Buy Garden Plants – Which Alpine Plants Should You Buy?

How to Buy Garden Plants

This may sound odd, but you need to be disciplined when deciding and learning how to buy garden plants.  When choosing a selection of plants for any kind of rock garden, it is best to draw up a plan on paper first. Decide how many and which kind of dwarf trees and shrubs to plant; always singly, never in groups. Aim for an under-estimate, as one or two may be added later; an over-estimate will mean either scrapping a few, or replanting elsewhere in the garden.

alpine garden plants in rockery garden

Which Alpine Plants and How Many?

Next, choose the mat-forming, cushion and trailing plants, followed by the herbaceous varieties and, last of all, the bulbs.  It is best to plant mat or cushion and herbaceous plants singly or in groups of three or five of the same kind, depending on the sizes of plants and of the site.  Odd numbers give an informal effect.  With bulbs you are dealing with greater numbers, but remember that some species produce large foliage in relation to the size of the flowers. Planting them in groups of five, in multiples of ten, fifteen, and so on, is a useful system. Bulbs are the main features in an alpine lawn.  A minimum of 10 is needed to give sufficient effect and considerably more can be planted. For the larger lawns one or a few dwarf conifers can be grown to add effect during the dormant period of bulbs. The conifers can be transplanted to the lawn when they outgrow a rock garden.

There are no hard and fast rules for numbers of plants; this depends on your own personal tastes and interests at the time. Tastes will change and future replanting and gap-filling will allow for some of these changes.  However, when planning which plants should go where, remember that where alpines have been planted between stones during construction, it is rarely possible to replant after construction is completed.

Crevice Plants

For crevices on a larger site, you could plan to plant one or two dwarf shrubs but remember that they will spread forwards as well as upwards and sideways across the stone.  When calculating how many crevice plants to buy, take into account that the area near the top should be left bare to allow for trailing plants in the soil above to cascade over they stones.

Sink Garden

In a sink garden, always grow one example of each sort of plant, except for bulbs. You can plant up to five bulbs to maintain scale and variety but use only the smallest to keep their leaves from overcrowding.

Alpine Herbaceous Perennials

Alpine herbaceous perennials grow in the whole spectrum of situations, from permanently moist to relatively dry; from deep shade to full sun.  However, if they are bought when dormant, or only showing resting buds you must allow for subsequent growth.  Do not put comparatively large growers close to cushion plants. The tall ones, over 40 cm (15 in) are suitable for the lowest level of planting in moist situations on the larger sites, where they give balance and focal points in spring and summer. This is the situation in which they are found in the wild state.  No herbaceous plants are recommended for pavements as the resting buds are liable to be accidentally trodden on in winter.

Alpine Bulbs and Corms

Bulbs and corms add a fascinating mixture to any site. Their moisture requirements are variable but most require plenty of light, at least in the spring. In many cases, especially in limited space, you can add extra colour by planting them under dwarf shrubs which lack winter foliage.  All bulbs and corms have a dormant period but unlike herbaceous plants they do not have resting buds to indicate their positions, so they should be marked on to the plan. This can save the embarrassment of digging them up when planting in an apparently empty space!

Planting Out

Having made careful choices and planned the layout of your site, you must now plant the alpines in their new home.  Many people rate planting-out as the second most exciting part of gardening – following close behind propagation.

You must exercise great care to ensure that the right plants are put in the positions you envisaged for them and they must be placed in the ground just as they were when you received them or as they are in your own propagation container.  Resist the temptation to put the plants just a little deeper.  Although this may be worthwhile with some plants, alpines resent this kind of treatment and will quite likely rot away.

Buy garden plants wisely and you will reap the rewards visually

24. July 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Alpines | Tags: , | Comments Off on Buy Garden Plants – Which Alpine Plants Should You Buy?


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