Hello fellow readers,
One of the joys of doing what I do as a Landscape Designer is working with special folks with special properties, many with garden dilemmas that I see as opportunities, like James of Sparta, NJ, who lives on a mound of massive moss rocks. The foundation literally sits atop monster boulders. And his home beautifully complements the natural surroundings with a sleek metal roof, creamy white trim, and an earthy green façade.
When I first saw the setting, I declared my envy of his moss rock. Moss, a bryophyte, is the oldest land plant—on our earth for over 400 million years! And I’m drawn to boulders, especially massive ones, which may have something to do with my last name (smile). Not to mention stone is the only thing in Sparta that is deer-proof.
The gardens were covered in landscape fabric, inhibiting moisture from penetrating soil and encouraging shallow roots. And, due to the breakdown of mulch and debris, it does not prevent weeds. While removing the fabric, we assessed root space for planting pockets.
Alpine gardens frequently have gravel beds amongst hefty stones. I envisioned James’ alpine garden with swaths of plants to create visual movement cascading down the front boulders into a pool of a lawn alternative below. An alpine garden mimics what we see in high elevations and comprises plants that can handle poor shallow soil, often sandy, but with good drainage.
While I would hope Bambi would have a tough time maneuvering to munch my proposed garden amongst the art of nature, I will stick with deer-resistant plants such as sun-loving Snow in Summer (Cerastium) with puffs of white flowers, Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpeting rocks in brilliant pinks and purples in spring, and Hens-and-Chicks (Sempervivum) that come in many shapes and sizes and adorably tuck in nooks and crannies as do Stonecrop (Sedum).
There’s the tiny maroon and green beauty Sedum serpentini and Sedum sexangulare, which turns copper in intense sun and has bright yellow flowers in late spring. And, of course, Creeping Thyme, specifically Thymus praecox’ Coccineus,’ will have a place in the tapestry of foliage. I’ll include some ornamental grasses for texture and interest, such as the ambitious Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) with pops of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides).
For the shadier spots, there’s Deadnettle, Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter,’ one of my favs, and many unusual varieties of Bugleweed such as Ajuga’ Chocolate Chip,’ which can also take the sun.
James built a water feature way back when that meandered through the boulder formations with an inuksuk straddling the crevice of a narrow ribbon of water. An inuksuk, he taught me, is an artful stack of rocks in the form of a person, such as those I’ve seen on hiking trails. We’re adding a permanent water feature with a 300-gallon reservoir to increase the water flow and drama of his great idea. Mother Nature intensified! Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com and your favorite Podcast App.