The Rock Garden, established in 1983, traces its origin to the late Marjorie and George Walsh of Daystar Nursery who fulfilled a long standing interest by the Arboretum to have a collection of plants frequently associated with harsher environments and poor soils. Many of the original plants came from the Walsh’s personal collection. The New England chapter of the American Rock Garden Society provided guidance in the early stages and the Master Gardner graduates now care for the collections needs.
This collection demonstrates the diversity, beauty, hardiness and utility of plant species that have evolved and adapted to tolerate thin mineral soils, periods of prolonged dryness, and direct sun light. Nearly 50 species representing some 20 families are represented here.
Virtually every season presents something interesting to observe at the Rock Garden. Soon after the snow melts flowers begin appearing. Extremely early flowering is an adaptation to set seed in an environment where the growing season is short such as on mountain tops. You will also notice brightly colored and abundant flowers, designed to attract pollinators where conditions such as high winds or even clouds might make it difficult for pollinators to locate the flowers. Many flowers found here are very aromatic, another way to attract pollinators and something that human visitors notice and appreciate. Succulent leaves, thick and often filled with lots of water, provide a reservoir of water for a plant that grows in an environment where water availability can be unpredictable. Wax coated, small and tough leaves prevent water from being evaporated away where high and cold winds are the norm such as on mountain tops or windswept plains. Many plants adapted to dry and windy conditions hug the ground to prevent from being uprooted, damaged by winter ice, presenting too much foliage that loses moisture, or to be difficult to feed on by small rodents.
Of all the collections here at the Arboretum, the Rock Garden tends to draw visitors seeking quiet and a pleasing landscape of plants and flowers to view. Each plant and the various and distinct characteristics observed here combine beauty with form and invite you to unravel a story of thousands of years fitting into some of the worlds extreme habitats of mountain summits, bold cliff faces and windswept plains where making a living is a constant challenge.