Monday, January 5, 2015

The Rock Garden, Part 1



Happy New Year! For my first post of 2015, I thought that I would sneak right past Old Man Winter and focus instead on late spring.


If you ever find yourself lucky enough to visit Nova Scotia in spring or summer, you must pay a visit to the Rock Garden in village of Bible Hill (near Truro, Nova Scotia).

Located at the heart of Dalhousie University's Agricultural Campus, the Rock Garden is both a place for botanical studies and a local tourist attraction.


An impressive four hundred and fifty tons of local red granite were used to create this garden. 


Covering a little more than an acre of land, the garden has, as you will see, a remarkable collection of plants. In today's post, we begin in the courtyard and stroll through the woodland.


Creeping Thyme


A close-up of the gorgeous Pink Azalea that you may have noticed in the lower
 lefthand corner of the last shot.


Originally I thought that this was Moss Phlox, Phlox subulata one of my all-time favourite spring groundcovers. But as a reader pointed out, the rounded and not moss-like. I now believe it to be Phlox stolonifera. 


Wondering what this is? 

It's a Fern Leaf Peony.  It has delicate ferny foliage, and depending on the cultivar, stands about approximately 18-24 inches tall. 

When it comes to most peonies, the flower is the star of the show and the foliage can be rather nondescript. Here the opposite is true. The foliage is the standout feature and the flower is somewhat secondary. 


The majority of the Fern Leaf Peonies I have come across have single flowers in shades of red, pink or white. If you hunt around you may find a nursery that also offers Fern Leaf Peonies with double red flowers.

Fern Leaf Peonies require full sun and will grow in most soils as long as they have been improved with some organic matter. They emerge a little later in spring than most other types of peonies. 

A fern with white Candytuft, Iberis sempervirens at its feet.

On the left you can see the pink Peony that is shown in close-up in the next photograph.

A Peony with a single pink flower.


Bugleweed, Ajuga adapts to full sun, part shade or full shade. In moist soil, Bugleweed will quickly forms a dense carpet. It spreads a little less vigorously when conditions are on the dry side. Height: 10-15 cm. If you are considering Ajuga, try looking for one of the newer cultivars that is somewhat less invasive like Ajuga genevensis. USDA Zones: 2-9


These pretty flowers are Spanish Bluebells (not to be confused with English Bluebells, which have similar bell-shaped flowers. On English Bluebells the flowers extend up one side of the stem, whereas Spanish Bluebells have flowers which whirl all the way around the stem).


Spanish Bluebells hail from the mountains and woodland areas of Europe and North Africa.  They prefer full sun to light shade. Not particular fussy, Spanish Bluebells naturalize well (to the point that they are sometimes considered a bit of a nuisance). They make a nice companion plant for Narcissus which bloom at approximately the same time. 


Japanese Woodland Primrose, Primula sieboldii


I am not sure about this plant either. Any ideas? A Geum or Heuchera perhaps? 

Update: Many thanks to Patty and Trilliam for taking a stab at identifying this plant. It has been confirmed as Tellima grandiflora or Fringeflower.



Candelabra Primrose, Primula japonica is a group of woodland plants with fresh green foliage and a crown of flowers in late spring. They prefer part shade and moist or wet clay soil that is rich in organic matter. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA Zones: 5-9



Foam Flower, Tiarella is a close cousin to Coral Bells (Heuchera). Depending on the cultivar, they have white flowers or white flowers tipped with pink that appear mid-spring. Part shade conditions and moist, rich soil is preferred. Height varies slightly according to the cultivar, but is approximately: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 4-9




At this point, the Rock Garden takes a humble bow. More of this wonderful garden up shortly.  

31 comments:

  1. The fern leaf peony is my favorite of this post - I love learning about new-to-me plants! This is a very beautiful garden.

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  2. Beautiful pictures.
    If I understood correctly, than what you named as Phlox subulata, is not. It's Phlox stolonifera, the round leaves are a dead give-away. It's similar to P. subulata but prefers more shade and moisture.
    Here's a picture link:
    http://carolynsshadegardensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/phlox-stolonifera-blue-ridge.jpg

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    1. I went back to my image and blew it up. You are right Gods Princess, it is not Phlox subulata. The leaves are round and are not moss-like as they would be for Phlox subulata. I will go back and fix my mistake.

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    2. Thank you. :) This has inspired me to purchase some Phlox stolonifera in the spring, I read that they tolerate some dry shade. Any plant that tolerates dry shade earns my "admiration". I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, especially because of the fact that we both own Shelties!!

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    3. I am always on the lookout for plants that like dry shade as well. I have a large area of dry shade at the very back of the yard.
      You have reminded me that I haven't done a dog post in ages Gods Princess. I must try to remedy that.

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  3. A very Happy New Year to you, Jennifer, and THANK YOU for sneaking past Old Man Winter, here! This is especially welcome today, when it is absolutely freezing here. It is so nice to see all of this color. I can actually feel he warmth of summer.

    Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

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  4. Hi Jennifer, I am not absolutely sure but your mystery plant may be Mitella diphylla rather than geum. Your spring post is very welcome on this cold day.

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    1. Thanks for making the suggestion Patty. The flower does look a lot like Mitella diphylla. The way the leaf presents itself on the stem is a little bit different. It is hard to tell from my photo, but the leaf shape is not quite the same. Another reader has suggested Tellima grandiflora. The plant in my photo also looks very much like Tellima grandiflora. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this plant identification.

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  5. Oh I could just stare at that creeping phlox all day long! I need to get some back into my space as it was trampled and dug up by my late dog. I love the rustic feel of this garden! And as for that ajuga....mine keeps popping back up again! One that I have to stay on top for sure! I hope that your new year is off to a great start Jennifer! All the best! Nicole xoxo

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  6. Jennifer girl Happy New Year !
    Can you believe that all the time we lived outside Truro , stationed in Debert for communications ..I did not see the gardens here ... I don't know what happened .. maybe I wasn't in full garden mode even though I did garden ... a mystery never to be solved I guess.
    You have some gorgeous pictures here ... and what a beautiful place to see.
    There were places on Vancouver Island I regret not seeing either while we were stationed there in Comox .. I guess I was meant to see just so much and that was it ? LOL
    Yes .. old man winter is firmly in place and Spring does seem an awfully long way away from us.
    I will have to sink into my collection of pictures and start planning .... haha
    Take Care !
    Joy : )

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  7. What a beautiful garden! I love the entrance gate and the thyme under the bench. Those granite troughs are magnificent.
    Happy 2015 Jennifer!

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  8. I want summer back!!!!! Lovely lovely garden! Thanks so much for the touch of summer in my very snowy day today!

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  9. I'm pretty sure your mystery plant is Tellima grandiflora, or "Fringecup". It is native to coastal B.C. and apparently is a favourite in English shade gardens. I grew many of them in my garden on Vancouver Island but I'm not yet sure if they're hardy here in my new garden in the dry Interior. It grows easily from seed (but I had to get mine from an English seed house). It's very beautiful when it blooms in spring. As the flowers age, they turn from white to pink.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion Trilliam! I am always interested to discover a new plant. I would love to try Tellima grandiflora, or "Fringecup" in my garden, but wonder if it would be too dry here as well.

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  10. A really cheerful flowery colorful springpost. I loved watching this beautiful rockgarden via your post because I don´t think I will visit this far away garden in Nova Scotia in my life. I love the candelabra Primulas and the little carpets of thyme under the grey bench.

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  11. No matter how you try to "sneak" by winter it's still here but boy is this a breath of fresh air. Loving all the gorgeous flowers and colors.

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  12. How nice to see this garden in Nova Scotia now, when the snow is everywhere and cold weather. Bluebells are wonderful simple flowers but they remind about spring that will come!

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  13. I needed this break from winter. It was a cold, icy, snowy mess here today and 30 school buses ended up in accidents. Geez..... I'm ready for spring!

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  14. How lovely to see such vibrant colour on a cold grey day! It has me looking forward to the first bluebells.xxx

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  15. Oh, what a beautiful garden. I am in the process of redoing a section of our garden because we just had a little garden cottage built. I am going to check out the possibility of some of the beautiful flowers you showed.

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  16. I am glad you went right to spring....I adore gardens with so many splashes of color and foliage that softens such exquisite stone.

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  17. Beautiful, warm pictures, Jennifer ! Happy New Year !

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  18. Wow, now if this doesn't make you yearn for spring, I don't know what would. You have me itching for daylight so I can head out and find something, ANYthing, worthy of photographing in the yard!

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  19. A beautiful garden! Thank you for the tour, and happy new year!

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  20. *Sigh* - so beautiful! :-)

    http://tinajoathome.com/

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  21. Ah! delightful images of the season ahead.

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  22. Wow ! This garden is so gorgeous ! Lovely photos ! Thanks for sharing !

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  23. I've always wanted to visit Nova Scotia - I've heard it's so beautiful! What a gorgeous garden. That Fern-leaf Peony is so interesting. I've never seen that before!

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  24. I LOVE this kind of garden! I love the beautiful rocks, the paths and greenery and all the woodland flowers. Thanks for the inspirational photos, and I look forward to more!

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  25. That is Phlox stolonifera, creeping phlox, and if it is a cultivar then it is 'Blue Ridge'. Many woodland plants in this part of the rock garden.

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  26. With the knowledge of plants, human ingenuity and use the nearby stones to the perfect garden. *** My dog does not drink water from the sea, but it came out more baths coat. Regards.

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