Daunting elements didn't stop a showy alpine rock garden in this Colorado front yard

Colleen Smith,  – November 12, 2004

Despite the lush connotations of its name, Evergreen, Colorado, is not the most conducive place for gardening. Located in the foothills west of Denver, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, Evergreen has a short growing season. Snow may fall as late as June and as early as August. Summer temperatures can soar into the 90s during the day, but drop to the mid-40s at night. The soil is poor and rocky, and dry conditions persist. As if that weren’t enough, deer and elk graze on plants. Yet those daunting elements didn’t stop Lori Lapp from cultivating a showy alpine rock garden in her southwest-facing front yard.

Lapp, who is a Master Gardener, makes extensive use of hardy succulents, including several kinds of sedums. Nearly 100 plant varieties ― all low-maintenance, drought-tolerant troupers ― are arrayed on a berm that Lapp and her husband, Jack, built 12 years ago using a heap of rubble and subsoil excavated from the basement of their home. They terraced the berm with lichen-encrusted rocks gathered from the area, amended the soil with compost, and started planting. Over the years, the plants have spread to fill in the nooks and crannies. The result is a colorful quilt of textural foliage and seasonal flowers.

Taken in late summer, the photo above shows some of Lapp’s favorite sedums. They include, from front right to left, pink-flowered Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Sedum kamtschaticum, goldmoss sedum (S. acre), and above it Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’ and Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’, both blooming next to the stone slabs.

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