Mother Earth Living

This Garden Rocks: A Colorado Rock Garden

A Colorado Stonehenge tribute inspires landscaping ideas.
By Maren Thompson Bzdek
September/October 2009
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Preserving the natural form of quarried rock reduces waste and expense. This imagination-inspiring megolith sculpture in Fort Collins, Colorado, required just enough finishing for the pieces to fit together securely.
Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison

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The owner of a sandstone quarry in northern Colorado, Jim Striggow travels the world exploring stone architecture and visiting ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, which has inspired him since he first visited 13 years ago. He left his native Detroit in 1981, drawn into the quarry business by a fascination with northern Colorado’s sandstone buildings and landscapes. His visit to Stonehenge deepened that fascination; walking through the ancient monoliths, he realized that living and working with stone is a way to connect with our primitive past. He began to see his own quarry as an opportunity to share those ancient stonemasons’ passion.

Three years ago, Jim created The Rock Garden, a natural stone showcase garden in Fort Collins known as “Colorado’s Stonehenge.” His impressionistic tribute is made from the Brownstone and Cherokee layers of local Dakota sandstone, quarried just north of the city. Native plants, rock pools and the sound of rushing water create a sanctuary.

Colorado’s Stonehenge

“When they visit Stonehenge, people actually get quiet,” Jim says. “They feel reverence that somebody actually made this. The people who made Stonehenge dragged those stones from a long way away. They crossed rivers, they did all kinds of stuff with this rock, and they set them up and placed them in a very precise fashion. The work that it took, and what it meant to them, deserves respect.”

Jim’s Stonehenge required nine months of fast-paced construction. Dirt and rock were hauled in to level the 1.5-acre site, making space for boulders, monuments, sculptures, paths and benches—a parklike space for everyone to enjoy. The Rock Garden is now a recognizable landmark in Fort Collins.

When Jim and his employees drive around the region and see buildings and gardens made with rocks they quarried, they know they’re contributing to something that will outlive them. “The way an old civilization is recognized is by what’s left over from it, like the Pyramids or Machu Picchu,” he says. “It gave me perspective about how I fit in with the world and with the planet.”

Local rocks

Locally quarried stone is less expensive than imported, minimizes fuel for transportation and blends with the environment. It makes for beautiful gardens. But is it eco-friendly?
Quarrying is extractive, and that’s a fact. Jim Striggow’s operation takes all possible measures to mitigate the damage. His quarry company doesn’t blast or use toxic chemicals, and it uses fuel-efficient excavators. In Colorado, environmental protection laws require frequent operation monitoring and immediate landscape reclamation.

Learn how to make your own rock garden.


The Alpine Garden: Rock Gardening on the Net 

Gardening Know How

Garden Stone: Creative Ideas, Practical Projects and Inspiration for Purely Decorative Uses 
by Barbara Pleasant (Workman Publishing, 2003)

The Illustrated Practical Guide to Water and Rock Gardening: Everything you need to know to design and construct a beautiful rock garden or water feature 
by Peter Robinson (Southwater Publishing, 2008)

The North American Rock Garden Society

Rock Garden: Design and Construction 
by North American Rock Garden Society (Timber Press, 2003)

Rock Garden Plants: A Color Encyclopedia 
by Baldassare Mineo (Timber Press, 1999)

The Serious Gardener: Rock Gardens (The New York Botanical Gardens)
by Robert Bartomonei and Anne Halpin (Three Rivers Press, 1997)

Maren Thompson Bzdek is a freelance writer and historian who enjoys exploring how people and nature influence each other.

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