Sidebar: Garden of Rocky Delights

The NSAC Rock Garden is the largest such garden in the Maritime provinces. Designed by Bernard Jackson and built on a south-facing slope near the administration offices of Cumming Hall, it features over 700 tons of red granite from a quarry in nearby Kemptown.

“The project grew from an initial plan to be just a small display garden to its current size of more than half an acre,” says NSAC’s Manager of Grounds Maintenance, Darwin Carr. “Originally the quarry owner told us we could have the rock, and only had to pay for the excavation and trucking. But we needed so much that we decided it was best to have the company do the moving, as they had the right equipment.” The quarry also provided three loads of crushed gravel used as mulch throughout the garden, as well as over 100 cubic yards of sand used in creating the special soil mix needed for planting out the various species of alpines, perennials, conifers, and other plants.

What’s the appeal of rock gardening? To Bernard Jackson, it’s the small size of so many alpine species, meaning that gardeners can plant a relatively large number of species in a relatively small bed or container. “I’m very fond of the little mountain plants even though when I left Newfoundland, I swore I never wanted to see another rock!” he says with a chuckle. “But when I got to Truro and got settled in and started digging around in my yard, where ironically there are very few stones, I knew I missed working with the alpines and would have to start a new project.”

Jackson had “no plans except in my head,” when he started to design the rock garden. The main thing was to find the rock, and to get it placed properly in the garden. “It’s crucial to get the foundation rocks in place,” he explains. “They’re the ones that hold everything in place and you don’t want structures falling or plants becoming dislodged because of rocks moving due to weather like frost.”

The unique landscape of the garden features a “dry streambed,” (an area designed and planted to look like a waterless stream) a shaded woodland area with many native and exotic perennials, and a terraced courtyard area planted with many tiny, choice alpines. The courtyard includes sandstone troughs that were created from blocks donated by the town of Truro when the former Scotia Bank building was demolished several years ago. Landscape Nova Scotia, the professional association for landscapers and horticulturists, donated a large chunk of limestone (a preferred stone used in many rock gardens), which has been planted with many small perennials. The terrace area also features a large stone with a plaque of appreciation for all the work that was spearheaded and done by Bernard Jackson over the past decade.

Darwin Carr says mapping and cataloguing of the plant inventory of the Rock Garden is a work in progress, but estimates there are at least 500 species in the garden, ranging from tiny delicate alpine plants to mature conifers. Some of the most attention-drawing plants are the gentians with their cobalt blue flowers, and the hardy cactus growing in the dry streambed areas.

Visitors are always welcome to the NSAC Rock Garden, which is open year-round. There is no charge for admission, but visitors may want to leave a contribution at one of the donation boxes located at the two garden entranceways.