Alpines and Rockery plants
You might ask yourself what is the difference? You may even wonder when a plant moves from an alpine to a shrub or herbaceous perennial – well we have the same problem. Again I’m sure that there is a system that the purists use and a well laid down RHS principle.
Here at the nursery we group alpines and rockery plants together and as a general rule of thumb if it is small and not particularly rampant it fits into this group. We offer a large range of alpine plants all grown on the nursery. These range from the popular and reliable to the more unusual and slightly more difficult.
How to grow them
Technically, these are plants that grow in an alpine climate, which ‘occurs at high elevation and above the tree line’. Most alpines are very hardy, so can cope with cold winters. However they don’t like standing in wet soil – so the main thing to consider when growing them is drainage. They must be planted in a compost or soil that is supplemented with the addition of sharp sand or grit. If you are very lucky you may have an area that is naturally free draining.
They also usually need as much sun as possible. There are a few shade loving alpines but not many.
Some rare ones may need winter protection and a sheet of glass can be placed over them. The ideal option for the rare and unusual is an alpine house where everything can be controlled. If you have never been to the alpine show house at RHS Wisley it is worth a visit.
These are the mainstay of plants for ‘the man in the street’. Easy to grow, quite vigorous, very free flowering and generally with a low habit. Examples of such plants include Campanulas, Helianthemum (Rock Roses), Alyssum, Aubretia and many many more. They will, as a rule of thumb, tolerate less than ideal conditions and put up with more wet weather. This makes them much better for our local Welsh gardens.
Mixing of the two is not usually recommended, great for us nurserymen as one day you will realise that your delicate prize alpine is now underneath a spreading rockery plant and well and truly dead!! Off to the nursery (or website) to order another!!
When planting, it is best to put them in the soil with the crown slightly raised. This protects the most vulnerable point from water logging. 1cm or so should be high enough. Keep well watered until established and then off you go.
A common mistake that many of us make is not giving enough thought to continuity of flowering. A large percentage flower in the spring months and this often leaves a gap later in the year. Try to be aware of this when designing your bed. Also think about winter- some people like to plant miniature conifers. These add a degree of height to the area. Be aware of ultimate height as many a dwarf conifer has taken over the garden.
In this age of smaller gardens alpines and rockery plants are an answer to gardening on a small scale. They are excellent for growing in containers, often requiring little soil. We grow Sempervivums on an old stump that doesn’t get any watering and no feeding either. A real lazy gardeners dream.
We do specialise in a few groups including Rhodohypoxis, Primula auricula and Sempervivum . Our list of alpines is larger than it ever has been and although we try to add them to the website there are always lots that aren’t there yet. If you have a special requirement please drop us a line – we may well have it tucked away somewhere.
Most are available in 9 cm. pots but we also have a range of larger plants in 1 or 1.5 litre pots.
Mike, our alpine man, has recently added another tunnel to his domain and moved all his stock plants into a lovely home of their own. Come and have a look if you are passing.