Evergreens and Shrubs for the Rock Garden Background

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Evergreens and shrubs used for forming the background or setting for the garden are not subject to the restrictions for the actual rock garden, particularly as regards height.

Nevertheless the transition from the small scale on which the rock garden is planned to taller trees in the background should not be made too suddenly; and whatever is to be visible from the interior of the rock garden should be in keeping as to character.

The graceful drooping fronds of a hemlock, or the irregularly spreading branches of a pine, will give no sense of jarring contrast, such as would be inevitable in the use of trees symmetrically columnar or pyramidal in habit, or of the blue or yellow or golden forms which are so patently the result of the horticulturist's art.

It is quite as impossible to give any definite directions for the placing of trees and shrubs to be used within the rock garden as it would be to pen a few paragraphs informing the reader how to paint a picture.

Even the builder of the rock garden himself cannot tell in advance where these plants will go; he must feel his way as the work progresses, putting them here and there in imagination, and frequently placing and replacing the plants themselves, before actually planting, until he is fairly satisfied that they are located where they will give the effect desired, or as near it as can be obtained.

The best time for placing evergreens and shrubs in the construction of the rock garden is after the outlines of the rock work have been pretty well completed, with the largest stones and the most prominent stone groups in place, but before the finishing touches and any patio fountains are added.

This is advantageous both as to the mechanical details of planting, and also in the design or arrangement of the garden, as the trees are more likely to look as though they really belonged with the rocks, and not merely stuck in as an afterthought.

In habit of growth, most of the dwarf trees and shrubs belong to one of three general types: the upright growing, true dwarf tree form, such, for instance, as the Dwarf Alberta spruce or Dwarf Irish Juniper; those of dwarf shrubby or bushy growth, such as Dwarf Japanese Yew, Dwarf Mugho Pine, or Spreading Cotoneaster (C. divaricata); and those of procumbent or creeping habit, such as the Gray Carpet Juniper (sabina tamariscifolia) and the Rock Contoneaster (G. horizontalis).

As a general rule, the dwarf-tree forms are most effective when planted on the lower levels of the rock garden amongst the large water features, or directly against the bases of the large rocks which rise above them; the shrub-like forms against or among large rocks, perhaps a bit higher up where they may find a suitable background in the stones about them, or, if of drooping habit, may fall gracefully over the stone surfaces; and those of creeping or horizontal habit of growth, where they may form a mantle either against the base of the rock surfaces, or by trailing down about them from above.

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Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in home improvement, landscaping, and enjoys collecting large water features. For a great selection of patio fountains, please visit www.garden-fountains.com/

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