Despite forgetting our meeting was booked on the same evening as the Whitaker Jazz Festival, ten of us managed to get in through the throngs of music lovers, and enjoy a tour of the Heckman Rock Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden with curator Michelle Gray.
Michelle has done a great job with the rock garden. Her enthusiasm was evident as she showed us special additions and shared her plans for the future. She was kind enough to provide the notes for this article.
The first beds were created in the 1970's by a volunteer highschool group. In the 1980's, the south beds were created and the Dwarf Conifer Garden was added. The plantings consisted of perennials, conifers, deciduous shrubs and bulbs. In the 1990's, the beds that exist today were installed. The soil was amended with equal parts sand, gravel and organic matter.
Traditional rock gardens exhibit alpine plants, but Missouri's climate is not ideal for the typical alpine species. Therefore the rock garden's goal is to exhibit a wider range of plants including bulbs, perennials and shrubs that are from a dry, rocky, alkaline environment.
The current collections include: Missouri natives--Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), pink poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrate), False aloe, (Manfreda virginica), Lead plant (Amorpha canescens); Wild collected and endangered plants--Cicerbita prenanthoides, Scabiosa georgica, Lychnis fulgens; Bulbs--species tulips, dwarf bearded iris, and miniature daffodils, many of which would not be perennial if planted in typical garden soil.
New this year: Echinacea 'Tiki-Torch', a great cultivar; Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard', a cultivar very cold hardy which keeps its variegation well; Dianthus simulans, an unusual rock garden specimen very compact that mimics moss; Dappled Willow, with a great growth habit and wonderful color variation in leaf.
The goal in the future is to increase the collection, adding more alpines, natives and xerophytic plants, and to continue testing alpines to find successful varieties. Seeds are being propagated from the Alpine Society of North America--Alpine sea holly, Jacob's ladder, Alpine snow bell, King's spear, primula species, etc. Also to be added will be cold hardy cacti and succulent species--multiple varieties of Opuntia, Cylindropuntia, Echinocereus, and African succulents such as Delosperma and Ruschia species. More Missouri natives will be grown--Coreopsis tintoria, Verbena canadensis, Guara longiflora and other Missouri glade plants. Finally the bulb collections will include bulbs which thrive in dry, rocky conditions.
After the tour, we gathered inside for the business portion of our meeting.
Our next event is a tour of the gardens at Friendship Village, arranged by Maggie Talbott. Please be sure to call her with your plans to attend at 636-733-0271 before July 1. The curators of each garden will be on hand to chat with and answer questions. Friendship Village is at 15201 Olive Blvd in Chesterfield, about 1.1 miles north of I-40.