New to forum - not sure if I can fit in

cheerpeopleJanuary 19, 2006

I'm in zone 5a Illinois. I've read the fact page and even went to the NARG's site. I'm not new to GW but haven't been sure if my geographic location can be considered rock garden country! I see others here for IA and IL so I'm confused.

Is it possible to have a rock garden here without seriously altering the soil composition?

I'd say our farm that grows corn is loamy clay and doesn't have much sand, gravel, decomposed granite... like seattle or CA. I'd say our Ph is not acid. There are no mountains, or elevation to speak of. Boulders don't exist here. Snow cover is intermittent and freeze thaw occurs on the top layer of soil for 3 months of winter

I do decorate with rocks and like the look. I'm not going to buy them tho.

The idea of a rock garden appeals to me if it means success with plants that don't have to be watered over the long droughty summers. It however doesn't appeal to me if I have to ammend the place with sand! Our rainfall is heavy in the spring and crownrot is a problem. Plants that can't take wet winters and spring don't come back. So I'm not sure "rock garden" plants are a good fit here but you decide and LMK!

These are plants in my garden which are successful with the soil as it. They are also listed on the NARG's site.

Perhaps these are successful not because they are rockgarden plants but becasue they tolerate wetness better then most rock garden plants?


native columbine


allium 'ozawas'

alyssum sax. compactum

euphorbia myrs.

various campanula

aster- not sure if alpine type (has no name)

iris retic.

silene (annual here)

sedum, sempervens

Possible rock garden plants that have died due to moisture retention in the soil ( I think)include

creeping veronica


gaillardia (often)

I'm so confused. Maybe a better fit for me would be a"drought tolerant/ wet feet tolerant" forum?


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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

To be honest, I joined the NARGS for the seed exchange. I have all kinds of microenvironments in my garden, ranging from woodland and pond to rocky desert. Very little of it was intentional--it's just the result of my crazy climate and the various buildings, trees, streets and irrigation ponds surrounding my house/garden. In that sense, I wouldn't call myself a "rock gardener", but just a hard-core plantoholic. I do use a lot of "rock garden plants" in my garden because I like the plants.

If you read the NARGS journal, you will find that there are all kinds of "rock gardens", ranging from trillium-dotted woodlands to bog gardens to traditional alpine rock gardens to himalayan peat gardens to southwest desert gardens, and I can't imagine anyone not finding *something* of interest in the NARGS journal. I invariably find at least three plants that end up on my "must have" list in every issue.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 1:41PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Welcome Karen!

If we are talking about rock(alpine) gardens in the purist sense, then yes, you must amend your soil for perfect drainage. But there are many, many alpine plants and knock-offs that are widely adapted and can do fine in your soils. Most like neutral to high pH. You would need to restrict your choices to those that tolerate your conditions. The plants you listed are typical in many rock gardens.

People have different definitions of rock gardening. While mine tends toward the purist view, there is room here for nearly everyone here. Most rock plants are small or tiny, 1.5ft to .5 inches. If the aster you listed grew 3ft, well, definitely not a rock plant.

As for you not being geographically well located, that's a major reason for the NARGS's existence: to teach how to grow in areas not particularly conducive to alpines. You're in good company here.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 3:42PM
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sagebrushred(zone 5)

The more the marrier I always say. Welcome!
I'm not sure what else I can add to what the other two have said other than it's all about finding your niche. Rock gardening has become a rather broad term in the sense of what one might consider rock gardening. I've even read in books where it's been stated that you can have a rock garden without rocks. There are as many styles of a rock garden as there are gardeners to create them. As Leftwood states, the similar theme is the typically smaller size of the plants.

I thinks it's all about finding plants that you love and that are suited to your location. That's why I grow things like Astragalus,Penstemon and cactus. They like the conditions I already have. I'm sure that as I gain more experience and knowledge I'll expand into plants that need a bit more fussing over. Or maybe I'll wait till I retire in about 30 or so years.

NARGS was also one of the only places I could find information on several of the plants I was interested in. Their quarterly journals are chock full of information on an almost unimaginable array of plants and how to propogate and grow them successfully, no matter where you live.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 6:52PM
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Sounds like NARG's has a strong following and for good reason. I'll have to scroll around and see what I can learn.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 6:43AM
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MarkG_UK(UK - Zone 8)

Hi, in in Zone 8 in the UK. I'm a member of our NARGS equivalent, the AGS. On their bulletin they list what they cover..over the years I've seen this now reads "international society for alpine and rock garden plants, small hardy herbaceous plants, hardy and half hardy bulbs, hardy ferns and small shrubs"! So, yes, I think if anything there is of interest to you, then this forum is for you.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 10:40AM
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