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Rock and water

Richard Wilford
20 June 2013
Blog team: 
Rock gardens provide a variety of habitats, not just rocky slopes and cliffs. Many rock gardens have a stream or waterfall and Kew's Rock Garden, with its pools, streams and seven waterfalls, is no exception. The conditions are perfect for a range of moisture-loving plants.

Streamside plants

The photo below shows part of the Asian section of Kew’s Rock Garden.

Kew's Rock Garden

A stream and waterfall in the Asian Section of Kew's Rock Garden 

The orange flowers belong to Primula bulleyana, a Chinese primrose named after Arthur Kilpin Bulley, who set up Ness Gardens in Liverpool and the seed firm Bees Ltd at the beginning of the 20th century. He employed collectors, such as George Forrest, to find new plants and send back seeds. Forrest found this primula in north-west Yunnan in 1904. It first flowered in cultivation in 1909. 

Primula bulleyana

Primula bulleyana 

The plumes of creamy-white flowers below, are those of Rodgersia podophylla, an herbaceous perennial from Japan and Korea. The leaves are attractive on their own, reaching over 30cm wide and divided into 5 or 6 deeply veined leaflets. 

Rodgersia podophylla

Rodgersia podophylla 

Many irises do well in damp soil including the Siberian irises, such as Iris sibirica and I. sanguinea. Iris chrysographes has flowers in shades of deep velvety purple, with delicate golden yellow lines on the lower petals. 

Iris chrysographes

Iris chrysographes 

A word of warning!

The huge leaves on the left of the first photo belong to Lysichiton camtschatcense, an Asian version of the American skunk cabbage, L. americanum. The white spathes appear in early spring near ground level but the leaves soon follow and they are massive. This is worth remembering if you intend to plant this next to your garden pond! The other plants mentioned here do not need such boggy ground to grow in. They do best in moist soil and can also be grown in the lightly dappled shade of a woodland garden.

Lysichiton camtschatcensis

Lysichiton camtschatcense 

Wild water

The waterfalls and streams on a rock garden replicate the conditions found in the wild, where melt water from glaciers and high altitude snow fields rushes down the mountainsides, dropping into steep-sided valleys and forming raging torrents through rocky meadows and woodland. Here you can find plants that grow in permanently moist soil. The water features in a rock garden mimic this habitat.


A river in the Pyrenees

A river in the Pyrenees, near Pont D'Espagne 

- Richard -


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21 June 2013
Thank you for this! I'm planning a rock garden in a wetter part of my property and this information has come at a very apropos time!

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