I first stumbled upon the concept of a crevice garden in 2011 when I visited John Kuzma’s garden in SW Portland. Back then I wasn’t exactly sure what I was even looking at, I did however recognize that style of planting was beneficial for drainage-loving plants, like Agaves, so I filed it away as something I wanted to know more about.
In 2012 I posted a small collection of crevice garden photos on my blog, and mentioned “Ideas are percolating. I’m not sure exactly where this will lead but I’m enjoying thinking about it.” Sadly my attempts at research didn’t go far, but the idea never completely left my consciousness.
In the following years I started writing for Digger Magazine, a local trade publication published by the Oregon Association of Nurseries. In mid-2014, they asked their writers, and others in the industry, for suggestions on topics to cover in 2015 – I suggested crevice gardens and was subsequently assigned the topic to write on.
Thankfully the magazine’s editor is an extremely helpful guy and he puts together a list of sources for the writers to work from. That list typically includes OAN member nurseries and designers, as well as a few other experts. I was given a great list for this story, names including Zdenĕk Zvolánek, an internationally recognized authority on crevice gardens, and Mike Kintgen, curator of the Alpine Collection at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
When you’re learning from the experts you also hear their biases, and there are definitely strong feelings on exactly what makes a crevice garden. For example the installation in the photos I’ve been sharing here doesn’t technically qualify. The rocks are too far apart, the planting pockets should be smaller, and the rocks should be almost locked together.
When I visited Kew Gardens in 2012, and took this photo in the Davies Alpine House, I had no idea I was looking at a crevice garden built vertically. It’s a great way to grow a lot of plants in a small space.
Another one of the experts I talked with was Kenton J. Seth, owner of Paintbrush Gardens in Grand Junction, Colorado. Talk about an energetic ambassador for crevice gardens, we talked for over an hour and I learned so much. My article opens with a few quotes from Kenton: “Do you have weeds in the cracks of your sidewalk?” and “Do those plants grow better than some plants in the garden?”… he defines crevice gardening as “a style of rock gardening which is essentially paving your raised bed with rocks, and then planting plants in those tiny little spaces.”
While I was researching the story David, husband of fellow garden blogger Tamara, returned from a visit to Nepal and shared several photos from the trip on her blog. I was thrilled to see a naturally occurring crevice garden, complete with tiny alpine plants.
Typically crevice gardens are built using large, flat, rock slabs and with the purpose of providing the ideal conditions for plants which are difficult to grow elsewhere in the garden – most often for small alpine plants – but not always…
If you’d like to read the finished article; ‘Thriving between the cracks‘, you can do so here. And if you want to learn even more Kenton J. Seth gave a great talk at the JC Raulston Arboretum that’s available on YouTube here. If you’ve got a crevice garden I’d love to see a photo, please share it in the comments below. A few plants for crevice gardens: