Hypertufa troughs & native plants

Beaux Arbres is now closed for the season. I am collecting and packaging seeds and having fun with hypertufa troughs.

The little rectangular trough, pictured above, was one of my first efforts. It features a lump of fossilized coral and five little plants: early saxifrage, dwarf hairy beardtongue, Penstemon nitidus, Penstemon pinifolius, and a little thing from last year, which lost its label over the winter but which might be a Draba.

The only species which is native to the Ottawa Valley is the Early Saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis). The Penstemons, an entirely North American genus, have the centre of their diversity further west, in the Rockies, and those western Penstemons are much too lovely to ignore. I wouldn’t plan my garden around them, but as little gems to try in a trough garden, they are fascinating. The small alpine species are said to require excellent drainage to be hardy in the east, which is why I have planted them in the hypertufa.

I have several other little plants I want to grow in troughs, both to provide excellent drainage and so they don’t get lost, swamped by larger neighbours. I have some seedling Silene acaulis, some other little pots which I know contain an Arctic Draba, and some dwarf Arctic Irises, all thanks to the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society’s super-excellent seed exchange. I also have some tiny plants from our north woods, which want cool peaty soil and shade: twinflower, creeping snowberry, and common wood sorrel, which deserve their own specialized container. I might want to create a trough garden for fen conditions – saturated, marl-bottom, and full sun — to grow Grass-of Parnassus and perhaps some carnivorous sundews. It’s an addiction. Once you start adding trough gardens, it is impossible to stop. I’ll be patting hypertufa mix into box forms until the snow flies.

Looking ahead to next year: Beaux Arbres will be participating again in Seedy Saturdays in the Ottawa area next spring. We will also be bringing seed cards to some Christmas craft fairs. (Native plant seeds make excellent stocking stuffers for gardeners – just saying.) We will keep you posted on this blog…

DSC_0317
This is NOT a groundhog sarcophagus. It is a larger hypertufa trough, still curing. I have many more little plants to grow in troughs.
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Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens

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