Saturday, December 15, 2018

How to Make a Rock Garden: Update on the Great Valley Outdoor Nature Lab

How to make a rock garden:

First, you have to find rock seeds. Try for variety, a mixture of igneous and metamorphic, maybe some sedimentary. Local rivers are good places to look. They're even shaped a little bit like eggs.
Then you have find a good place for your rock garden. Any vacant lot has potential, but some are better than others. I picked this one because it is right next to the Great Valley Museum at Modesto Junior College. If we can get a good rock garden going, it can enhance the mission of the museum and college by providing a microcosm of the geologic environment of our region.

Then you plant the rocks...after a few weeks you might notice that the ground is starting to ripple and develop bumps and hummocks. This is a natural progression as the rocks start to grow. But something is missing...
Ah! Water. For the rock garden to truly thrive, try adding lots of water. That will really get those rocks sprouting. And now we wait.

And we wait. You can even walk around the hummocks to see if any of the rocks are peeking though yet. But don't cheat and try to dig them out ahead of time. They might stop growing entirely.
Then comes that magic day when you arrive at work and find that the rocks have sprouted! They're huge!!
It's now safe to wander about a little, seeing what kind of rocks have germinated. I saw some tombstone rocks like those of the Mother Lode foothills, giant boulders of marble from the Calaveras Complex, and even a giant chunk of quartz, the ore-bearing rock of the Mother Lode gold veins. There were also some volcanic rocks from the Table Mountain Latite and the rhyolite tuff of the Valley Springs Formation. It's a great crop, which is good because no one is going to want to try moving these rocks once they've grown.
Finally you need the skilled rock farmers, who like bonsai tree tenders adjust the location of the boulders and plant some of them a little deeper so they won't fall over on anyone. And that's how you make a rock garden!

I understand that some of our botanists and biologists are intending plants on these beautiful rocks. I have mixed feelings about this, but they say it will enhance the education of the children who visit the museum every bit as much as the rocks will. I guess time will tell.

Things are happening pretty quickly now. Once the rocks are in place, the pathways will be put in and the planting will commence. It is actually just a few short months before our Great Valley Natural Outdoor Lab will be a reality. It's kind of interesting to compare the reality of the moment with a sketch I made during one of the early planning meetings:

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