Building "Mt. Shinn," photo courtesy of Carol Shinn, Ft. Collins, CO

Putting a "cliff" into "garden."

Picture a Faberge egg. Now picture a Rock Garden.  A rock garden is like the famed jewel box eggs which holds the most tiny, rare and most gorgeous of flowers. Now picture a bear falling onto a trampoline. It doesn't have anything to do with rock gardens, but it's an amusing visual none-the-less.

Broadly defined, Rock Gardens are any garden that contains rocks, but honestly, a rock garden is usually a raised mound or a slope, rich with stones, and plenty of small, colorful plants, their delicate leaves protected by the stones in which they are set.  They usually exist to either accommodate tricky plants, showcase small ones, or appear as miniature mountain-like sculptures in a landscape.  

They can be designed for either moist alpines or dry desert plants. 

Mordecai Childen's Garden, Denver Botanic, an Alpine Crevice Garden by Mike Kintgen

Rock Gardens essentially started when the British wanted to grow plants from the high, rocky Alps on their flat, rainy island. They needed to develop an environment on a smaller scale that the plants could thrive in.  And it worked.  Now, rock gardening is a well- and long-developed art and science with its own clubs, international organizations, and magazines.  Rock Gardens are designed to host all kinds of plants, not just alpines, and today, the cutting edge is desert rock gardening.  
My desert rock-garden

Dry Rock-Garden in Sandy Utah, photo and garden by John Stireman

Meyer private garden, Denver. Paintbrush Gardens Design

Czech-style Crevice Gardens use cheek-by-jowl stones to provide a sophisticated and beautiful environment to grow rare and unusual living gems with greater ease.  Personally, I was first attracted to the idea of the crevice garden in Victoria, Canada.  Artistically I was drawn to the concept of this style of the garden but true love blossomed after I tried making one myself and managed to grow indian paintbrush (Castilleja) which I had never before been able to grow.  Once I had, however, they suprised me by blooming April through November; a gardeners' dream. 

These novel garden features are so individual and customizable, of the twenty crevice gardens I've designed for their respective homes and owners, no two are alike.

Meyer private garden (also ours).

What They are Not:

Crevice gardens are not the easy solution for those seeking "low maintenance."  Indeed, maintenance is low, but it is different and requires skill. They are laborious and expensive to build, and the plants are harder to acquire.  They are a specialty, special feature, like a waterfall, pond, patio, greenhouse, or sculpture, with the purpose of harboring a plant collection for those who like to collect variety.  Think of it as prerequisite shelving for living curios. 

Rock gardens for alpines require normal irrigation, and desert rock gardens require less, and we are just starting to trial what can be grown in one without irrigation.  So far, it looks very promising.  

You can learn more through online searches for  "Crevice Garden" or my blog here.

Astragalus spathulatus in my crevice garden.

For more (too much) information, click here for a long video of my Crevice Garden talk and demonstration at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina.

{Ghostwritten by "Peaches."}