Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Planting Tufa in a Hypertufa trough

 As the "hyper" in "hypertufa" signifies, hypertufa is an approximation of real tufa rock.  My whole infatuation with hypertufa is based on fakery!  Real tufa rock, a type of limestone formed by the accumulation of carbonate materials leached out by water, is found in very few places.  Tufa is beloved by gardeners because it is very lightweight and incredibly porous, allowing tiny roots to grow deep into it.  Because it is so porous, it holds water like a sponge.

I was lucky enough to be given half a dozen pieces of tufa by a fellow member of the Watnong Chapter of the National Rock Garden Society last year.  I'm still not certain why she gifted me with such valuable chunks, but I won't question it.

All winter long I'd looked forward to planting a saxifrage trough with the tufa, so this spring I cast my favorite rectangular trough for myself, and included a crevice for growing a plant sideways.  

My neighbor Ray and I started by filling the trough with a lean mix of gravel, sand, grit and a bit of topsoil.  I threw a piece of iberis from the back yard into the crevice as we filled the trough.  Being rudely dug up and planted sideways is a lot to ask of plant, but I've got lots of iberis so it's worth a try.

We used my cordless hammer drill and 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4" masonry bits.

Ray drilling holes.
We kept the holes blind, and about 1 1/2" deep.  We enlarged them a little at the top to allow for the larger crowns off some plants.

I've got 4 or 5 different saxifrages growing in various troughs, so we grabbed small rooted pieces from all of them.  I also had a couple small saxes that I'd purchased at various plant sales this spring.

Tiny saxifrage chunks packed into the holes with the same mix that filled the trough.  We found a chopstick the perfect tool to pack the mix in around the tiny roots.  Ray brought moss to the party, using it as topdressing to wedge the tiny plants into their new homes.

A tiny primula allionii in the shady side of the tufa.

More saxes on the top of the tufa.

The finished left-hand side of the trough.  We planted choice larger plants like horned rampion, another primula, a big chunk of a saxifrage, and an epimedium in the growing medium around the tufa.  

I feel like a real "rock" gardener now.
Fingers crossed that our tiny masterpiece flourishes.

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