Friday, January 31, 2020

Rock gardens ROCK!

The indomitable Domenique Turnbull
 As a member of the North American Rock Garden Society for nearly a half century, I have had the great good luck to see hundreds of private rock gardens from coast to coast (and across much of the globe for that matter!). Each is unique and represents a fantastic experiment where a gardener grapples with soil, site and creates a world of infinite subtlety, boldness and depth. Domenique is one of the most remarkable such gardeners and I've ever met. Just look at that smile!

These pictures were all taken on September 29 several years ago: most gardens are pretty sad this time of year, but because of the gorgeous rocks, the wonderful foliage of alpine plants and the many that bloom late, his garden was a delight to see: it's an extravaganza that wraps around much of his house--and has numerous microclimates and different stone types. He grows an astonishing range of alpines. Now mind you, he has a killer advantage! He lives at almost 8000' elevation on the slopes of Pikes Peak!

What I love so much about Domenique's garden is that it is not like any other I've seen: most of the rocks are lichen-covered and the rock work is quite naturalistic. He takes his clues from nature!

There are hot dry slopes he probably never waters with Acantholimon spp and cactus as above...

And troughs everywhere: he makes dozens of troughs every year he brings to the various plant sales..;

Somehow I doubt that the Agave or Gymnocalycium bruchii are left out in the winter: I think he cheats a bit!

He's obviously taken some inspiration from the Crevice Gardening movement--but there's a master's touch in how these are arranged...

Some panoramas--this is an extensive garden!

The Aster provides a great splash of color, but the mats and cushions are delightful in their own right.

I love how Monardella macrantha blares scarlet above the mat of Tanacetum densum v. amani...

A lte blooming Liatris punctata contrasting with its neighbors...

Get a load of the troughs in the background! and what wonderful rock work knit with cushions in the foreground.

More views...I love this garden!

Here's a new section with gray metamorphic rock without lichens--very different but with new possibilities...

Here is a section with more rounded, river washed boulders...

I love the Aster 'snow Flurry' in white with the mass of Delosperma in front...

Back to those gorgeous lichened boulders...

And some other areas...

Those lichens are to kill for!

And a closeup of Gypsophila aretioides, one of the most magnificent alpine cushion plants from the Caucasus.

I must go back and visit Domenique in spring and early summer, but I think that even in the fall, this garden is worth a visit.

So why a rock garden? So you can grow hundreds of gorgeous plants in a small area that would be impossible to grow otherwise...and to belong to a world wide far flung community of incredible gardeners who create gardens of great subtlety, originality and shimmering beauty!

Click here and join us in the North American Rock Garden Society--it's where the Wild Gardeners Go!


  1. Wonderful garden, troughs, and person!

  2. People could save a huge amount of labor and reduce air pollution if they had gardens like Domenique, instead of large lawns. Myself included. I really need to turn more of my lawn into garden space.

  3. I really like it! It looks as natural as anything found in nature. The lichen is awesome also!

  4. Wonderfull rock garden... very beautiful

  5. You do get to see the cream of the crops. I am so happy that you share so much with us.

  6. This is a great garden, I was lucky to visit it. Domenique is incredibly creative with troughs!


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