The lawn art (with early flowering bulbs) project was a success. Last fall I planted a number of very early blooming bulbs in a sunny turf area, specifically dwarf iris (Iris reticulata), squill (Scilla sp.) and crocus (Crocus sp.). The iris were first to bloom in late February, followed closely by the other two species. And though the iris and crocus were readily visible even from a distance, the squill were too small and delicate to be easily detected…meaning they were easily stepped on. Bloom started to fade about a month later, just in time so as not to interfere with a first mowing. I already plan to add a few more crocus and dwarf iris in complementary colors to expand the already blue and white color palette.
Just recently I started a very small rock garden project. My inspiration was the desire to grow certain plants that require sharp drainage (mainly xeric and alpine plants), of which the jungle does not provide. The "soil" mix I decided upon consists of 9 parts coarse sand or granite grit, 5 parts compost, 4 parts pea gravel, and 1 part Turface. My goal was to create a quick draining media that still holds just enough water to get through our summer heat and humidity. Equally important was the location of the garden. It does no good to use a well-drained media if the whole thing floods during or after a rain storm, so I sited it in a relatively well drained, sunny location along the edge of my back driveway. It is known rocky soils (scree) with limited organic matter (water holding component) are usually not hospitable to soil-borne pathogens, and when alpine plants are placed in wetter soils they usually quickly succumb as a result. I speak from experience on this unfortunately. Last year I yet again trialed a few plants just using the soil media without the added decorative stones. I wanted to see if they would survive a winter before taking the next step. This was a relatively wet and cold winter, so it was a good test. Let's just say I had reason for a happy dance. For the first time after several attempts, I claimed success with a Daphne species, two Echium species, an Eryngium species (Sea Holly) and a Saxifraga species (Rockfoil). High on my success, I started laying out decorative stones this spring for added visual appeal. The toughest part of this project is mixing the soil media. Apart from the Turface, every component of this mix is heavy, and if the bags are wet from being outside, then even more so. I find this mix is too heavy for me to easily and adequately mix in a wheel barrow. I instead use a heavy duty fabric drop cloth, the kind you use when painting. I just spread out the cloth close to my project and start measuring and dumping ingredients on top of the cloth. I mix with a square-ended shovel after each ingredients is added, and I find it best to add the pea gravel last (the picture to the left was taken just to demonstrates the relative components). I think I have one more load to mix in order to finish off the base. If all goes well, some small boulders may be in my future. It's still in the early stages, but I have high hopes for this new avenue for plant collecting.