The Houston rock garden
Ever since I started seriously gardening, I've had some
sort of rock garden to play around with. Back in Pennsylvania, our alpine areas
had some semblance of a typical rock garden, suitable for displaying small-growing
plants native to higher elevations. It featured a wide and ever-changing variety
of plants from succulents to alpine cushion plants to penstemons, and kept
expanding through the years as I needed more room to display plants, and also
strived for a more naturalistic look using locally collected natural rock.
Rock gardening in Texas is a different thing altogether. I'm not even quite
sure I should call my current attempt a rock garden (xeric garden or succulent
garden might be more apt), but that's what I've taken to calling it, so take
that for what it's worth. There aren't really any local natural rocks to be
had, so the stone incorporated into the garden area is mostly sourced from
leftovers of stone facade construction in our new development, with a backing
of a low cinderblock wall sourced from Ye Olde Home Depot. Much less
naturalistic, therefore, than our rock garden up north.
The bigger difference between the PA and TX garden areas is the types of
plants they support; most of the denizens of my PA rock garden would expire
from heat exhaustion on the first few hot days of our typical summers down
here, so for the most part I don't even try. Instead, I'm trying my hand at
a variety of succulents and xeric plants – some native to the southwestern
US, some not. Mixed in are a few attempts to grow the tougher customers I
remember from PA: some dianthus, penstemon, and aethionema.
A good part of my seed-starting efforts in winter of 2018 was spent trying
to grow various agaves; assuming they survive, they'll make their way into the
rock garden, as may some of the rain lilies (habranthus and zephyranthes species)
and yuccas I tried to grow. To give them the fast-draining soil they desire, I
built most of the current rock garden on a base of a very sandy soil mix.
Hopefully the plants that still like to sip some water in the heat of summer
will find it not too inhospitable.
If all those plants I'd like to grow in the rock garden actually survive and
thrive, there is no doubt that I'll have to expand its area in years to come.
But that seems to be par for the course with rock gardens. At least the current
concept is fairly well extendable: the rock garden backs onto our fence, and
is separated from it by a low wall of cinderblocks. Expanding the garden would mean
extending the cinderblock wall outward (and perhaps upward), and hauling in more
of that sandy soil. But I should be good for at least a year or so!
Currently growing in our rock garden
Progression of the rock garden
The earliest version of our rock garden was a standalone little area
carved out of the lawn along the back fence. It served mostly as a home to
succulents rescued from our Pennsylvania garden as well as a few new ones
acquired in "succulent arrangements" for indoor display, with some
muehlenbeckia and annual talinum fighting for dominance.
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November 24, 2018