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It's not hard ... give rock gardening a try

Mary Pickels
| Thursday, April 19, 2018, 8:55 p.m.
Shown is the winner of the 2017 Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society plant show and sale's Best Trough in Show. This year's plant show and sale will be held May 6 at Soergel Orchards in Wexford.
Shown is the winner of the 2017 Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society plant show and sale's Best Trough in Show. This year's plant show and sale will be held May 6 at Soergel Orchards in Wexford.
This phlox subulata 'snowflake' took Best Plant in Show during the 2016 Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society's annual plant show and sale. This year's plant show and sale will be held May 6 at Soergel Orchards in Wexford.
This phlox subulata 'snowflake' took Best Plant in Show during the 2016 Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society's annual plant show and sale. This year's plant show and sale will be held May 6 at Soergel Orchards in Wexford.
Shown is the Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society's public garden near the National Aviary. The chapter will hold its 50th annual plant show and sale on May 6 at Soergel Orchars in Wexford.
Shown is the Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society's public garden near the National Aviary. The chapter will hold its 50th annual plant show and sale on May 6 at Soergel Orchars in Wexford.

With a theme of "Big Ideas for Small Plants," the Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society will hold its 50th annual rock garden plant show and sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 6 at Soergel Orchards , 2573 Brandt School Road, Wexford.

Admission is free, and gardening demonstrations, a rock garden plant sale and raffle, and a juried table-top plant show are planned, according to a news release.

The chapter's Facebook page notes that rock gardens appeal to gardening enthusiasts interested in alpine, saxatile and low-growing perennials. It encourages the study and cultivation of wildflowers suitable to rock gardens.

Small lots, or more intimate garden areas, are suitable for rock gardening, the release notes.

"Anybody can do it. You just need a bit of information and a nudge," says David Amrhein, chapter chairman.

The chapter has about 80 active members who visit rock gardens, hold classes and seed exchanges.

In recognition of its 50th anniversary, the chapter is offering one-year free memberships.

"We really want people to pick up on this rock gardening thing. It used to be more common in Pittsburgh," Amrhein says.

Rocks and plants can help minimize erosion on steep banks, he says.

"And it's just an attractive addition to your property," Amrhein adds.

Some plants that do well in rock gardens grow in shade, and some are deer-resistant, he says.

Rock gardens tend to become more carefree, Amrhein says, after about three years.

People who live in more urban settings can use the miniature plants on balconies and decks.

The judged plant show features a wide array of plants suitable for sun and shade gardens in the tri-state area, including many plants newly introduced into cultivation along with old favorites.

Entries will be accepted until 9:30 a.m. May 6, followed by judging until 11 a.m. and viewing until 3 p.m.

The sale adjacent to the show arena will offer a selection including daisies, iris, phlox, hosta, pinks and conifers, all in miniaturized dwarf forms.

Exhibits will display the wide range of plants local gardeners can grow in rock gardens and troughs, including alpine plants, native plants that grow in the region's rocky soil and miniature varieties of everyday garden plants such as hosta, ferns and irises.

Also sold will be hypertufa (porous anthropic rock) troughs and rock planters, with chapter members assisting gardeners in selecting appropriate plants.

Demonstration schedule

"Bogs and Bog Gardens" will be held at 9:30 a.m., focusing on wild bogs and creating a garden or container bogs, including information on carnivorous plants and bog orchids.

At 10:30 a.m., "Designing and Planting Alpine Troughs" will address planting media, rock placement and plant selection as a trough to be raffled is planted.

"Small and Mini Hosta in Containers," at 11:30 a.m., will include discussion of container use for small and miniature hosta, including container selection, various growing media available for use, and the care and maintenance of pot-bound plants. Preparation of containers or troughs for entry in the June hosta show will be presented.

Details: nargspittsburgh.wixsite.com/rock-garden

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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