Growing alpines

Rock gardens

The rock garden is the traditional way of growing alpine plants in the garden allowing you to create a sizeable living feature.If well constructed they can look magnificent with the rocks being as much as a feature as the plants they can provide both warmth and shade to alpines as well as a backdrop.There are several points to consider one is financial it can cost a lot of money to buy suitable rocks the second is the volume of soil needed and the third is the physical work required to construct the rockery.The soil needs to be well drained yet moisture retentive depending on what your soil is like in your garden you should try to end up with a mixture of 1/3 good loam soil 1/3 leaf mound / peat and 1/3 horticultural grit adjustments can be made in different parts of the rock garden to give different conditions then allow the soil to settle for a few weeks before planting adding more if needed.When planting choose plants to match the size of your rockery going for maximum interest and some bold plants to create structure avoiding to many carpeting plants a full scale rockery is a investment to be nurtured.

Raised beds

An easier and more popular way of growing and displaying alpines being more adapatable to the smalller more modern garden both cheaper and less space demanding than the rockery. Raised beds can be constructed of stone walling or wood with various levels and different shapes to create interest the idea behind a raised bed being above ground level it is both free draining and easier to appreciate the plants select any site as long as no lying water can collect below the bed and incorporate drainage holes into the base of the side walls avoiding total shade. The soil as for the rockery needs to be well drained yet moisture retentive making up a mixture of 1/3 good loam soil or john innes compost no3 1/3 leaf mould or peat and 1/3 horticultural grit adjustment can be made in different parts of the raised bed to give different conditions. Rasied beds can be built on concrete bases if you have no alternative but you must add broken coarse stones at the base as well as side drainage holes, Top dress the soil with gravel to give a nice appearence and backdrop to the foliage of the plants also providing quick drainage from around the base or neck of the plant which many alpines require especially with the winter wet. When planting select plants similar to the rock garden but allow the soil mixture to settle for a few weeks as it will drop before top dressing.

Crevice gardens

The crevice garden is a newer technique in growing and displaying alpines an estern european way with rock garden design where narrow pieces of rock are partially sunk into the ground vertically and filling the crevice between them with a well drained mix the same as for the scree beds 50% horticultural grit to 25% good loam or john innes compost no3 and 25% leaf mould or peat some of the vertical pieces of stone can be closely spaced leaving deep narrow channels for planting,other pieces of stone can be spaced a bit wider allowing for larger alpines. Similar to the scree beds choose plants which are both sun loving and drought tolerant making adjustments in more shady areas after planting add up to 1in of gravel or stone chippings on top to provide quick drainage from around the base or neck of the plant. Crevice gardens can be incorporated into large sinks and troughs or a raised bed adding additional features to other forms of displaying alpines.

Scree beds

A scree bed is a more natural way to recreate how alpines grow in the wild where plants grow at the base of the mountain regions with smaller rocks spread out sparingly on top of various sized stone chippings. A scree bed can be constructed with a smaller more gentle slope or even incorperated into a rockery where the scree can appear to be pouring from between 2 large rocks fanning out towards the end, a higher volume of grit is required for a scree bed with a mixture of 50% horticultural grit to 25% good loam or john innes compost no3 and 25% leaf mould or peat choose plants which are both sun loving and drought tolerant making adjustments in more shady areas After planting add up to 1in of gravel or stone chippings on top to provide quick drainage from around the base or neck of the plant and a number of larger rocks/stones bedded into the surface will improve the appearance of the scree.

Other situations

The are many other situations in which alpines can be used sinks and troughs being one of them where i have mentioned alpine pots in previous pages other situations can be at the top of a retaining wall using plants that will both spread and trail over cascading down the wall if the wall is older and slightly broken or a dry stone wall planting into small pockets in the wall may be possible.Many alpine plants can be grown in cracks between the paving stones of paths or patios choose plants that will only grow a few inches high and will withstand being stood on, water features always benefit from some form of alpine plants being incorporated the two work together so well with the sound of running water always a pleasure in the garden.