Perennials: for the rock garden
With the dramatic backdrop of the Rockies, gardeners can hardly be blamed for wanting to include rocks and other natural features in their gardens. Once you've artistically placed a few rocks, you may wonder how best to arrange plants to achieve the look you want.
The plants you choose depend largely on the soil, watering regime, and effect you wish to create. In a very sunny, dry spot, concentrate on native plants, succulents, drought-tolerant plants and heat-tolerant annuals. Hardy ice plants, sedums, and hens and chicks are good, low-maintenance ground covers that provide year-round color in sunny, dry locations. To add visual interest and contrast, while maintaining a natural feel, consider a few native plants such as penstemon, buckwheat or prickly pear cactus.
If your site is shady or in an area that's the source of regular irrigation, a more traditional alpine garden may be appropriate. Attractive, compact perennials from the world's high mountains, such as rock cress, rock jasmine, saxifrage and basket-of-gold can create a spectacular show in the spring months. The rest of the year, their foliage creates a pretty tapestry effect. With the judicious selection of summer- and fall-blooming plants, your rock garden can be a showy feature in the summer and fall, but it will take some research and hard work on your part.
Finally, if you plant perennials among rocks in the shade, you can achieve wonderfully natural effects. By combining ferns, hostas, bleeding hearts, various lilies and columbines, you can bring the serenity of a mountain dale right to your home!
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
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Updated Tuesday, November 19, 2013