Gardening Magazine

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

By Kate_miller
It's been a flattering summer. I've received a whole bunch of requests, from flower lovers, wanting to hire me to design their gardens. Wow. I'm always shocked when I get one of these notes. [Because I've got way more passion than talent when it comes to such things.] And, I really don't want to turn gardening into a job. However! Last week, I heard from a Colorado couple looking for ideas on a newly created Rock Wall Garden. Hey! I've got one of those. AND, it's high in the Rocky Mountains, just like mine. Easy peasy.
It's prompted me to get in gear and do something I've been threatening to do for quite some time ~ spell out the big, long list. The low down on flowering perennials. Because they all flower at different times of the year. This bunch should provide a garden filled with riotous color from early spring right up until the snow flies.
This one's for you, Jerry. Thanks for the note. :)

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

Clockwise from top: Allium, Fritallaria, Daffodils, Chinodoxia, Crocus

 First off, consider planting a ‘double footprint.’ By that, I mean squeeze as many flower bulbs as you can into your perennial garden. You'll be delighted with the early spring color. Mountain flower gardens are very slow starters, so this is a great way to perk up the dead surroundings in early spring.
Bulbs bloom at different times. Tulips are delightful, but they’re also quite tasty. Deer, Elk, Moose, and most critters will ignore the bulbs on this list:
  • Earliest bloomers in your garden will be: Chinodoxia, Scilla, and Crocus. 
  • Followed by naturalizing Daffodils and Grape Hyacinth. 
  • Latest blooming bulbs will be the Allium and Fritallaria.

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

Speedwells, Ornamental Oregano, Wild 4 O'Clocks and yellow Allysum

Consider 'Draping Perennials' that will cascade down the front of your rock wall:
  • I'm a big fan of Allysum Basket of Gold because it blooms very early, often at the same time as spring bulbs.
  • Yellow Sulfur Flowers and Prairie Zinnias continue a long season of yellow color draping over rock walls, after Allysum has finished flowering. 
  • If you're not partial to yellow, consider Blue Wooly Speedwell or Thyme Leaf Speedwell ~ prolific purple and blue ground covers that drape nicely over walls.
  • In summer, Cascading Ornamental Oregano adds a gorgeous touch. One of my all time faves. Paired with bright fuschia Wild 4 O’Clocks, this is a real show stopper.

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

Penstamon, Pasque, Jupiter's Beard, Perky Sue, Perennial Geraniums, Salvia, Columbine.

Long-blooming summer perennials:
Plant these upright perennials behind the flowers that cascade over the rock wall. Bloom times depend upon weather and altitude. At my altitude, which is 7,000 feet, these burst into bloom in June: Salvia, Catmint, Jupiter's Beard, Thrift-leaf Perky Sue, Rozanne Hardy Geranium, Columbines. Pasque and Penstamons are great additions to this mix though their flower time is much shorter.

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

Agastache: a magnet for little hummingbirds

* We have the great fortune of plentiful hummingbirds in Colorado and Utah. Do these little guys a favor by planting a drift of Agastache. This is a tall perennial, for the back of your rock wall garden. Hummingbird Mints are available in a rainbow of bright, bold colors, with delicate flowers that wave in the breeze.

The Rock Wall Aspen Garden

Blue: Lavender and Russian Sage, Pink and Red Yarrow, Black Eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Coneflowers.

Mid to late summer perennials pick up the slack as our season begins to wind down:
Coreopsis, Blanket Flower, Yarrow, Coneflowers, Rudbeckia Black-Eyed Susan, Lavender, blue Russian Sage, paired with bright yellow Solidago.
* This, of course, barely touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fanciful flowers for a mountain garden. These are the mainstays at my home because they're tough, drought tolerant, long, long bloomers, deer resistant and... gorgeous!
Happy Gardening.
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