Splashy rock garden

Water streams down a hillside carpeted with perennial color

Tumbling out of an alpine forest, the water feature in this Vail garden has all the charm of a Colorado mountain creek rushing through a meadow of wildflowers. Actually, the water (from a well on the property near Vail) pours down an engineered streambed before being pumped back uphill to recirculate again and again.

As for the plantings, designer Derek Nause of Land Design by Ellison had to consider two major challenges: the hillside's steep 40° pitch and the native mule deer that graze on local gardens. Nause chose a variety of low-growing perennials that hug the slope while providing seasonal color and fragrance. Dianthus 'First Love' (top right) provides a burst of pink; for textural contrast, spiky-leafed irises are mingled with mounding plants, while woolly thyme planted in crevices softens the surrounding rock. Sprays of catmint spill over a stone retaining wall. On one side of the stream, a container (front right) features Salvia 'Victoria Blue', Verbena 'Homestead Purple', Calibrachoa Colorburst 'Lavender Yellow', and pansies. Nibbling deer avoid some of these plants, but the garden gets additional protection from a repellent (Deer Off or Ropel), which is applied as often as every two weeks.

DESIGN: Land Design by Ellison, Vail, CO (970/949-1700)

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