Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Rare Black Hills Garden

Last Wednesday was a good day! This year I had not bought any perennials. Our garden was in the garden tour this summer and I didn’t want to make any “holes” in the plantings. You know what they say about perennials: “First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap”.  But Wednesday we went to Rapid City and I got to visit the nursery and they had a perennial sale. I have been dreaming of some change. So, the sale was buy 12 little 2 1/2” pots, I bought 13!  But, the day got better. On the way home Ted and I got to visit for the first time the garden of fellow Master Gardeners Tom and Rob.  My garden is in the lower hills at an elevation of a 3450 feet. Their Black Hills Garden is at about 5000 feet, nestled in a lovely woodland gulch.  Their garden is filled with rare and unusual plants. But it is more than just fabulous plants. As you will see there are design ideas that are worth imitating.  As you turn into their drive you go through a short grassy meadow. Our first attention was to the house and the wide granite-rock raised garden borders that totally circle the house.  I saw an arbor arch to the left of the door and I could hardly wait to walk through it and discover what might be hidden there. 

This is what I saw. A woodland with a babbling stream running through it.
Two old bathtubs were left on the property. They buried or camouflaged them with stone, filling them with the right mixture of soil. The tubs help create the deep soil and moisture that these plants need.  You would never know the tubs are there. Instead they created the feeling of an outcrop of rocks and plants.
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This first plant is an impatiens. It was tall! 4ft, 5ft?  The middle is a Campanula Pink Octopus Yea! I took home a start of this lovely. I googled it and was happy to read that it is tolerant of any type of soil.  This third plant is Actaea rubra, Doll’s Eyes which grows in wet woodlands
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This Thalictrum is taller than people. The middle flower is Lychnis calcedonica, Dusky Salmon and it was tall. The third beauty is a Variegated Comfrey. Again tall. By tall I mean about 4ft?
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Ligularias of different varieties all healthy with big leaves
But wait! There’s more! To the left of the house on the way to the enclosed vegetable/herb garden AND to the enclosed orchard there is the outdoor living space. We sat in a circle of Ponderosa Pine trees.  This area originally was filled with chokecherry bushes and brush. Rob had the idea of clearing out the circle and making a truly relaxing living space. If my yard had a grove of pine trees, right now, I would put on my shoes and hat and go out and  look around to see which trees I could thin out to make such a space!

Clematis tangutica. Tom also gave me a couple of starts of this beauty.
This is the arbor that leads to the vegetable/herb garden. You are standing in the garden looking out.
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The vegetable garden is beautiful. Leeks and onions look big!  Tall, tall poppies. I love this picture of a Lychnis and a variegated grass.  We also took home a start of Inula gigantea.  Did you notice the thread of gigantea through this post. Ted and I enjoyed a yummy rhubarb cake that was served with edible flowers. When we  left about 9pm the car thermometer was reading 69 degrees.  Forty five minutes later when we pulled into Hot Springs it was 78 degrees. 
Ok, here comes my insect picture. Christine B. from Alaska and Kimberly from Florida be warned it is a garden spider picture. A red orb spider. I did some research and found that orb spiders make a new web every night and are very effective mosquito eaters. She makes a magnificent web. This spider is bigger in this picture than in person.
A perfect web, remade everynight! Wow - what design!


  1. Beautiful garden Gloria. I am amazed at how fresh everything looks even in the heat. The bathtubs were a great idea to keep moisture coming in to these plantings.


  2. A lovely garden Gloria, and an ingenious use of old bath tubs too! You're right, you'd never guess they were there, the beds look completely natural.

  3. Hi Eileen, This is a beautiful garden set in a beautiful natural setting.

  4. Hi Gloria, i can't imagine the labor force put to build that garden! Back ache investment is so high there, but the profit is definitely worth it.

  5. A beautiful garden, love the sitting area in the pines.

  6. A lovely garden. I would love to tour it.

  7. Gloria, this is a fantastic garden! Everything is so TALL...I mean, I'm only 5'2"...you'd have trouble finding me in this garden! :) I love the various blooms, and the bathtub camo is ingenious! Thank you so much for the warning...I would HATE to stumble on this photo without due warning and my finger on the mouse so I could move quickly past. It's a beautiful color, and the web is perfectly designed (especially since it's new every day...the spider must be exhausted). But these creepy crawlies give me the shivers...can't help it! Maybe its the eight eyes...they see ALL!!! Thanks so much for the link, too. You're awesome! And lucky you to leave such a wonderful garden with some starts!!!!

  8. Very very nice and how lucky you are to be able to tour such a beautiful garden! It looks so relaxing and inviting. Love the bathtub idea!

  9. Thanks for the warning! The rustic arbor with the Clematis tangutica is quite charming. That clematis is one that is supposed to grow like gangbusters up here. I've tried it and killed it. I think I'll stick with the macropetala and alpina hybrids til I become a better gardener.

    Christine in Alaska

  10. What a relaxing place to sit a spell . I love the natural look of it all.
    That spider photo is awesome!
    I am glad you are getting to enjoy the fruits of your labors. I hope you get a late frost!

  11. So beautiful!!! It makes me miss the Black Hills more than I already do!!! The spider is AWESOME!!!

  12. A delightful garden tour, Gloria. Wow, awesome spider/web ... you are brave to get so close :)

  13. Gloria - cool tour of Rob and Tom's gardens; my favorite view (if there could be only one) was the woodland garden with the babbling stream and rock fence! Tall plants.. something I want to investigate more!

  14. That spider is an artist! I loved the garden; everything looks luscious and healthy.. and I envy their summer climate. Obviously the plants flourish in the gentle temperatures. Lucky you to go home with cuttings!

  15. Hi Everyone, thank you so much for the comments. Yes, Black Hills Garden is cool and beautiful! The spiders used to creep me out, but now I appreciate them as my desirable helpers. We have so many grasshoppers! I just did a post and have a golden orb in the picture.

  16. Gloria, A fabulous post although I must say I was slightly diverted when I saw the dark pink Impatiens and had to Google it. I've got a two-toned lavender and white "Poor Man's orchid" but I really want this pinky one. You didn't by any chance get seed did you? And I hope you got some 'Lauren's Grape' poppy seed. If not I'd be happy to send you some. It's so beautiful as evidenced by your delightful photo.

    My favorite shot however has no flowers. That second shot, the closeup of the wet area is just to die for. I love the idea of burying the bathtubs--repurposing what would otherwise be landfill fodder to create this beautiful tableau.

    I'm not crazy about spiders either way but I sure think this red orb is a beauty. I can see why you felt the need to photograph it. I don't think they're indigenous to my neck of the woods. We've got ugly gray ones, ha, ha.

    What a fun-filled day for you and Hubby. I wish you much success with your new perennials and divisions. Oh and the Pink Elephant campanula is a spreader. It's good to know ahead of time what you're up against. Mine is in a container and doing just fine.

  17. Hi Grace, yes that pink Impatiens also stopped me in my tracks and they said I could have seed and of course that means you can have seed. I'm sure I can also get some of the Lauren's poppy seed. All the orb spiders are friends around here. We have so, so many grasshoppers. In places they just bounce in front of you as you walk. Ugh - This morning we just got out 5th hailstorm of the season. Let's see locust, hail...LOL - It will be fine.