Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Rock Solid Gardens

© Stonehenge 2006 Teresa Watkins

Stones are magical. The stillness of majestic stone gardens created by man thousands of years ago is awe-inspiring. Ancient people worshipped, honored the earth, and left untold stories among the impressive pillars at Stonehenge. They feel as if they have a life of their own. Who knows? Maybe stones hold the secret to our universe? One of my favorite metaphysical books is The Nature of Thing: The Secret Life of Inaminate Objects explains their spectral powers. WebEcoist has more mystical ancient stone circles here.

I love stones in my Florida garden because we don't find many rocks in our sandy soils. That's probably a good thing when we have to dig but trying to create height with flat topographies needs imagination.

History of Rock Gardens

Reginald Ferrer, botanist, plant hunter and world traveler, (1880 - 1920) changed gardening with his rock bed creations. Ferrer was responsible for sparking interest in alpine and Japanese rock gardens. Frequently referred to as the "shotgun" gardener for his one-time seed-sowing experiment (eccentric stunt?) of loading a shotgun with alpine seeds from his travels and shooting them into crevices of the Yorkshire cliffs.

Read a downloadable version of The English Rock Garden by Reginald Ferrer.

Japanese Rock Gardens

“In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand -- or at least to learn to understand -- the beauty of stones. Not of stones quarried by the hand of man, but of stones shaped by nature only. Until you can feel, and keenly feel, that stones have character, that stones have tones and values, the whole artistic meaning of a Japanese garden cannot be revealed to you. Not only is every stone chosen with a view to its particular expressiveness of form, but every stone in the garden or about the premises has its separate and individual name, indicating its purpose or its decorative duty.”

My Garden

From Loch Lomand to Gooseberry Island near Cape Cod, to Franklin, NC to Seattle,WA, we bring home a rock from each adventure. Our friends bring us rocks, pebbles, even singular bricks, from their globe-trotting. I even understood completely when I heard a puzzled newscaster question why someone getting on a plane (post-911) had a brick confiscated from their bag. It wasn't going to be a weapon but a memory that could be held. Cheap souvenirs, the unknowing may think, but to me, stones are deeply personal.

© Gooseberry Island beach stones 2009 Teresa Watkins

Now this is a great rock garden at the Canadian Pavilion during 2008 International Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT. You can imagine reducing the creviced ridges and interspersing plantings of dwarf junipers, slow-growing cypresses, and draping succulents behind a bed of golden marigolds you can create the same effect in your landscape.

© EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival 2008 Teresa Watkins

Water conserving succulent rock container garden with blue rubber mulch.

© EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival 2007 Teresa Watkins

How Not To Design A Rock Garden:

The landscape company that put this parking lot obstacle in needs to be stoned.

Let your garden show its' rock-solid strength by adding a few natural stones. It can take the rough edges off an otherwise flat touch. Grounding yourself with stones in a garden can be very healing. Rock on!

More resources on rock gardens:

UPDATE: Had a reader send in this neo-modern circular formation called Puppyhenge.

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