The Watnong Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) is partnering with Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum’s (FOLA) staff and volunteers to restore the South Rock Garden at Laurelwood Arboretum. Dorothy Knippenberg was a lifetime member of NARGS and created rock gardens as one of her special display areas. Although they have been cared for by Rutgers Master Gardener and FOLA volunteers, many of the original rocks have become covered with soil and vegetation and the original designs obscured.
Volunteers from the Watnong Chapter are working with FOLA’s staff gardeners and volunteers on the project. Members of both organizations will have the benefit of learning garden restoration, rebuilding a rock garden, and selecting plants. “This is a first for our chapter, and the number of members who have volunteered reflects the interest of our members,” said Mike Wilson, the chapter’s chair.
The first group of Watnong Chapter volunteers came to Laurelwood in April to begin an initial exploration in a small area of the rock garden. They excavated in the hopes of uncovering the tufa, the limestone rocks that were integral to the original design. The designated area was dug to about three feet down, and any existing plants deemed good enough to save were potted up. All rocks were set aside for later use. The group returned in September to rebuild the area with tufa and quality soil. They will restore the plantings in the spring of 2015.
The Watnong Chapter is committed to the renovation of the Laurelwood Arboretum rock garden as a five-year project that will offer its members opportunities hands-on experience in planning, building, planting and maintaining a rock garden. The chapter expects to schedule workshops and demonstrations at Laurelwood in the future.