Erick Johnson, host of GardenSMART, is sold on rock garden plants and wants to know how to get started. Bob Stewart, part owner of Arrowhead Alpines ,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 miniature. 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 starts with a hypertufa trough (use the link below for directions on how to make a trough). It is made from Portland cement, peat moss and Perlite and formed over a box. The rocks in this container are not hypertufa, but instead real tufa.
Tufa is a 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. It 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 are chunks of drift stone from Mexico or California.
Avoid 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 material that softens the edge; it should have material 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, along with other rock plants. There's an extremely rare European rock plant. Bob's 11-year-old son who put in, maybe, 2 hours putting this together did this container 2 years ago.
They don't take a lot of time but look great. Place them on a patio, set alongside a driveway or next to a sidewalk. They're easy to use, they're moveable and they're fun.
By Susan Martin for Proven Winners,
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
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