By Alexandra Dittrich

This is a large conglomerate where sand has encapsulated other rocks.  This rock is set in a naturalized area surrounded by sweet peas and grasses.  Possibly the most interesting feature of the rock are the fossilized aquatic creatures that are embedded in the sand portion of the rock.

Dale Dailey shares his experience incorporating rocks into his garden in DeWitt, Michigan.

"When I was young and whenever I did something particularly foolish, my father would often say, “Son, you must have rocks in your head.”  Possibly he was right because I continue to enjoy rocks and have integrated many of them into my garden.  A few years ago, a sand mining operation opened nearby and I suddenly had an abundant supply of interesting rocks.  The rocks are all glacial erratics; that is, rocks that were carried to our region of Michigan from Canada by glacial ice some 10 to15 thousand years ago.  Following are a few of my favorites."

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This close-up shows a portion of the sandy area with its embedded fossils.  I am not a geologist, but clearly these are fossilized creatures and plants from eons ago.

I have an alpine garden where I have incorporated many rocks in a gravel bed to grow a variety of alpine and desert plants. 

A number of flowering cactus plants, which many people would never expect to see in Michigan, have thrived for over 10 years. This one is Opuntia polyacantha var. polyacantha ‘Nebraska Orange’.

I often nestle other alpine plants between rocks.  This is a yellow ice plant, Delosperma nubigenum.

In another area, I have developed a Japanese style garden where a few rocks are used to simulate mountains protruding up out of the sea.

Some rocks tell a story that is difficult to imagine.  In the following stone, the round elements in the stone are the stems of fossilized coral.  Coral only grows in a fairly narrow band around the earth’s equator.  How can that be possible?  This rock originally came from northern Canada. A geologist visitor said that this rock was formed at least 200 million years ago when the region we now know as Canada was located at the equator. I have placed the stone in an area bounded by a low-spreading juniper and a complimentary red sedum.

I have used rock in several places to act as boundaries and borders.  Here, stones serve as the edge of a dry stream bed.

I have been fortunate to collect a variety of pudding stones.  Pudding stones are a conglomerate that consist of distinctly rounded pebbles whose colors contrast sharply with the color of the finer-grained material surrounding them. The background of this particular stone appears green when wet.  This large stone serves as a natural accent to nearby plantings.

Stones can serve as a natural border for features within the garden.  Here, I have used a few large stones to encircle my Peace Pole.  In summary, I have used rocks throughout the garden to serve as a focal point or to provide a natural accent.  So, as my father said, I may actually have rocks in my head. 

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