Friday, September 5, 2014

A rock garden in the Southeast

Yes, Virginia, they do rock garden in the South. Everyone knows you can have a gorgeous rock garden in the colder zones--USDA Zone five and warmer. But rock gtardens in the south? Surely not! Well...I was fortunate enough to visit one in Asheville, North Carolina in late August this year--hardly the peak season for bloom. but this garden epitomized the qualities we admire in rock gardens everywhere: harmonious rock work, lovely plantings and terrific views. Come stroll with me through a few pictures and see if you don't agree!

Plant choices obviously matter in the warmer areas: here they used lots of Delosperma--although I'm not sure which clones...still blooming in late summer.

The garden is quite young, so the cushions and buns are still compact--I expect they will grow quickly in the salubrious climate of Asheville.

I like the contrast of the foliagte against the mulch in these pictures--they've done a  good job of matching mulch to stone (not always easy)...

Allium senescens v. glaucum
This onion seems to thrive in almost anyh climate, and looks and stands out best on a rock garden

Tje designers did an especially good job of incorporating dwarf conifers: the contrast of foliage colors in this shot is especially pleasing: gold, blue and green...

Annie Higgins
Annie coordinated the construction of this project: part of the amazing team at B.B. Barns Landscaping (a wing of the premier local Garden Center--which I visited--worth its own Blog!). Annie was also one of the very helpful and friendly hosts of the conference--"Speaking of Gardening" the brought me to Asheville. Southern hospitality is alive and well: balm for a weathered traveler. Any project this team takes on is apt to succeed beyond expectation.

On the left, graccious owner Lana Burns. At right, Sieglinde Anderson, Landscape architect

Can you tell they were proud to show off their combined handiwork? Few things delight more than an imaginative Landscape Architect working alongside a committed and interested homeowner, producing something special. In addition to being an L.A., Sieglinde is a keen rock gardener--and was manifestly delighted to re-create a bit of her native Alps in North Carolina!

Unlike perennial borders, which tend to be rather two dimensional, rock gardens are holographic in their design: mind you this is a good sized rock garden, but just look how different it appears from different angles.

Everything: dwarf conifers, succulents, hostas--all seemed to be growing happily and looking good.

I wish I'd made note of this hosta--it's blooming its bloody head off. And probably one of Dan Heim's amazing Heucheras...these both adapt to many climates in North America.

Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'
I'm glad they've not succumb to the hysteria over blood grass: we have never had issues with it in Colorado--and it looks pretty restrained here. And what other grass glows with that red fury: the white Hydrangea in the distance doesn't hurt as a contrast...

As I walked around, I caught a glimpse of the side yard--which looks delightful as well---with an especially fine wall...

Had to take a closer look! Love that Dryopteris luxuriating at front center.

A fine combo of happy woodlanders on the wall opposite. Plant choices throughout were unsual and all happily situated.

I love the way the Corydalis and violet are nestled against the rock, and notice the complement of rock mulch: the Japanese would consider this garden as possessing "shibui": simple, artful elegance.

Another wonderful glimpse of an Autumn fern--one of my favorites, unfortunately not always a good performer in our slightly colder, drier air.

It's hard to beat our native bleeding hearts for long bloom, and just plain excellence in flower and foliage over the long season.

It's always a treat to find one's Godchildren scattered here and about: I never dreamed when I collected the seed of 'Gold Nugget' in Lesotho twenty years ago that one day i'd find it in North Carolina!

There's an almost Japanese quality to this garden--very restful despite the variety of plants within it. This airy mint seems to thrive everywhere. I love the starry mint in the foreground (whose name I've forgotten, although I've grown it for decades: let's see if I have any sharp readers...)

Campanula betulifolia

Pleased to see one of my favorite campanulas. Come to think of it, almost everything in the genus is a favorite. Ev Whittemore, who lives not too far from this garden, claims Campanulas don't like the Asheville area (let's hope this plant didn't hear her).

Liatris microcephala

I doubt if our Great Plains Liatris punctata would like North Carolina--but they have their own Midwestern Liatris that is just as compact. There seems to be an ecotype for every garden.

A wonderful, late-blooming geranium. Forgot to see what the name was...(although I have a sneaking suspicion it could be the all-star 'Rozanne')...

A particularly nice use of this wonderful Oriental grass along the path...(yes, I know it's Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'...I may be from the steppes but I'm not a complete nimnut).

I was surprised to see the Spigelia still in flower: I love this plant (and finally seem to have it growing well)...[amazing what one can adapt to completely inappropriate places you must be thinking].

Closer view of our amazing native plant one never sees enough. I just remembered I first saw this in the wild in South Carolina--not far from Asheville in June of 1983 on a field trip with Fred Case during the NARGS 50th Anniversary meeting. Time flies when you're a rock gardener.

Seeing this picture reminded me that my own golden Aralia didn't survive this past winter. Oh well..I rather like the subtle sculpture. I fear that it's easy to have the sculpture overwhelm a garden--ask me how I know!

The garden is built on a hill with monumental white oaks (just about my favorite tree). There were a half dozen in the vicinity of the back yard. This one in the distance is in a neighbor's yard.

Here's a closer up view of another behemoth oak. What I would give to have a monster like this in one of MY neighbor's gardens (although perhaps not mine...)

A simple false stream bed at the bottom of the last yard runs its merry way down to her very own giant white oak (Lana's garden is big enough to accommodate it). Even this simple scene pleases.

Did I mention that the front garden faces a vast field full of Eupatorium, Vernonia, all manner of Solidago and asters (none of which I captured close up this time around--sorry! You'll just have to believe me), and oh yes, MOUNTAINS!

This towering white pine was in a neighbor's garden across the way--one hears of "'stolen vistas", but here I think she stole a whole tree: this reveals the power these gardens possess:  half vista, half vignette and a whole lot of variety and verve mixed in!


  1. Bellissimo! Davvero un giardino roccioso degno di nota! Bello tutto il tuo blog, ti seguirò con piacere ;)

    Un saluto!

  2. Grazie per i commenti gentili. Tuttavia, ho pensato che il Pontos era ad Est della Grecia, non per l'Occidente?

  3. I'm sorry I missed seeing Asheville on a past garden bloggers fling...big rushing creeks to jump in, gardens, low mountains with green. Though having lived at the start of the deep south in Montgomery AL, I think of Ashville (or even Atlanta) as not that southeast or hot, so I can picture the rock garden theme, just with more wet climate plants. I hear it compared to Santa Fe, though as a much wetter version of it... Your example takes nice advantage of slope and view to be sure!

  4. "Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze." John Denver



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