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Rock On

River rock river with Pieris 'Purity'

First off, let me apologize for my delayed blog posts. I had a few technical difficulties that I’ve finally resolved. Now you should receive my posts as soon as I publish them.

I do hope you enjoy my musings on color and pass them on to your circle of colleagues, friends and family.

I’ve been preoccupied with rocks of late. Specifically, river rocks. In late January, after we had had a few warm days, our daffodils starting popping up. I walked outside to see them and discovered that our extra pile of river rocks was suffocating many of them. Oops. The pile was substantial – 10 feet wide x 2 feet high. I thought, oh man, that’s a lot of rocks to move. Hmm… ‘What can I do with them?’ And is there a spot nearby where I can put them to use?

Just a few feet away stood our three unsightly, 3-foot wide x 10-inch high septic drums. (Yes, we live in a rural buffer zone, which means we have our very own septic system.) It was time to hide them from view. First I needed to find some deer-resistant evergreen shrubs.

I trotted over to a local nursery and found the perfect plant: Pieris japonica, ‘Purity.’

It’s evergreen, the right size, (when it’s mature it will be 4’ x 4’), it wants dry shade, which means it can live under our water-hungry oak trees, it will adorn itself in fragrant white blossoms, and, most important — THE DEER WON’T EAT THEM. How could you not love this plant?

I bought seven Pieris and planted them strategically to hide the septic drums. They looked good, but I needed to give them some definition. Aha! I could embrace the shrubs with a serpentine river of rocks using my leftover river rocks.

So I began. When I started working with the rocks, I was ever so careful with the placement of each one, because I didn’t know what I was doing.

But two-thirds into the project, I was tiring. I stepped back to look at the shape. The last six feet or so wasn’t working for me. Time to speed things up. I boldly pulled an arc of rocks towards me to create a different curve. From these rocks I grabbed a handful and simply dropped them. The rocks fell into lovely, comfortable shapes.

Eureka! The rocks had their own intelligence. All I needed to do was let the rocks respond to gravity and then simply adjust a few outliers. When I dropped the outliers they fell against each other like magnets. I was mesmerized.

What about color, you ask? The bright green leaves of the Pieris and their golden flower buds woke up what had been a dreary, dark brown landscape. The mottled white/gray rocks both embraced and highlighted the golden and green shrubs while providing an unexpected sculpture in the garden.

Rhythm, form, and color coalesced harmoniously, plus I had saved my daffodils.

I was happy.

River rock river with assorted daffodils

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