Evergreens and Shrubs for the Rock Garden

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Dwarf evergreens and dwarf shrubs will help to produce the illusion of naturalness in the rock garden to a greater degree than any other form of plant materials, if they are used in the right way. There are very few rock gardens, indeed, regardless of their size or character, which cannot be made more attractive by the addition of some of these dwarf plants.

The most serious problem in connection with their use is indicated in the four words above�"in the right way," for these are plants quite as effective in destroying whatever naturalness there may be as in adding to it. Unless suitable types are selected and so placed that they do not look formal or artificial, it is far better to omit them entirely; and placing them where they will contribute the desired effect is no easy matter; it requires good judgment, taste, and, above all, an eye for composition.

To begin with, we must keep in mind that these plants are to be used not primarily for themselves, but to supplement the rocks in creating an environment for the rock plants. The rocks, dwarf trees, and any patio statuary form the setting of the stage, and the placing of both should be studied with the same painstaking care.

It is not necessary to stay within the limit set for the rock plants, but it is most essential to maintain rigidly our sense of proportion. Excepting in the very smallest of rock gardens, we may employ conifers towering to the sky-scraping altitude of two or occasionally three feet.

The beginner may be surprised to learn that there are a number of perfect tree-like little specimens which do not grow taller than this. Even with these giants, the greatest care must be taken not to place the largest of the rock plants in close proximity to them.

Habit of growth is equally important. There are, for instance, many of the dwarf evergreens of such perfect globose form that they look almost as though they had been turned out of a mold. While excellent in formal gardening, these are not in keeping with the rock garden. Such strictly formal things as clipped or shaped dwarf evergreens or box bushes, it hardly need be said, should never be allowed near the rock garden or any defining wall water fountains.

Some of the low-growing, spreading evergreens, as certain of the creeping junipers, while not too tall growing, are still too coarse in habit, eventually making plants which are so large in diameter, if not in height, as to look out of place.

The character of such evergreens or shrubs as may be used in the rock garden is, if anything, more important than the character of the individual rock plants. They show up more conspicuously, and are in evidence throughout the entire year.

Dwarf forms of the tall-growing coniferous evergreens, such as spruces, pines, and firs, are generally somewhat picturesque in character and will suited to rock-garden planting. Where one can visit a nursery personally, it is sometimes possible to find specimens which are "imperfect" from the nurseryman's point of view, unevenly developed, crooked, or otherwise "deformed" which are admirably suited for rock-garden planting.

These not only make most desirable subjects, but as a rule are to be had at a much lower price�if one does not appear overanxious to get them. There are rock gardens, famous for their Japanesque effect and garden water features, were planted largely with such undesirable specimens from old nurseries.

The Japanese create character and the appearance of great age by skillful training and pruning; there is no reason why the rock gardener should not experiment in this direction, but if it is a new field to him he must be prepared to make mistakes, and possibly to spoil some plants.

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

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