Third Czech International
Rock Garden Conference
in Průhonice, outside of Prague Czechia (Czech Republic)
It's being held just steps from UNESCO World Heritage Site, Průhonice Park, in which the above rock garden is kept. That rock garden goes on for acres/hectares with a narrow, steep, informal path. We were all very impressed at the size and how keeping it informal (not painfully tidy) made it possible to have so much garden a person can be totally immersed in for half to a full hour walking, so that the visitor feels like he/she is in a wildflower mountainside daydream, rather than looking at an installation of rocks and plants. The rock garden is just a part of the park wrapped around a pond, edged by a Castle, with 40 kilometers of walking path. A marvelously indistinguishable meld of park, forest, and garden which fools you into feeling you are in nature; something I am not sure that North American gardens or parks do.
From a horticulture and maintenance standpoint, I was deeply impressed by the minimal yet effective (efficient) style of maintenance: a careful balance. It is managed en masse, not fussy, and it totally works. But I understand it still takes over a hundred staff to do it.
Much note-taking, business-card-sharing, and sketching has been happening during programs. Ideas are passing hot like soccer balls at the world cup. No, those aren't even my sketched, but it is my cuppa tea.
It's intense! Not only are piles of old friends catching up with one another at every break and meal, sharing their newest experiences in growing plants, but the official educational programs run from 9 am to 11 pm! At least a third of the group actually stayed up late to attend all the late-night lectures tonight, including a gorgeous travelogue from plant hunter Julia Corden on the elusive himalayan blue (and other color) poppies.
Hard core plant lovers here.
Paul and I enjoyed an evening and morning wander through the garden of the contemporary godfather of Crevice Gardening, Zdeněk Zvolánek. His own garden southwest of Prague is a massive and steep "Beauty Slope" integrated into and sourced from a present real rock outcrop.
The paths are narrow and full of plants. Less room for weeds, more room for garden.
He is a shameless user of Sempervivums in every shade and shape; they make useful and non-competitive coverage in crevices, for they play well with others and do not overwhelm prized cushion and bun plants. And look at the color they add!
Iris reichenbachii 'Balkana'
The (Spanish) Blue Gorse, and spiny heartthrob of mine, Erinacea anthyllis.
Vigorous rock garden plants which do not need irrigation but are not too aggressive to contain are allowed to fill all niches; leaving little room for weeds. For- it's very near being steep enough to need climbing gear for Mr. Zvolánek to access his planted slope. You are looking at a south-facing dense matrix of Aethionema, Linum, Aubretia, Sempervivum, Globularia, Dianthus and Campanula, with choice showings of Daphe, Acantholimon, Genista, Dwarf conifers, and Moltkia.
His style and approach certainly takes a great deal of actual work- hand labor to keep it going, but it is done with a finesse and deep intelligence of the plants where he plays a balance, between grown and overgrown, aggressive and weak, tended and unkempt, so that there is not a giant, unnecessary effort to make the garden do things it doesn't want to. He gently pushes the plants towards thriving, the energy is so un-forced that the garden exudes it and even the visitor can be relaxed while stimulated at the sheer volume of incredible plants.
A living masterstroke of genius.