Garden Party

Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens…

In a forested canyon not far from Interstate 5, white dogwoods open their buds, Shasta lilies dot the hillsides and fragrant Western azaleas scent the air, signaling the arrival of spring to the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens.

Among the more than 200 colorful native and exotic ornamental woodland plants and shrubs, visitors will find the well-known forget me not and lily of the valley, but also less-familiar non-natives like the Himalayan blue poppy, the Japanese kanjiro sasanqua camellia and the Irish fringed sandwort (reportedly a survivor of the last Ice Age and a history in its native County Sligo dating back 150,000 years).

The botanical collections include dogwoods, hostas, ferns, Siskiyou County native plants, Japanese maples and penstemons located in specialty gardens around the perimeter of the Great Meadow, home to the Crevice Rock Garden which was created after the removal in 2008 of a fallen double-trunked big leaf maple at the meadow’s north end.

The Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens team saw an opportunity to cultivate a new feature and determined that a rock garden would serve as both an ecologically sustainable and aesthetically pleasing showcase for the perennial alpine and woodland plant natives they wanted to highlight from the Klamath, Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges.

The new Crevice Rock Garden employed techniques developed by Czech growers that had proved especially successful for growing alpine plants. Since the design relies on close, vertical rock placement with crevices into which plants are inserted, this style produces plants with an elongated root system that grows down deeper into the soil rather than spreading horizontally.

As a result, below the soil, roots have greater access to moisture and nutrients, while above it the garden’s compact arrangement increases surface area to accommodate more plants. Gardeners can also grow a variety of plant types with varying shade and sun requirements depending on the choice of site, shape, soil conditions, irrigation and rock positioning within the garden.

These benefits – and the design’s emphasis on “perimeter viewing” by limiting direct access to the garden by visitors – were attractive to the botanical garden team, who hired Czech botanist and master crevice rock garden designer Josef Halda to oversee construction. Halda used a combined 50 tons of scoria and crushed lava rock sand from the Montague area to create the garden, which features plants grown from seeds collected in their native, wild habitats. The project was funded by the Community Foundation of the North State and Union Pacific and completed in 2011.

The Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens also offer wooded hiking trails, picnic areas and a playground. To schedule an event, contact the Dunsmuir Recreation District at (530) 235-4740. •

Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens
4841 Dunsmuir Ave., Dunsmuir Hours: Daily, 7 am to 10 pm

Article by:

Claudia Mosby is a Redding-based freelance writer. She is the founder and director of The Expressive Spirit, a wellness company in Mt. Shasta offering spiritual direction, arts and nature-based activities and consultancy for grief and loss.

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