The Sierra Rock Garden Society is the Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society serving Tuolumne and surrounding counties in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of California. Our interests are in promoting the study and cultivation of wildflowers and low-growing perennials that grow well among rocks.
Membership in the Sierra Rock Garden Society is open to any interested local gardeners. We hold monthly meetings. Yearly dues are $10.
For information about membership, contact us.
Where we garden
Traditionally, much of the focus of rock gardeners has been on alpine plants—wildflowers that grow above the treeline on mountainous slopes. Such plants have developed a characteristic form shaped by the severe environments in which they grow. A typical alpine plant hunkers down low to the ground to minimize damage from the mountain winds, intense ultraviolet light, and blanketing snows. They are used to extreme conditions and short growing seasons.
Our gardens here in the foothills provide an environment quite different from that found in the mountains that rise behind us, or from that found in gardens in much of the rest of the country. Our dry summers start early with temperatures of 100 degrees occurring as early as May and continuing until October. We receive no rain at all during these hot months. In large parts of California, the moist air from the coast provides a moderating blanket that damps out climate extremes, provides a cooling effect in summer as well as reducing evaporative losses in plants and substrates. This effect is most noticeable along the coast, but extends inland to areas like Napa and even parts of the Central Valley. None of this moderating influence makes its way to the foothills. We are left high and dry, with not even a vestigial remnant of the marine influence to soften our summers. Winters are not severe, but are certainly not the mild and temperate seasons known in other parts of the state. Depending on the elevation, temperatures may occasionally drop into the teens with snow.
While many classical alpine plants are not happy in our climate, with our long hot summers, we are still able to create beautiful rock gardens that harmonize with the surrounding countryside.
In addition to providing an aesthetic backdrop, the rocks in our gardens create micro-climates beneficial to the cultural needs of many plants. They provide shelter from the severe heat of the mid-day sun, and also slow evaporative moisture losses. Our gardeners are able to successfully grow rock garden plants from the Western U.S., the Mediterranean, Turkey, the Balkans, and many other areas.
If you would like to know more about rock gardening in the foothills, contact us! Come attend a meeting! Our members are generous with information, and with their plants.