I’ve added a new tool to my gardening arsenal – a pry bar. This tool comes in handy when planting gardens in ledges and rocky soil. Just the other day I was adding some perennials to my sister Kim’s ledge garden when I hit a stubborn rock. Kim raced to the barn and came out with a pry bar in hand. We were able to dislodge the rock and open a perfect cavity for the awaiting Helianthus ‘Autumn Gold’. When gardening in rock-plagued soil, I think of myself as a gold miner. But instead of sifting for gold, I’m seeking pockets of soil suitable for planting. Or perhaps I’ll expose a deep soil-filled crevice that is perfect for a tap-rooted specimen, like native Callirhoe (Purple Poppy Mallow). Below are a few of my favorite plants that do well in rock gardens despite intense sun, heat, and dry soil. I’ve included before and after photos of two rock gardens I’ve designed and planted…

Ornamental Oregano (many times sold as an annual) ‘Kent Beauty’ (pictured in a client’s rock garden)
Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma)
Sedum
Hen and Chicks (Sempervivum)
Coneflower (Echinacea) Native
Yarrow, including dwarf varieties like ‘Little Moonshine’ and ‘King Edward’
Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) Native
Dianthus
Hyssop (Agastache) some Native
Bellflower (Campanula), especially those in the poscharskyana and portenschlagiana species
Candy Tuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Allium, especially ‘Millenium’, ‘Medusa’ and ‘Blue Eddy’
Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’)
Calamintha
Ornamental grasses Natives: Panicum, Prairie Drop Seed (Sporobalis), Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)

For more about designing, planting and caring for rock gardens, recommended plants plus fantastic photos, visit Garden Design’s blog. And if you don’t already get their free, info-packed and colorful newsletter, click here.