Rock Alpine Garden

By Mike Kintgen, Curator of Alpine Collections

Spring is my favorite time in the Rock Alpine Garden. Rock gardens are traditionally at their best in spring as the residents are often native to high elevations and keyed to bloom during the brief alpine summers. At more moderate elevations this translates to a rush of bloom in early to late spring. What does this mean for the Rock Alpine Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens? It means that you have to come early to enjoy the same little gems that you would find in June or July high in the mountains.

We are constantly striving to create new displays to better display and offer improved microclimates for the alpine collection. In summer 2016, with the help of the rock alpine intern Howard Rice and seasonal gardener Michael Guidi, we created a brand new crevice garden on the slope at the entrance to the Rock Alpine Garden. It is to the left as one enters from South African Plaza.

This bed faces north and west, providing a cooler side and a very warm xeric side. The plant choices reflect the environment with many true alpines planted into the north side, such as Draba, Primula and Telesonix. April will hopefully be a prime time for many of these plants. The west side is planted with more heat and drought tolerant loving flora, Erigonum, Veronica, Penstemon, Dwarf Yucca and native ball cacti. Various bulbous Iris and Fritillaria from Central Asia should also add to the April show. I can hardly wait to see them myself.

Take time to enjoy the full variety of plants in the densely planted area. If you continue on this path it will take you into more woodland areas of the rock garden which rarely gets the visitation that they deserve. Passing down a slight slope take in the various Lenten roses (Helleborus) and woodland sweet peas (Lathryus vernus) along the path.

I hope you are able to make it to the Rock Alpine Garden. While you are here be sure to check out the alpine section of the Mordecai Children’s Garden--the Children’s Garden is located on the third floor of the parking garage. It should be in prime color as well.