orostachys spinosa Halda from Mongolia. It's about as easy as Hen & Chick but a neater plant. It has some collectors appeal and is slightly different. It has a neat little spine tip leaves and rolls up into a ball in winter. It's neat. Top

ERIC NOTICES AMONG THE ROCK PLANTS many that are small and dainty, outstanding little selections. Delosperma and the little Veronica are examples that are small mounded, type plants. Bob says the classic rock plant has a hard dome, almost like a green rock. They're hard and imbricated. They're grown for the foliage, not the flowers. One example is Baby's Breath. Most think of this plant as 2 feet tall, a huge thing. This plant has teeny, tiny white flowers right on the cushion. That's a prototype rock plant. Other plant material in alpine form, due to the harsh conditions, grow very condensed. Even something like Thyme. Most think of Thyme as bigger, mat forming. We view one, high alpine Thyme, that is very, very tight and imbricated. It is perfect for growing between stepping stones and other similar forms.

Eric is impressed with the color in this area. It is by no means a boring garden. The Primula and Cyclamen bring a real splash of color to this rock garden. Bob tells us that is because rock plants evolve where there is huge competition for pollinators. Thus, things at altitude tend to have very big flowers to attract the few insects that are there to pollenate them. Thus on the mountains one tends to see things with flowers out of proportion to the size of the plant. When comparing the high altitude Gentianaceae x Gentian to the low altitude plant, the flowers are huge. Top

WE NEXT LOOK AT CONIFERS. Conifers mix well with rock plants. Bob doesn't think most know of the diversity in the world of Conifers. When we generally think of a Conifer we think of a big green triangle, something used as a privacy screen. But there are a number with beautiful deep blue hues and gold splash Conifers. There is every form and color under the rainbow. They look at a fabulous Chamaecyparis, Treasure Island. It is a fabulous plant and has a nice gold touch. They look at several more. The first is Pinus parvifloria 'Hagarumo' it is a Japanese White Pine with a very short needle. It is commonly found in Bonsai but is great in a rock garden or small landscape. Put it in the front of the house, it won't grow rapidly. It only grows annually about 1 inch per year thus stays small for a long time. One question to ask when looking at Conifers is "how big will they get." Some grow about 1 inch per year, others grow faster. For rock gardens one wants things that will stay in scale. However, eventually one may need to get out the pruners and make them smaller. Also consider weeping plants, they will cascade over a rock and look like a little green waterfall coming down over the rock work. They look great and are easy. Top

THE HEMLOCK IS TOLERANT OF SHADE but will take full sun. It's very adaptable. Other than Wooly Adelgid in the east, which fortunately is not found in Michigan, it is a tough plant. It has purple foliage in the winter but turns green in the summer. Nice square, imbricated foliage. It is a neat little plant that doesn't require shearing and is a great plant for a small trough or even a general garden use.

Eric notices a plant with an intense blue hue. It was given to Bob by Gary G. Bob thought it was a Van Pelts because it came without a name, but it's not a Van Pelts and apparently is a one of a kind plant. They circulate it under the Aff Van Pelts name because they've never named it, it's up to Gary G. to name it.

They next look at some more Conifers. One that stands out is Cunninghama. Normally conifers are sizeable and a bundle of needles. This is a little dwarf form. It is cool and compact. There are several little Cunninghamia brooms. Little Leo is one with a tighter cell. They're great plants for a rock garden, they have a weird living fossily look to them. The Cunninghamia's are pretty neat plants and not something seen in every garden.

The Sequoia, Redwood is also unusual. It is a flat growing broom, yet this has a reversion on it. That will be cut off and they will probably end up rooting it for understock. This is winter hardy in Michigan. Bob knows some that have it in their gardens in protected areas.

Next viewed are Deodara Cedars. This variety is Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula' which is probably the best of the blues and the ones most are familiar with. The weeping varieties have different forms and textures. Snake, which is one of the prettiest, is strongly weeping. If not staked it flops back down, fast. It's not as tough as Carl Fuox and Ice Reagan. These were collected in the Afghanistan - Pakistan border regions at high altitude. They're extremely hardy. What happens typically though is people graft them onto low end Deodara and even though they will tolerate well below zero temperatures, if grafted onto zone 8 understock the understock dies and then the whole thing dies. If buying them and you live in a cold area pay attention to what they're grafted to. Top

WE NEXT VIEW SHRUBS FOR THE ROCK GARDEN. Daphnes work well in a rock garden. Daphnes are unbeatable for fragrance and wonderful foliage and the flowers they produce. Many gardeners have a hard time with Daphnes. Bob feels that is because there is a lot of disinformation in gardening literature on how to grow Daphnes. Several things will help one be successful with Daphnes. They need sharp drainage, they don't like wet feet. If they're too wet, they're dead. They would be happy in the middle of the Gobe desert. The other important point is - start with a small plant and keep them there. They don't like to be transplanted, ever. Put them where you want them, let them grow up there. If one starts with a big plant, good luck, you'll probably kill it when you put it in the garden. You're much better off, the smaller you can start, the better it goes. Daphnes have wonderful flower forms and nice foliage textures. Daphne genkwa is one of the nicer, larger Daphnes. It's one of the few that's the shade of purply blue, a very unique shade of blue for a Daphne. It tends to bloom before the leaves come out, but it's a nice plant for general landscape use. Daphne x hendersonii has a nice little compact small leaf form. There are a number of forms of Hendersonii and they're wonderful for a rock garden. They make a little, low mat and tend to be free blooming, they're fragrant and they'll repeat bloom in a lot of cases. Hendersonii's are one of the very best rock garden Daphne.

One of the newer Daphnes is Daphne x whiteorum 'Beauworth' from Robin White. It is a Jasminea petra clone and a really good hybrid Daphne with a fantastic flower form. Wilhelm Shot is another good Daphne and has a rich lavender color. It has been around a while in Europe but is not common in the states. A good Daphne tends to rebloom a couple of times during the season and has nice fragrance. It is a great rock garden plant. Collina hybrid has dark, blackish buds. This plant has some buds emerging. They make neat little shrublettes without pruning. They tend to grow into nice forms with minimal care, one never needs to bring out the shears. They don't tolerate overwatering or being moved. If these 2 things aren't done, they're fine.

Bob and Eric next talk about other plants that do well in a dry environment. Polygalas are a little dwarf shrublette. There is an American version, which is harder to grow, and a European version. They are more of a mat former and are great for moderately dry shade. They will take full sun if the moisture is a little higher. They have unusual flowers. They're one of Bobs favorite little dwarf shrublettes for the garden and are extremely underused. One never sees them in the U.S. yet in Europe they are more common. They're perfectly hardy in Michigan. Top

EPIMEDIUMS DO REALLY WELL IN DRY SHADE, in fact they prefer this environment. They are unbeatable for flower color and the foliage is very nice. Bob thinks they're one of the hot, new plants that have come into cultivation in the past couple of years. There are many new species and they have more to offer than in the past. Some are large flowered species that look like Baby's Breath, others have different forms and textures. They're good plants for ground cover in dry shade. Easy culture and no pests.

Cyclamen is another plant great for dry shade. Many think they're hardy and several species are hardy to zone 5, even 4 in some cases. Cume is a spring bloomer, is very free blooming and blooms early with the Crocuses. Other varieties with nice foliage bloom in the fall. Hederifolium has neat leaves and is a great plant. Top

ERIC IS SOLD ON ROCK GARDEN PLANTS and wants to know how to get started. Bob feels a great place to start is with a trough garden. They're small and easy to build. By starting at this level you can see if you like it. It's a rock garden in minature, the same principles that apply to a trough garden also apply to a larger rock garden. Bob takes us through the whole process from raw materials to the finished product. This can easily be done at home. Bob has started with a hypertufa trough (use the link below for directions). It is made from Portland cement, peat moss and Pearlite and formed over a box. The rocks in this container are not hypertufa, instead real tufa. It was a fairly recent rock formation, actually a limestone rock formation. Tufa is the prime choice for rock gardens and troughs, but difficult to find. Rhyolite can also be utilized and comes out of a topaz mine in Utah, with it you will see little sparkly topaz in the sunlight. Also nice in a rock garden is chunks of driftstone from Mexico or California. Aviod fieldstone cobbles, they never look right in a rock garden. Pick some nice rocks and scale them. Make any size trough but the same design principles apply. It should have stuff that softens the edge, it should have stuff creeping into the crevices between the rocks. It is really a nice garden adventure. Bob has a little dwarf Elm tree that's in scale. There's a Fisa Plexus which is an extremely rare rock plant. This container was done 2 years ago by Bob's 11 year old son, who put in, maybe, 2 hours putting this together. It doesn't take a lot of time but looks great. It can be placed on a patio, set it alongside a driveway or next to a sidewalk. They're easy to use, they're moveable and they're fun.

Eric thanks Bob for the tour. Arrowhead Alpines is a neat place. We've enjoyed our time here, learned about a lot of new and interesting plants and know how to make a rock garden. Thanks. Top

LINKS:

Boyden House B & B

Arrowhead Alpines

Hypertufa

Garden Smart Plant List

 


   
 
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