Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gravel garden at the Olbrich

Jeff Epping, director of horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, said the gardens  established a gravel garden along with a rain garden just west of the herb garden in 2010 as part of an effort in to include components of sustainability.  Gravel gardens were pioneered in Germany and developed in the U.S. by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington. The gardens, once established, will need very few resources: no weeding, no watering, and no fertilizing. Diblik helped build the Olbrich gravel garden, topping off existing soil with four to five inches of washed quartzite gravel which doesn't break down quickly like limestone does, preventing weed seed germination.

 Epping said it was key to choose drought-resistant plants, and space them closer.  "You want them to mass up and grow together to create a solid plant bed," said Epping of the process that will take about three years.  The only maintenance is to keep organic matter from building up in the garden. Plants Epping and Diblik chose for this garden include the grasses prairie dropseed and purple love grass, Tennessee coneflower, goldenrod and bee balm.'

We discovered that elusive monarch we
had sighted in the herb garden had preceded
us to the gravel garden displaying native plants.
The monarch was discovered resting on Culver's root.
Despite the abundance of nectar plants, we spotted only this
one lone monarch during our stroll through the gardens,
not very encouraging for those of us hoping to help prevent
continued declines in their numbers due to loss of preferred

Adirondack chairs provide a welcoming spot to rest and
observe the activity of busy pollinators in the garden of
native plants.

This is a photo of the gravel garden when I visited the gardens on a Master Garener bus trip last summer. earlier in the seasonwith grasses playing a more prominent role.

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