Natural Rock Gardens in the Great Lakes Region

Sat, 2018-12-08 13:13 -- gsparrow
8 Dec
Tony Reznicek
Large boulder of Mackinac breccia on the Lake Michigan shore with Mackinac Bridge in the background

Rock gardening is all about – well, rocks and plants – and the largest concentrations of exposed rock are mountains. So as rock gardeners, we naturally love our mountain ranges and the plants that occur there. But in Michigan and the Great Lakes region, our mountains are humble. Though they were spectacular a billion years ago in the Precambrian, they are long retired, ancient ground-down nubbins, at most a little more than 2000 feet high. While these do have some fine scenery and plants, they are mostly all forested and other areas of exposed rock, lower, and more recent in origin, offer much more in the way of plants interesting to rock gardeners. The exposures are rock outcrops, mostly limestone, open or shaded, plus the present-day and fossil shores of the Great Lakes. These natural rock gardens, along with other open habitats like our dunes and beaches, do not have communities of alpine plants but they do have a selection of exciting and often-overlooked plants suitable for rock gardens, as well as beautiful plant assemblages for design inspiration. Note that, these plants are generally much more tractable in a lowland garden setting than most true alpines, and some perform admirably as “backbone” plants for our rock gardens.


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