Rock mulch for desert garden bed
≡ This post continues the coverage of our front yard desert garden project. ≡
In yesterday’s update on the palo verde trees in our front yard you might have noticed that our new desert garden bed is no longer bare dirt. As of last Saturday it has a nice layer of rock mulch—just in time for the first heat wave of the season that pushed us close to the 100°F mark on Wednesday and Thursday.
But before I talk more about the rock, I want to show you much the plants in this bed have grown, especially the perennials.
Click here to see what this bed looked like just five weeks ago. And this is what it looks like now.
But back to the rock. Since the planting scheme for this bed was inspired by my trip to Arizona last December, with some Southern African succulents (i.e. aloes) thrown in for good measure, I wanted a rock material that you might conceivably find in the desert, or that wouldn’t look out of place in the desert. This meant that anything smooth, such as gravel or river rock, was out since I associate that type of rock with flowing water, not with desert landscapes. Likewise, gray granite from the Sierra Nevada, greenish limestone or yellow-orange Sonoma Gold rock didn’t seem right either—and crushed lava rock, be it red or black, most certainly didn’t.
What I really wanted was the kind of rock I’d seen at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson…
…or slate chips like what I’ve been collecting near my in-laws’ place in Mount Shasta near the Oregon border.
Unfortunately, none of the rock yards in our area carry an exact match. Since rock is one of those things you need to buy locally, even in the era of e-commerce, you’re pretty much stuck with what you can get. I’d resigned myself to making do with California Gold, the same material I used on the succulent bed near the front door, when I found out that Dixon Landscape Materials, our go-to place for rock, soil and mulch, now carries a product they call “rock bark.” While it still isn’t a perfect match, it’s the closest I’ve been able to find in the Sacramento area.
The colors are a good mix of warm yellows and reds, and cool silvers and grays.
The edges aren’t as sharp as I would have wanted, but the overall look is still pleasing.
Here are some photos with agaves to give you a better sense of how this rock bark works in context.
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’
I had 1½ cubic yards of rock bark delivered last Saturday, and moving it to where it needed to go, one shovelful at a time, was backbreaking work for a sedentary office drone like me. After I was done, I hosed it down to wash away the thick layer of dust. This did reveal the subtle colors in the rock, but more hosing down (or ideally rain) is needed to fully show the beauty of this product.
While I’m not kidding myself—this is a compromise, and the overall look is different from it would have been in a perfect world—I’m quite happy with the outcome.