Guest Rant by Kathleen McCoy
A few years ago the town repaved the street and put in new curbs on our dead
end block in Montclair, New Jersey. Instead of reseeding the strip
between the sidewalk and the street in my front yard with grass, I put in a rock
garden. This fit into my agenda of reducing the size of the lawn.
It would be xeriscapic, kid-friendly and beautiful.
As I pored through plant catalogues and gardening books, I envisioned a
luscious, creeping mat of thyme interspersed with blue and silver fronds of
festuca, succulents, and ice plants with pinkish-orange flowers. I
stumbled on anchusa and was smitten with its description (italics mine):
those legendary plants that you always see in pictures but seldom see offered
for sale …This rare little Borage forms tufts of bristly grayish green linear
leaves …If well grown it will reward you by covering itself with insanely
blue Eritrichium flowers. It
nearly disappeared from cultivation in recent years and we will do our best to
see that our limited stock goes first and foremost to gardeners with the
propagation skills needed to maintain it in cultivation. It must
be frequently rooted from cuttings or you will lose it to complacency.
Let us know if you think you are worthy and will promise to propagate
I told the folks at Arrowhead Alpines I was worthy.
This is a list of plants I bought from 2005 to 2008 for the rock garden:
- Liatris aspera
- Dracocephalum grandifolum
- *Anchusa caepitosa
- Santolina 'morning mist'
- Gazania krebsiana 'tanager'
- Delosperma 'Kelaidis'
- Edraianthus graminifolius
- Eryngium amethystimun 'Sapphire blue'
- Festuca gautieri 'Hobbit'
- Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue'
Early summer each year I would find much had been lost over the winter, but
the thyme was happy and spreading. I would fill in with something different and
it would die over the winter. This year most of the thyme died out. In May I
mulched with pond gravel to improve the odds that the thyme would revive. So now
the swath looks like the parking lot of a veterinary clinic, a place for the
dogs to pee before going inside.
I figure too much moisture from snow piles and road salt killed the plants:
an overabundance of salts in soil means plants can’t manufacture a
gradient to pull water in, and plant roots desiccate.
Now I’m stuck. If I’m going to establish anything there
before the winter comes, it’s almost planting time. My mom said, “Plant grass.”
After I pay to have the rocks removed, Mother? It’s hard to plow
more money into this $1000 failed project, costs itemized below.
- plants $ 769
- masons to place stone 200
- premium vodka for me 31
Ever curious, I’ve been looking at a list of plants that
tolerate being roadside. I’m attracted to the heathers…Just a few
maybe, as a test.
Kathleen gardens in Montclair, New Jersey. Besides beautifying her own corner of New
Jersey, she is engaged in graft, patronage, nepotism, cronyism, kickbacks,
unholy alliances, organized crime, money laundering and human organ