Rock Gardening - Reimagining a Classic Style
by Timber Press
January 22, 2017

Our endlessly creative Victorian forebears were on to something. No, not photography, concrete, bicycles, or the electric light bulb (although they did in fact invent all of those). I’m thinking of rock gardening. With the zeal of the truly obsessed, Victorian plant explorers risked life and limb to scour the world’s mountain ranges for choice campanulas, penstemons, saxifrages, and countless other genera—diminutive gems that engendered fits of plant-lust in gardeners back home. It was a time when even the humblest garden had its “rockery” for the display of the newest botanical treasures.

What fueled this passion? Mainly, the plants themselves. Because of the wind and cold they have to endure, rock-garden plants tend to grow in low, tight rosettes, making for a pleasing symmetry. Often their foliage is an attractive gray, a protection against harsh sunlight. And because pollinators are scarce at high altitudes, alpine plants compensate by producing relatively huge, brilliantly colored flowers. Bees love them, and so do gardeners. Best of all, you can have dozens of rock garden plants in the space occupied by a single rose bush. (Not that there’s anything wrong with roses.)

So maybe it’s time to take another look at rock gardens and see how they can fit into our 21st-century yards. You’ll find no better guide to this fascinating world than Joseph Tyconievich. In his new book, Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style, Joseph showcases ten outstanding rock gardens, tells you everything you need to know about creating and maintaining a rock garden, and profiles 20 genera that contain some of the most beautiful and easy-to-grow alpine plants. With wit, humor, and erudition, Joseph shows us how easy it is to have a plant-rich garden that makes far fewer demands on time and resources than a traditional perennial border.

Give it a try. My guess is that once you’ve grown a dwarf campanula covered with amethyst-purple bells, or a glowing pink primula, or a sapphire-blue alpine gentian, you’ll be hooked for life. To borrow E. F. Schumacher’s title, small is beautiful.

Review from Tom Fischer, Timber Press...

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