Alpine Plants Will Compliment Your Rockery Garden

Alpine Plants for Colour and Variety

One of the most successful ways of filling a garden space with colour and beauty for many months of the year is to introduce alpine plants into it.

alpine plants

Alpine plants are generally dwarf and the group includes those plants associated with the wild open spaces of mountains, meadows and semi deserts, most of which have a snow covering for at least some of their winter months. They are found in most parts of the world, including the higher regions of Equatorial Africa and South America and a successful rockery garden can be a true travelogue, conjuring up the natural habitats of the very different kinds of alpines it contains.

Part of the pleasure to be gained from growing alpine plants in any kind of rock garden is the wide variety of colours and shapes which the flowers, leaves and even fruits, exhibit. In fact, for small space gardening, alpines offer a greater range than any other kind of plant, except maybe house plants. As occupational therapy gardening can have few equals and growing alpines must rate higher than most.

Rockery Gardens

The idea of combining rocks and plants to form a miniature alpine landscape has been with us for a long time, but over the last decades, gardeners – both amateur and professional, have extended the definition of a rock garden, so that it now includes plantings in revamped stone sinks, the cracks between paving stones, and raised beds.

In this site you will find instructions for building both a rock garden and a scree from scratch, and for rebuilding within an existing and possibly established garden. Also, for those of you with smaller spaces, or even no garden at all, there are details on growing alpine plants in sinks, raised beds, on pavements and lawns. The designs have been chosen to last for 30 years; the plantings for l5 – 20 years, with minor changes.

To start with, the construction itself is exciting. Then comes the choice of plants. Next there is the thrill of  planting and seeing them grow. Whichever design you choose to follow, the idea is to grow as large a variety of plants as possible within a given area, using the method of construction best suited to your garden.

I cannot stress too strongly how important it is that, regardless of the method you are adopting, the construction is well done; corrections later are most difficult and maintenance will become sheer drudgery instead of the pleasure it should be.  Poor construction is not only aesthetically displeasing, it is also frustrating because it means that plants cannot grow well.

It is often thought that rock gardens must be built on a slope but, although this can increase the range of plants grown, it is not necessary. A flat site can be perfectly satisfactory for building raised beds, rock gardens, sinks, alpine lawns and pavements but the last-mentioned must have a low enough water table for the roots to reach but not cause water logging at any time of the year.

Raised Alpine Beds

Creating a raised bed or preparing a sink garden is an ideal way to allow everyone to see plants closely without treading all over the soil, and these kinds of gardens are especially suited to elderly or disabled people, who can grow and tend their own choice of plants at a height most comfortable to them.

Sink Gardens for Alpines

alpine plants in sink garden

Sink gardens, the smallest sites, are the most appropriate for a balcony. The flowers will be far longer lasting than those usually grown in a window box and, although the plants and flowers will be smaller, the hazards of climate will be no problem at all.

The smallest back or front garden can accommodate sinks or a pavement, or both, or even take a small raised bed.

A larger garden can take a small rock garden, one or more raised beds, sinks, a pavement, a scree, an alpine lawn, or combinations of all these. The garden may already be established, or partly so, and ready for changes, and a more ambitious scheme such as building a pond may be considered.

Whatever is decided, the eventual size of any construction must be in proportion to the surrounding garden.

New Gardens

This is relatively easy in a new garden, but an established one will need more consideration, especially where trees and large shrubs may have to be removed to achieve the correct scale.

Avoiding Perennial Weeds

One very important requirement for alpine plant growing is the complete absence of perennial weeds.

Annuals may be overcome by weeding and digging, but if perennial weeds exist at all they will spread their roots under stones and in crevices from which they can never be removed, except by moving the stones themselves.

So, if a site harbours any perennial grasses, Oxalis (those found growing in the garden, as opposed to those good species introduced), bindweed, ground elder, or couch, it must be cleared entirely before any improvement is contemplated.

Should any perennial weeds appear either in the pots of alpines when planting them out or as seeds arriving from nearby sites, they must be removed immediately or the ground will revert to its original state within a year.

Other Factors

Very few gardens offer ideal conditions for every type of alpine plant and this will have a limiting effect on the choice of plants but a more important factor is the size of the garden and, as a result, the amount of light it offers.

Overhanging and nearby trees present an added limitation because of drip and leaf fall. Many alpines prefer sunny, well-drained situations and in damp conditions will succumb to a fungal infection known as ’damping off’.

Shade cast by fences and buildings will not be a disadvantage, provided that there is no dripping water from leaking gutters.

22. July 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Alpines | Tags: , | Comments Off on Alpine Plants Will Compliment Your Rockery Garden


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