Hypertufa Containers: Creating and Planting an Alpine Trough Garden

Hypertufa Containers: Creating and Planting an Alpine Trough Garden

by Lori Chips

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604698688
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 635,437
File size: 36 MB
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About the Author

Lori Chips is the alpine manager at Oliver Nurseries in Connecticut, pressing the boundaries in the art and science of trough making and planting. She writes for the North American Rock Garden Society, has judged at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and is the recipient of the Carleton R. Worth Award for horticultural writing.

Read an Excerpt

I had my first authentic encounter with troughs more than 20 years ago, while I was a student at the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture. Of course, I had seen images of troughs while wistfully looking through British garden books, sighing a little and making a mental note to learn more about them if the opportunity ever arose. Well, arise it did, while I was doing a rotation in the plant records department and was invited back to the Rock Garden greenhouse. Little did I know that during most of my horticultural career I would be devoting sizable chunks of every fall to designing and building these containers and finding my niche in the process.

I felt remarkably lucky to be invited, and accepted with alacrity. Jimmy Martucci, the senior rock gardener and an amazing gardener by any measure, created several troughs that day. He learned his skills and earned his wisdom the hard way—by doing. A large share of that doing was under the exacting eyes of the renowned T. H. Everett, under whose direction the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Rock Garden was born. I would later hear stories of the garden’s creation, massive stones moved by resident horses who spent their leisure time stabled beneath the exquisite glass conservatory. During my tenure at NYBG, one could still see the delineation of the stalls. I have a deep respect for the experienced gardeners of that peer group. Many of those men were second generation Italians giving voice to the Latin names of plants in an engaging Bronx accent; their competence still, for me at least, has no equal.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know that wintry afternoon as I stepped inside the Rock Garden potting shed. I was to spend many hours in the shelter of that shed, at that very potting bench. I would take fleets of cuttings, sow seed, and learn the fine points of show-potting alpines for the Rockefeller Center Flower Show. I would also bask in the camaraderie of many plant people, but especially of Jimmy, the man in charge of my trough-building education that day.

As he measured and mixed ingredients, he talked about his methods. We put on masks and gloves and he taught me about the construction of his wooden molds. Quickly, I warmed up to the task at hand and to the man himself. I learned that Jimmy was not only easy to work with, he was one of the most inventive gardeners I would ever know. His ingenuity was in evidence everywhere: from the work table that dropped down on hinges, to the storage areas where each spading fork and scuffle-hoe had its spot on the wall, to the ancient scythes threaded through the rafters overhead.

It was a warm space on a very cold day as I molded my first trough. When one works for any length of time in the ivory tower of a botanical garden, what becomes indelibly ingrained is the right way to do things, at least where plants are concerned. I am grateful for the depth of that ongoing lesson, dispensed with care, over time. It continues to inform what I do, especially in the creative process of trough making, and in the nurturing activity of growing plants.

That wonderful potting shed, its adjacent greenhouse, propagation unit, cold frames, and pit houses have long since been razed, victims of that terribly annihilating thing known as progress. And though for years Jimmy and I kept our connection, we lost touch some years after his retirement from NYBG. In my garden, I still have a trough he helped me make. A part of my spirit will always reside inside that cozy potting shed, busy on a winter afternoon, making troughs and many irreplaceable memories.

I’ve been making hypertufa troughs for two decades now, on a yearly basis, and I must admit that although my knowledge of the subject is thorough and extensive, it is also quirky. I have been lucky enough to be able to explore my creativity, to follow wherever inspiration or any bright idea would lead me. Not to give the impression that every trough shape is complicated. The list of classic, simple shapes is a worthy one: rectangle, cylinder, bowl, and oval among them. But sometimes in pushing the limits of a medium, technical problems with other simpler shapes are solved.

My good fortune has been due in part to working at a wonderful nursery (Oliver Nurseries) where finding and doing things that are cutting edge is a collective goal.

Once you fall under the spell of a trough, the hunt is on to find cool ways to fill them. The exploration of alpine plants is a vast enterprise in itself and it has pleasantly consumed a hefty slice of my gardening life. Because customers (for some reason) want plants that will live and perhaps even flourish, I have walked an interesting line with alpines. It is, roughly, a rule whereby I allow in about 30 percent difficult (or as they’re often called, miffy) plants; the remaining 70 percent must have some staying power, some reliability. It is actually not a bad approach in any garden setting, permitting experimentation and risk taking with a manageable portion, while at the same time cultivating a more bulletproof population. The plant lists and recommendations I offer in this book are in that spirit, with the goal of a healthy chunk of success spiced up with some exotic, dangerous beauties to try if you have the fortitude to suffer heartache now and then.

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Getting Enchanted 11

The Mechanics of Trough Making 19

The Art of Trough Making: Sand Molds 37

Soil for Troughs 61

Planting Your Trough 69

Placing Troughs in the Garden 83

Genuine Tufa Rock and How to Use It 97

Plants Appropriate for Troughs 107

Planting Styles 157

Assorted Wisdoms 171

Glossary 200

Metric Conversions and Hardiness Zones 205

Recommended Reading 206

Resources 208

Acknowledgments 210

Photography Credits 213

Index 214

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