We’d spent 20+ years clambering over Nature’s crevice gardens, had we only known it. The natural rock formations below near our former summer home on Ile d’Orléans in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City held exactly the eroded vertical spaces that crevice gardens try to mimic. As they were also naturally photogenic, I have pictures to show you, taken long before I knew what a crevice garden was.
Now, crevice gardens appear to be a thing. While I haven’t got my hands on a copy of it, I see the new Timber Press book Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style by Joseph Tychonievich features a crevice garden right on the cover. You know what that means: Trend.
Clapping eyes on the Jardin de Crevasses in the Alpine Garden at Montreal Botanical Garden in Spring 2014, I fell in love. The Jardin was created by two Czech leaders in crevice garden design, Josef Halda in 2002 and Zdenek Zvolanek in 2004. (This links you to a Vimeo of Josef Halda building a small-scale crevice garden.)
The picture with the stone bench, leading into this post, was taken on a return visit to Montreal this September.
Click on the images below to embiggen the slideshow, which should allow you to read the description on the interpretive signage. If you want to read what crevice gardening is all about, have a look at this pretty comprehensive Digger magazine article by Danger Garden gal Loree Bohl.
Having grown columbines (Aquilegia) in amended soil in my shade garden, I confess to being a wee bit surprised at seeing these growing so lustily in gravel and full sun. But then I thought about it. The words “alpine columbine” came back to me, triggering one of those Duuuhhh! moments. Of course, alpine plants would grow in alpine conditions like this.
Those (ahem!) “short-lived” columbines are a lot tougher than I was giving them credit for. Maybe I’ve been killing them with kindness. You can do that to a plant.
The rocks and crevices in the Jardin de Crevasses have an east-west orientation. Love the way the flat paths repeat this pattern as they weave through the space, and raised edges create interesting banks for cascading plants.
Later that year, at the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, OR, I saw another version of a crevice garden, this time with succulents. The garden of John Kuzma, designed by Cistus Nursery, it smoothly integrates the crevice bed into the overall garden design. This is an approach you might consider, too.
What a thrill when back in Toronto, I spotted the crevice garden outside the Gardiner Museum of ceramic art this spring. Oh, look, it’s a crevice garden! I was able to tell my startled companions. While they didn’t quite share my glee, they kindly waited while I tried to photograph it in dimming light. As they are often kind enough to do.
I’ve learned since that the Gardiner crevice garden was created by Canadian designer Neil Turnbull, and the idea of a rock garden – especially a novel one like this – is perfectly thematic for a museum celebrating works in clay.
Crevice gardens don’t all have to be vertical. My research suggests that really anything goes. As you can see below, Nature agrees. At the bottom left, tiny ferns cling to cracks in an Irish wall – and as Canadian dry-stone expert John-Shaw Rimmington says, “A crevice garden is basically a dry stone wall laying on its side.” At the bottom right, a small front garden in Scarborough, ON, shows how simple a horizontal crevice garden can be.
I’m thinking about crevices now. Are you?
UPDATE: A reader has alerted us to the Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society‘s upcoming presentation on crevice gardens, on Feb.
12 *19*, 2017, 1 to 4 pm at the Toronto Botanical Garden. The speaker is Kenton Seth of Paintbrush Gardens in Colorado. Great stuff on his website! The ORG&HPS website says, “Non-members welcome. No admission.” Now that’s an offer you can’t refuse!