One step into Gerald Kral’s garden and you can instantly tell that this is not what you would consider, “a typical garden.” When visiting there in late 2008 for the purpose of shooting the photographs featured in Fine Gardening’s article “Conifers for Shade,” the first thing that struck me was the amazing number and variety of conifers that this expert had growing in the shade. Who knew there are conifers that tolerate shade–and who knew that they could be this interesting? Jerry and his wife Karen started planting the garden in 1991, and in the years since, they have acquired more land by purchasing nearby properties–so that they now own and garden on almost an acre within the city limits of Rochester, New York.
The garden itself is comprised of dozens of raised beds interconnected by over a half-mile of meandering bluestone pathways. Water features and unique statuary give this amazing space a sense of excitement and fun; reminding visitors that gardens are a place to admire, but also to enjoy. Throughout the large beds there are over 300 conifer cultivars, ranging from the rare to the virtually unknown. It’s amazing to me that Jerry, as a director of the American Conifer Society has found time to undertake his latest project in a new section of the garden, aptly named “The Great Wall of Kral”–which is a dry laid stone wall that took 150 two-ton pallets of rocks and took a year and a half to build. Jerry insists that the garden is still evolving, and will surely contain more than 400 cultivars of conifers before he is through. It was (and is) a space that I will not soon forget.