I'm so confused

(Zone 5b)

Ok, first I thought rock-gardening was different than Alpine gardening, then I found out the difference was in the types of plants grown. There are cactus/succulent rock gardens and Alpine gardens ?

Is that right? And what types of plants are considered Alpine plants?

Sebastopol, CA(Zone 9a)

Stefan Buczacki says right in the beginning of his book, "Best Rock Garden Plants," that there is no difference between rock garden plants and alpines: "The terms are interchangeable." I'm not sure I agree completely, but he's the expert and I'm not.

If Todd sees your question in this thread, he 'll give you a much better overview and general definition, but I can tell you that there are alpine perennials for sun and alpine plants for shade, and you certainly can grow cactus/succulent plants in the same rock garden as the alpine plants that need full sun and the same dry and lean soil mixture as the cactus and succulents need. In fact, the two different types of plants look really good in a rock garden together.


St. John's, NL(Zone 5b)

In a broad sense, a rock garden first and foremost should be a garden on rock, NOT rocks on a garden. You are trying to re-create an exposed, alpine mountain area above the tree-line. There, there would be plenty of exposed rocks with small plants tucked here and there among them. Too many people throw a few rocks on their flower beds and call it a rock garden (and I'm guilty of that too!). Once you have created the 'rock' garden, you can plant whatever you want, as long as it is low stature...plants in alpine areas are seldom over a foot tall. You don't want to hide the rocks as thats the whole idea of a rock garden. So no matter where you live, you can create a rock garden using 'rock garden' plants....I've seen lovely rock gardens in Arizona that were mostly planted with cacti and succulents.

Alpine plants are truly from alpine areas...they grow above the treeline and generally form a low mat or dome of foliage. Most bloom early in the season to take advantage of the short growing season in the mountains. Some rock gardeners are purists and will only grow bonified alpine plants....personally I grow a mix of low plants in mine. As an example, I grow Iris setosa ssp. canadensis...its a low (8") iris native to seashore areas of northeast Canada. Not an alpine at all, but still looks good and is appropriate for a rock garden. On the other hand, I also have Loiseleuria procumbens, a plant that never grows below the tree-line and is a true alpine.

I hope that clarifies things Cheryl.

(Zone 5b)

I hoping to start with cacti and succulents - things I'm more familiar with (a little at least). And both your explanations are very helpful - thank you!

Sebastopol, CA(Zone 9a)

That's a good idea, Cheryl. You can always branch out gradually if you want to. There are some plants that will grow really well for you in the same kind of soil that cactus needs. I have a little gravel bed where I grow sempervivum and other types of succulents, but I also stuck in some Arenaria montana, Pulsatilla "Red Clock," Lithodora "Grace Ward," Armeria maritima, and Helianthemum "Raspberry Ripple" for extra color and texture. All of those will grow in a sunny gravel bed with a little bit of soil added.

There's also a lot of Godetia in that bed, but there's a lot of godetia everywhere in my garden. I planted one annual pink godetia plant a few years ago and now I have godetia of every color growing everywhere. Can't complain because it really looks gorgeous in June and July. Besides, it's easy to pull out if it's in the way of anything spectacular I want to see.

Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi there Cheryl~
I had the exact same confusion about 3 years ago when I saw a "Rock Garden" and an Alpine house on a trip to see family on the East Coast. Well, right then and there I decided to have a "Rock Garden" in my back yard....and then the confusion set in. I went to the library and checked out books...helped some. Paid $20 to join a Rock Gardening Society so I could get the Journals, and hopefully meet some fols that already knew what to do...helped more. Then I found a couple good nurseries that sell these plants, got a good Rock garden plant encyclopedia and studied them both alot...I was hooked by this time...LOL :) The next spring I started planting in containers, the following year, built a raised bed with a good, lean lightning-fast draining mix of several things, and "threw a few rocks on it" as Todd would say...LOL :o) and am still planting that, and this fall I will actually build a Rock Garden to be planted next spring....now that I am buying this house i will invest in a real one...before it had to be portable if neccasary because none of these cherished plants are staying if I leave...LOL

Enough for now...please keep us posted on your new venture...I love to see what others are doing...we all learn from each-other! Here are a few pics of my raised bed of Rock garden and alpine plants...:o)

Thumbnail by jamie68
Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

...one of my favorite plants are the Lewisia's...this one bloomed for the first time the other day...Lewisia 'Sunset strain'

Thumbnail by jamie68
Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

...a different Lewisia...I love this plant,....oh- I love them all!! This is Lewisia 'Little Plum'...I have several and they are all a slightly different shade...and very easy to grow - compared to some of the Lewisias......

Thumbnail by jamie68
Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

...and a pic of the whole bed....with many more treasures coming to go in it...:)

Have a Great Gardening Day!!
Jamie

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Sebastopol, CA(Zone 9a)

Jamie, I love, love, love your plants. They're so healthy. What's the gorgeous blue flower behind the Sunset Lewisia? The leaves look like aquilegia and the flower looks like corydalis. Is it one of those or something completely different?

I saw in Watchdog that you ordered something from Big Dipper about a week ago. I'm so glad. That's one of my favorite nurseries. I hope you got some of their hose-in-hose primulas. The ones they sent me (red-laced and maroon-laced) were so big I had to put them in 2-gallon cans. Their roses are really nice too. Deidre sent me an e-mail to tell me they're getting that Lithodora "Star" I've been looking for all year. If the rain ever stops, it should be ready to ship on 4/25. I'm so excited.

Hirt's Greenhouse & Flowers has a few rock garden plants at rock-bottom prices: Arenaria, Erinus, Saponaria, and Saxifraga--all in 2-packs for $4.99. Don't buy any yet. I'm getting mine next week and I'll let you know if they're worth the price. They call their saxifraga an oppositifolia, and it looks like one in the picture, but it's listed as Saxifraga oppositifolia "Purple Robe" and that sounds more like an arendsii to me. Oh, well. The "Purple Robe" arendsii is really pretty too, so I guess it won't matter if they're wrong.

Did you get your stuff from Wrightman yet?

Okay, I have to get back to the Mineo book. I love it. I'm totally engrossed. I just came up for air for a couple of minutes to catch up on things in Dave's Garden. It's funny to see how many things in his book are growing all over my garden with no special care at all. I never even thought of them as rock garden plants. That Zaluzianskya on the front cover, for example, will grow in any kind of soil, in the sun, in the shade, maybe even in a pond. Annie's Annuals sells it and it's something you only have to buy once. It comes back reliably every year, three times as big, and you can just keep dividing it until you have 30 of them.

(Zone 5b)

Wow Jamie, very nice - pictures are so encouraging!

Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

Zuzu & Cheryl,

I am getting my orders from Siskiyou, Wrightmans, Mont Echo and Heronswood nursery end of April, and my Arrowhead nursery order early May. We have wet, wet, wet, spring and with so many alpines and rock garden plants coming, I wanted to givethem a drier establishment period, I am dying waiting....:) Let me know about those plants from Hirt's...those prices are too good!!!

Big Dipper is awesome...I have already placed a second order....love the plants!! and Diedre is so helpful!! One whole bed is full of plants from there, and more on the way! I have the L. 'Star' on order also....isn't it amazing with that white outline??? Really pretty!

Thank-you both for the compliments for my plants, I love getting to share them with people who appreciate them! Zuzu - the plant behind L. Sunset is an Anemone nemorosa one of the newer blues...i'll find the cultivar name here soon...:)

Cheryl ~ Yes, I feel like pictures are sooo encouraging to those of us tht are learning, and I will always be learning. I can NOT wait for our Zuzu to show us all of her wonderful primroses, and all her other beauties...:o) Oh and Zuzu....I knew you would love your new book, it is still one I go to regularly!

Happy Gardening!!
Jamie

Thumbnail by jamie68
Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

I took this tonight....thought it looked cool...I shot it from down at the plants level....

Thumbnail by jamie68
Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

And my Lewisias have really hit thier stride this year....It just keeps putting out new buds and blooms...:)

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Vancouver, WA(Zone 8b)

Same with L. 'Little Plum'....I think they are liking the new bed I made...LOL!!

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Sebastopol, CA(Zone 9a)

Yes, I realized after I posted that the leaves were anemone leaves. I need the name of that plant. I looove it.

Your lewisias are so huge. I have to keep mine in pots because we have so much rain in winter, so they never get very big.

One of my neighbors actually took a picture of one of my wisterias today because it's really incredible. It's taken over a great big oak tree. People drive up here all the way from Marin County to look at it every April. You can't even see the oak anymore. I wasn't home when she did it or I would have asked her to take pictures of my containers and this incredible PCH iris that just bloomed and is the most wonderful color--sort of orangey-goldish-brownish-tan color. I'll have to get her back over here. I'll post the wisteria picture too and some of my cats, even though they have nothing to do with alpines.

I have gone through the Mineo book just once and I already have a list of at least a hundred plants I must have. The only complaint I have is that the colors must be off in some of the pictures. I fell over when I saw the two oxytropis pictures because the flowers are such a gorgeous carmine color. The descriptions, though, say they are violet or purple or something that doesn't sound red at all.

Did you get any blue rhodies at Greer Gardens?

I got talked into plumerias in the plumeria forum, so I bought 10 cuttings to grow. I also got a couple of hoyas and a couple of vireyas. My solarium is going to be packed this winter. I already had about 10 hibiscus in there last winter and I bought 10 more in the hibiscus co-op. I get frantic just before Thanksgiving every year and drag all of the tropicals inside. It takes a whole day because I have clivias, orchids, tibouchinas, mandevillas, and other things that can't take the slightest bit of frost and some of them are in huge containers. The lewisias go in there too for the winter. The other alpines that don't like winter wet are going to get little roofs on their containers, either glass or lucite. I'm not sure which will be best.

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