Vail Landscape Logic column: Rock, crevice and trough gardens are practical for high altitudes
Learn more online
• How to make Hypertufa troughs: http://www.botanicgardens.org/blog/how-make-simple-hypertufa-trough.
• Plant Select Design Gallery: plantselect.org/design/design-gallery.
• Plant Select demonstration gardens: plantselect.org/learn/demonstration-gardens.
Rock and miniature gardening has become extremely popular, and there are many new, fresh ideas worth trying — even if your growing area is a small one.
For high-altitude gardeners, in particular, one of the most recent creative and adaptable techniques for mountain gardening comes from the Czech Republic. The new technique, called crevice gardening, is a form of rock gardening that is equally adaptable to large or small spaces, and this versatility makes it doable by almost any gardener.
GROWING IN SMALL SPACES
Instead of placing rocks in mounds of soil, flat stones such as pieces of flagstone are pushed down into the soil vertically. Crevice gardens derive their unique character because planting is done in the narrow channels between the stones. These slender channels flanked by rocks provide a unique microclimate, allowing gardeners to succeed with higher alpine plants that might normally be too difficult to grow. If you enjoy rock gardening, you might enjoy this technique of turning stones on edge and filling tiny spaces with your favorite plants.
Another trend that applies to small spaces is trough gardens. Denver Botanic Gardens has showcased and sold these gardens and, for serious do-it-yourselfers, even has the recipe and instructions for how to build your own custom hypertufa troughs. They are made of peat moss, perlite, Portland cement and synthetic concrete reinforcing fibers and can be dyed in the making to your own color choice.
Because these troughs are cold hardy and lightweight, they offer a practical and unique form of container gardening. Fill them with a well-drained soil mix, rocks for decoration and small plants of varying shapes, colors and textures and top with a small gravel mulch.
FIND THE RIGHT PLANTS
If you need inspiration for suitable plants, explore the design gallery provided online by Plant Select. You will see stunning photos of gardens from around the region, all captioned with detailed information on combining colors, best conditions, seasonal displays, maintenance tips and plant pairings. Garden styles range from traditional to rock gardens, with many between. Also note Plant Select Petites because they adapt well to the small spaces of crevice and trough gardens.
FIND IDEAS CLOSE TO HOME
For more local and live inspiration, tour the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail, Sue Cruth Memorial Garden in Frisco and the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. These are successful Plant Select gardens where visitors can view plants growing at elevation.
In addition to these gardens, Plant Select offers an abundance of public gardens statewide, showcasing designs filled with plants and ideas that can be used in home landscapes. Each garden has committed to providing education about local gardening to visitors, and all offer unique features. If you travel throughout the state this summer, it would be worth adding these gardens to your must-see list of places to visit.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.