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Rock and Alpine Gardening: planting on top of a rock

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Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 3, 2006
9:11 PM

Post #2245761

I hope this is the right place for this post...

I am brand new to the board, and to gardening in general. Our yard is on the wild side, to say the least, but I'm working on it. One area that I'd really like to do something about is the top of this huge rock that is along the back line of our yard. It's right across from the deck, and pretty much the first thing you see when you go outside. There is very little soil on the top...weedy grass grows in the pockets and crevices on the top of the rock. In the summer, that gets to be foot high, or more, and looks terrible. I guess I can nag my husband all summer long to get out the weedwacker, but I would much prefer to see something growing up there that is low, green , and matlike...some sort of groundcover? Given that I can't exactly dig a hole and plant something the conventional way, is there anything I can get to replace the grassy weeds that would look nice?

The weeds are growing in pockets that aren't more than a couple inches deep, and come up with a simple tug. I can't strip it all off and leave it at that, since it would be a tripping hazard and slippery...I do walk that back line of the property on occasion with my small dogs. Maybe one a day I'll be up there. The total area is a strip pf about 15-20 feet by 3-4 feet. We have moss growing on the left and right sides of the yard which I sort of like (I know most people probably wouldn't care for that). I thought about trying to get the moss to replace the grass up there, but I think that one strip receives too much sun. There's a little patch of moss growing at one edge of the rock, where it starts to get shady. I was reading about Irish moss, and was wondering if that might work?

So basically, I need to know, what, if any plants grow in shallow little rocky crevices...fairly sunny, and perrenial. Sorry this is so long, and thanks. I'll try to post some pics of the area

Thumbnail by Noreaster
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Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 3, 2006
9:12 PM

Post #2245767

Here's a view from the top..

Thumbnail by Noreaster
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Tammy

Tammy
Barto, PA
(Zone 6b)

May 4, 2006
1:41 AM

Post #2246472

Its quite pretty! You could pull out all the grass and put in sedums. There are quite a few
different colors available so you could create a patchwork of color or go for something simpler
with just one or two. They'll need some soil - so if pulling out the grass takes all the soil
with you, you might have to throw something back for the sedums. But they are mighty tough.

Tam
Zuzu
Sebastopol, CA
(Zone 9a)

May 4, 2006
1:58 AM

Post #2246556

What a wonderful planting opportunity! You could do Sempervivums too, and lots of other things with shallow roots and some color for part of the year at least: lithodora, erodium, etc. There are so many things that would love growing on that rock. Tammy's right, though. Sedums are the best choice, and there are many different small sedums that need almost no root space at all. Some wildflowers are that way too. I have Malcomia and poppies growing in lots of cracks in the pavement. You could just throw the seeds at the rock and most of them would sprout.
Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 4, 2006
2:44 AM

Post #2246819

Thank you both for the input on this...that is very helpful. I do like the look of sedum quite a bit. We have a little bit of that elsewhere in the yard, but I remember purchasing it in a fairly large pot, and I was able to plant that in a deeper hole..so my question is, how do I physically get it into those shallow crevices? I'm so new to all this...I need stuff spelled out for me step by step! Do I just look for smaller sized plants to start with in little tiny containers, and smush it in there (after adding a little dirt) ? I did wonder if I should just rip all the grass out, throw some dirt back in there, and put some sort of seed down. And is sedum tough enough to withstand a little light foot traffic now and then, yet still be soft enough to not be irritating to my dog's feet? The grassy stuff that's in there now comes out with minimal effort, so I'm excited to try something.
Zuzu
Sebastopol, CA
(Zone 9a)

May 4, 2006
3:47 AM

Post #2247116

Most of the little sedums will take foot traffic and will not hurt your dog's paws. Buy them in very small containers so you won't need much dirt to plant them. Try some seeds too.

Tammy

Tammy
Barto, PA
(Zone 6b)

May 4, 2006
10:35 AM

Post #2247451

I agree with Zuzu. Try to get the low growing sedums in small containers or use seeds.
If you have them growing elsewhere, you can dig out small sections (some folliage with roots
will take faster but even just folliage running along the ground has starts of roots typically).
Push your starts into the soil in the crevice. It might help to water a few times if you get no
rain if you didn't get any roots.

Sedums are really easy to start! I just pulled bits out of a container and pushed all the stems
into my rocky hillside to root. I bet I get more than 75% success.

Take pictures when you've got it going so we can admire your progress!
Tam
Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 4, 2006
5:36 PM

Post #2248385

The kind we have growing in the other spot is the tri-color type...I bought those in two good sized containers mid last summer and planted them side by side. They look more tendril-y than I would like for that spot that they are in now. Also I noticed that they haven't spread out very much. Maybe they are still filling in as they've just started greening up in the last few weeks here. I'm not sure the tri-color stuff would show up too much planted on top of the rock...might need something that would be more of a contrast? I'd like a low, dense look for the top of the rock. I like the lime greens, pinks and dark reds...don't think I want any yellow flowers up there. I'm overwhelmed with the variety of sedum, so if anyone has a suggestion for a particular one or two off the top of their head, that would be great. I'm going to make a trip to the garden center fairly soon, and I will ask them, too. Not sure what I'll be able to find locally...I guess mail order may be an option. I have seen the tri-color and the dragon's blood stuff, though.

Also, if I can't find it in small enough containers, can I buy a larger pot and break that into pieces, or is that not a good idea?
Galanthophile
North East England
United Kingdom
(Zone 8a)

May 4, 2006
7:03 PM

Post #2248611

Hi, what an interesting planting opportunity. I'd say any plant you'd buy would probably be too big to put in one area so by all means tug the plant apart and spread it around. It should be fine and will most likely have root attached to each piece. Good luck!
Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 4, 2006
7:37 PM

Post #2248683

Ok, thanks, I'll try that. I've been looking all over the internet for sedum seed, but I'm only finding a very few varieties ...none of which interest me too much. Is there a source online with more selection that someone could steer me to?
UUallace
Cincinnati, OH

May 5, 2006
12:46 AM

Post #2249497

Ericaceae (Heath Family) do not have tap roots. Many are epiphytes. Most Vireya Rhododendrons are epis, but zone 10. You need something from the Alps, such as R. hirsutum. Heathers, such as Harrimanella or Cassiope would work. If you can keep it out of the sun Crowberry (Empetrum, USDA zone 0) would be happy. Wild Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-ideae minus) is only 4 to 6". They have small shiny leaves, plus 2 crops of berries per year. Some call them mountain cranberries. They would spread laterally.

Tammy

Tammy
Barto, PA
(Zone 6b)

May 5, 2006
1:18 AM

Post #2249575

I got a sedum mix from Thompson & Morgan but I'm not sure I've seen specific types
for sale by seed in the big guys' catalogs. Probably just see what's available at the local
nurserys...

but if you want to experiment a bit more, UUallace is suggesting some interesting options.
Noreaster
Maine
United States
(Zone 5b)

May 5, 2006
3:39 AM

Post #2250099

Well now I'm really conficted about what to do. When researching the varieties of sedum, I found them listed on pages of plants that are poisonous to dogs (though, not on the ASPCA home page) . It wouldn't be an issue with my older dog, but I've got a one year old Boston Terrier that is showing NO signs of growing out of the "taste everything in the yard phase". I think if he sees me sticking new stuff in the cracks on that rock it would be irresistable to him...I'm really disappointed because I was excited about that.

Regarding the Wild Lingonberry- I think that may be considered a native plant here...but I have visions of stepping on the berries and tracking that into the house.

Tammy

Tammy
Barto, PA
(Zone 6b)

May 5, 2006
11:11 AM

Post #2250512

Could you put some netting over the rock while the sedum settles in and while your boston terrier thinks
its something he should sample 'cause mom was just playing with it?

Tam
UUallace
Cincinnati, OH

May 5, 2006
3:16 PM

Post #2251160

The berries are tenacious. In commercial production the first crop is left on. After the second crop ripens they are pulled off with a 'blueberry rake'. Cranberries are grown in bogs, not out of necessity, but so they can severely thump the bush. The floating cranberries are then scooped off the water.
The SPCAs are private corporations, with police powers. They are in the business of recycling pets and road kill. Ingredients such as [denatured] lamb [pedominant] meal is less than 49% pets. 'Meat and bone meal' has no limit.
Poison lists are suspect. For example all green parts of the nightshade family are poisonous, with the exception of ripe tomatillos I have never heard of a dog eating a potato plant, or tobacco.
"Autumn Crocus"- Two different genera, Crocus (e.g. Crocus sativa / Saffron) is safe. Colchicum is ultra-toxic in many many ways, even if it blooms in the spring. Crocus has three stamens or "threads". Colchicum has six stamens.
Rhododendron- Labrador tea is edible. Deciduous Azaleas and some others are toxic.
Holly- One species only, Ilex paraguayensis (Yerba mate') produces theobromine as does chocolate. Chocolate is not on the list. Ilex guayusa is not toxic.

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