NSAC’s Rock Garden has become one of the university’s most valued features on campus and is arguably the largest and most diverse rock garden in the Maritimes. Extending over a half-acre of hillside, it brings a unique sense of diversity to the campus grounds and a natural green space that can be enjoyed by all.
According to Jeff Morton, grounds co-manager at NSAC, the garden is a healthy space with great educational value for both students and the community. “The Rock Garden has created a social space in the centre of campus that brings to the forefront some of the key values of the NSAC including biodiversity, environmental responsibility and value for the community.”
Construction of NSAC’s Rock Garden began in the summer of 2002. It was designed by Bernard Jackson and constructed by members of The Friends of the Gardens, a volunteer group of avid gardeners along with the university’s grounds maintenance staff.
The garden is dedicated to Bernard Jackson, a naturalist and conservationist who worked diligently to create this sustainable ecosystem of specialized plants that require a mountainous climate and rocky terrain. The central purpose behind this addition to campus was to increase the hands-on experience for horticultural students with the use of particular plants as well as to increase the aesthetic appeal of the campus grounds.
The garden contains 450 tons of local red granite and features a cactus bed, dry stream bed, a cliff face, natural rock steps, a collection of dwarf conifers and alpine and saxatile plants as well as two cedar bridges constructed by students in the wood construction techniques course. These bridges span a dry stream bed, which is a natural feature in many arid climates. A flagstone courtyard was developed by a generous grant from the North America Rock Garden Society.
One of the unique features of a rock garden is the variety of plant environments it offers. The NSAC Rock Garden represents a variety of naturally occurring plant habitat. Many different ecological and environmental conditions have been recreated in the garden. This allows for diverse groups of plants to be featured. Many of the plants bear their true scientific name and allow the student, or passer-by, to take a bit of knowledge with them as they stroll through the garden.
The garden continues to develop through the help of The Friends of the Gardens and donations from alumni and other interested groups. Two new areas under development include the Primula Rhododendron dell and the saxifrage collection.