COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – The Rock the South Rock Garden


Shane Quick is a “Home County Hero” of mine. The modern-day trinity of Frank Stitt, the James Beard Award-winning, celebrity chef/founder of Highlands Bar and Grill; Mother Angelica, the nun who founded the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament; and Shane Quick, the visionary founder of the star-studded and throng-delighting, “Rock the South” outdoor concerts, has greatly helped CULTIVATE CULLMAN.

Shane has Hanceville, Alabama roots, and he’s a woodsman. He worked many years in Cullman County at the Louisiana Pacific Sawmill, transforming mature trees into useful lumber. During this time, the hard-working gent clocked 12-hour shifts at the mill. After hours, he pursued his dream of becoming a music impresario.

Rock the South concerts grew from Shane’s vision of a “gratitude celebration” that Cullman County survived the brutal tornado of April 27, 2011. Shane, a promoter of Christian music, was quoted in this newspaper about creating his first successful concerts: “God showed me he wanted to use me, if I would work hard and do things with passion for a reason.” Shane puts his compassion into action.

THE ROCK THE SOUTH ROCK GARDEN is an idea inspired by Shane that could be readily developed at the Sportsman Lake Park Tree Museum, which became an accredited arboretum just this week.  Like the music-loving arts fans that Shane “connects” to the joy of being outdoors in nature, the rock garden would also CULTIVATE CULLMAN.

A beautifully imagined rock garden could add visitor engagement at Sportsman Lake Park without spending scads of money on plantings and maintenance. This 70-year-old legacy park, FREE and open 365 days each year, is part of the Cullman County Parks and Recreation collection.

Like magically transforming a pasture into a theatrical entertainment venue, we could apply imagination to morph a mundane, under-appreciated space in the 168 acres of Sportsman Lake Park into a rockery of beauty and delight. Our visitor numbers to the newly accredited arboretum are growing, and the addition of a well-designed and imaginatively cultivated rock garden will bring more smiles and inspiration to locals and tourists.

The rugged appearance of rocks would “connect” people with God’s earth. It will take some gardening visionaries, but THE ROCK THE SOUTH ROCK GARDEN could be a low-maintenance substitute for mown grass while beautifully adding colorful wildflowers.

THE ROCK THE SOUTH ROCK GARDEN could rely on expert volunteer support from Cullman County Master Gardeners who partner with the Cullman County Parks and Recreation at the Sportsman Lake Park Tree Museum.

Here are some things to consider when creating a rock garden/rockery:

  1. SITE SELECTION Like situating a concert stage and an audience, where would the rock garden be most enjoyed? Would this be in a sun-blessed part of Sportsman Lake Park or in a shaded, wooded area?
  2. CREATE AN “IDEA BOARD” Most people can best imagine a garden by seeing photographs of similar ones which have been cultivated and have grown. There are hundreds of rock garden images available on the internet. Some of the photos show the transformation of a slope and others capture a re-imagined flatland. An “Idea Board” will help us choose rocks, plants, and also that elusive element of garden design—the “tone.”
  3. SKETCH A DESIGN This could be where we realize exploring the hiring of a landscape architect would be wise.
  4. SCALE Is our rock garden going to be more of a Garth Brooks stadium extravaganza or more of an intimate, smaller-sized thing?
  5. WE CAN DO THIS NICE or WE CAN DO THIS ROUGH is how Tina Turner introduced her immortal, and richly rough rendition of the hit song, “Proud Mary.” The stones chosen for a rock garden can have rugged appeal or they can be formal and smooth like a Japanese Zen garden. THE ROCK THE SOUTH ROCK GARDEN could have some smooth, river stones, however, rough limestone and sandstone from local quarries also seem like the right rock in the right place.
  6. TOOLS and MATERIALS needed besides the rocks, could be landscape cloth to tamp down the weeds, plants and shrubs, tools for finessing small plants into wedges and larger tools like shovels and even automated cranes.
  7. THINK GLOBAL, PLANT LOCAL could be a good reminder for your rock garden. When you see photos of rock gardens you love and they happen to be in the Swiss Alps or in Asian mountains, think about plants with similar appeal which are native to the American South. Ask your Extension agent about what plants grow well in our latitude. (Note: Native plants have survived for centuries. They have a greater likelihood of thriving in their new placement.)
  8. ROCK CONCERTS and ROCK GARDENS NEED VARIETY Rock the South shows have offered Sara Evans’ soulful sweetness, Hank, Jr. rowdiness, Kid Rock punch, Greg Allman Southern rock, Alan Jackson comfortable folk and even Dierks Bentley and “Duck Dynasty” comedy. Have a variety of rock sizes, shapes and colors. Surprise is the essence of entertainment in music and in gardening.
  9. HONEY, WHERE SHOULD I PUT THIS ROCK? OK, don’t ask anything you don’t want an answer to. Return to your best garden sketch time and again. Bigger rocks are likely going to remain in place a good, long time. Placement in a painting is called composition. As you compose your rock garden design, imagine various places you want a viewer’s vision to rest. Placement for a Rock the South concert regularly means the hottest star ends the festival. This year that is Chris Stapleton. A big hit for Stapleton is “You Should Probably Leave,” but unless that is his very last song, you should probably stay.
  10. ROCK YOUR GARDEN WITH COLOR If you asked a kid, “What color are rocks?” they would likely answer, “Brown.” True, lots of rocks are brown. That said, the range of browns is endless from creamy tan to deep chocolate. And, what about red rocks? Grey rocks? Black rocks?

THE ROCK THE SOUTH ROCK GARDEN would be an ideal and enjoyable place to learn how to plant for a warming climate. Ornamental grasses and drought-resistant plants could thrive in a full-sun rockery. Year-round dwarf evergreens and creeping conifers would soften some of the rocky hardscape.

Shane Quick’s concerts continue to bring lots of visitors to Cullman County and so could the artful rock garden we are imagining at the Sportsman Lake Park Tree Museum. Both things would ROCK THE SOUTH.

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN This culinary storytelling series imagines recipes from Frau Ruehl, the fictional heroine of the “WUNDERGARTEN” folktale inspired by the pine-studded woods at what today is The Sportsman Lake Park Tree Museum.  The seafood entrée shared in this week’s installment is one Frau Ruehl might have enjoyed on the Atlantic coast of America when she immigrated from Germany on a ship chartered by Cullman founder, Colonel John G. Cullmann. The second recipe is for a fun, 21st century cocktail and salutes the fun-loving, forward-thinking founder of ROCK THE SOUTH.




  • Vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. Szechuan seasoning
  • 2 cups tempura batter mix
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 1 lb. rock shrimp
  • Endives, for garnish
  • Crispy onions for garnish


  1. Add enough oil in skillet to come to 2 inches up the side of the pan. Heat oil to 375F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, heavy cream and Szechuan seasoning.
  3. Once oil is heated, in a large bowl combine tempura mix and ice water. The mixture is thick and lumpy. Working in batches, dip rock shrimp in batter (shaking off any excess) and add to the oil. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove shrimp from oil and drain with a slotted spoon. Make sure the oil temperature does not fall below 350F. Skim oil between batches.
  4. In a large bowl, toss cooked shrimp in sauce until lightly coated. Serve warm on endive leaves. Top with French-fried onion.




  • 2 cups fresh, seedless, Cullman County watermelon (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 1/4 cup watermelon vodka
  • 2 tbsp. Cullman County honey + more for glass rim
  • 1 fresh lime, juiced
  • 2 small packages of watermelon Pop Rocks


  1. Place watermelon, vodka, 2 tbsp. honey, and lime juice in blender. Process until smooth. (Tip: Strain if any seeds remain.)
  2. Rub a little honey on the edge of martini glasses then dip into Pop Rocks.
  3. Shake drink with ice, then strain into martini glasses. Makes 2 summer cooler cocktails.


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