Gardening with alpines
Being small hardy and easy to care for our alpine / rockery plants are able to cater for an array of gardening needs. They're just at home in smaller garden as they are in a traditional garden being displayed in raised and gravel beds or rockeries, these amazing plants can be used in a variety of ways and have the ability to create strong foliage colour whatever the time of year.
The vast majority of alpines prefer an open sunny position well drained but not to dry. The idea of having a planted area under trees can appeal to many people but although pretty the idea can sometimes be unpractical the soil is much drier and the plants could lose their shape and colour quickly so select carefully for more shade loving plants.
There is a impressive range of both foliage and flower colours amongst alpines and other low growing plants so when it comes to choosing a combination the possibilities are endless! colour choice when planting can be used to compliment or contrast and with the right balance you should be able to easily create interest throughout the year depending on your individual taste.
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Low shrubs such as hebes, euonymus, miniature conifers and dwarf grasses add a good evergreen colour to any display and the erica carnea range of heathers are perfect if you wish to extend your gardening season into the winter these hardy plants generally grow up to 6-9 inches high and can tolerate any soil and will flower from December to March.
If for any reason you wish to limit your gardening to a certain time of year perhaps planting a small raised or gravel bed near your patio for summer is a nice idea, a trip to your local garden centre would be a good place to start they should stock a range of rocks,gravel,slate and edges in either wood or stone one of the advantage of having a two tiered raised feature is the free drainage provided because of the higher level which allows for a greater variety of alpines to be grown top dressing with gravel will finish the look. The best soil for your raised bed would be a mixture of one part good soil or john innes no 3 to one part leaf mould or peat and one part grit you will want to vary this mixture in different parts to create different conditions that certain plants require.
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Troughs and contianers are how alpine gardening becomes even more miniature adding small rockery stones slate and gravel to the pots recreates the larger garden rockery for small pots the planting of a single variety can look neat and while not in flower can easily be moved around the garden or planted into the ground remember when planting alpines into containers they can last many years with the correct care.
Other uses for alpines can be having them along-side low perennials at the front of garden borders using these plants at the front will enable you to decrease the height in certain areas whilst increasing the range of foliage and flower colours available to you. Planting into walls is another popular idea so If you are thinking of planting a few alpines into your garden wall then a dry stone wall made without mortar is the easiest, start by filling a few places with a soil mixture and then planting such plants as Alyssium, Aubrieta, Companula, Dianthus, Erinus, Erigeron, Phlox, Saponaria or some Thymes watering them carefully until well established is important but the fact the wall is vertical will provide naturally good drainage in walls that are built with mortar look for areas where the mortar has fallen out or create your own planting holes at a downward angle.