Archive | Alpine Garden

Plants and how to develop an Alpine garden

Primula – Alpines and Pot Plants

Primula is a genus with over 500 species and numerous hybrids, divided into 30+ sections.

Primula seiboldii blue japan

Primulas all have flowers with 5 rounded petals like our own primrose Primula vulgaris. The cowslips, Primula elatior, flowers in simple umbels and the candelabras in rising tiers of umbels.

Primula 'E L Bolton'

European Primulas

  • These plant s are hardy and most will succeed in any well drained gritty soil with plenty of humus.
  • All are spring flowering except Primula auricula, marginata, rubra and viscosa.
  • Although most like an open sunny position care must be taken to avoid drying out in too much sunshine.
  • With only a few exceptions the Primulas tolerate or even welcome lime.
  • Some varieties die back to a resting bud during summer.

Primula allianii Joan Hughes Continue Reading →


Alpine Success at Lower Levels

You do not need to garden on top of a hill or mountain to have an Alpine garden but it helps.
Alpine plants tend to have deep roots and a deeper dislike for wet around their necks. Many alpines are bulbs and use other tactics to survive harsh conditions. For every generalisation there is an exception and this book gives you a better insight into Alpine plants.

Book Cover
Success with Alpine Gardening by Graham Clarke

The Alpine Garden Society is one of the best organisations that I belong too. Their seed catalogue contains thousands of varieties that members can obtain for free or nominal amounts. The magazine is both travelogue and garden informative. Give the AGS a try


Succulent Rosette Rock Plants

Botanically we refer to a rosette as a circular arrangement of leaves with all the leaves at a single height. On Succulents these rosettes usually sit near the soil.

Madiera mch11 050

The succulent Echeveria can drive you up the wall. High on a rock face these plants cling to the rock with little support from their roots. On Maderia the ground was former volcanic rock and seemed porous.

  • Echeveria are drought-resistant, although they do better with deep watering.
  • Most will tolerate shade and some frost, although hybrid species tend to be less tolerant.
  • Foliage is arranged in a rosette in a variety of shapes and colors.
  • Flowers will appear on the top of stalks that grow from between the leaves.
  • Suitable for crevise gardens or a rockery.

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Other Rosette Forming Succulents

Madiera mch11 052

Read about Growing Echeveria and check out Australian site  The Succulent Garden


Saxifraga Fortunei Cherry Pie

Saxifrage Fortunei Cherry Pie

Saxifraga Fortunei ‘Cherry Pie’ looks good from late August through Autumn with these cherry coloured flowers. It is recommended as a good plant for moist woodland as it is happy with partial shade. Grows 8-10″ tall with flowering spikes above bright palmate, green leaves.

The Saxifrage society modestly claims to be ‘the only international organization dedicated to the best plants in the world; the genus Saxifraga or Rockfoils and its relatives.’ They have 480 species to go at in three groups or sections the “mossies” (Saxifraga), the “silvers” ( Ligulatae) and the Kabschia and Engleria subsections ( Porphyrion).

Book Cover

I am just getting interested in growing some of these plants and I will see how I get on. The Saxifrage Society is to be represented with a display stand at the RHS Harlow Carr Alpine weekend 15-17 April 2016.

For some it becomes a consuming passion or so I am told. Many saxifrages come from mountain habitats that make them well-suited to rock gardens, troughs, and containers.

The increasing interest in Alpines and rock-gardening has resulted in the introduction of countless new varieties


Patterns from Alpine Plants

Art can be found in many situations and you don’t need to look too far in the alpine house.

See my many magnified, magnificent and magical mushrooms and alpines for startling patterns.


Getting up close and personal is one of the main ways to enjoy Alpine plants and succulent species.

Houseleeks seem to grow for the sake of making patterns from Hens and Chickens through to this rapidly reproduced colour scheme.  Other images on Google
Continue Reading →


Rhodohypoxis for Massed Flowers

Tale Valley nursery hold a national collection of these floriferous plants.


For a short intensely coloured alpine or pot raised plant there is little to touch Rhodohypoxis. The flowers are thick and wax-like white or shades of pink to purple. Interesting doubles are now being bred such as ‘Lilly Jean’,  ‘Hope’ or ‘Kiwi Joy’.
Rhodohypoxis grows to 2″ in height although Rhodohypoxis deflexa only reaches 1″ or less depending on position in your garden and Rhodohypoxis ‘Tetra White’ can be 4″ tall.

Cultivation Tips

Regular dead-heading of the spent flowers helps to improve flowering performance.
Grown in plastic or terracotta pots, they are best re-potted every year.
Add a high potash slow release fertilizer into the compost at potting time.
Compost should be relatively free draining by adding from 30%+ grit to the growing media
Around May the first lance-shaped leaf growth appears. They are quite short and form a spikey matting until covered in flowers for the rest of summer.

Watering and Feeding

Rhodohypoxis will happily withstand freezing cold provided the plants are kept almost dry through winter.
Their chances of survival outdoors can be enhanced by placing a pane of glass over the top of them during their dormant period.
‘Containerised plants require plenty of moisture in the spring and summer which is reduced as the leaves start to die down in August to October depending on the variety.’
Provide a liquid feed to build up the, small corm like, root stock during the growing period.
Trim off dead foliage and store corms through winter in a cool environment.
Propagate by division when dormant.



Rhodohypoxis baurii
White flowers with shorter but wider leaves.
Continue Reading →


Making A Rock Garden or Rockery

A rock garden is a grand place to display your alpine plants. You can shade them with rocks, provide deep root runs and provide rain cover with perspex roofs

In Alpine conditions plants can shelter behind rocks that give them protection from wind and rain and help with drainage. Try to give your plants similar conditions to there original habitat and they will repay you for your attention to detail.

Tips for Making a Rock Garden

  • A rock garden should be open and unshaded by over hanging trees
  • There should be a slope either natural or built up. This allows plants on the North facing slope to receive 25% of the sun (and heat) of those on the South slope so those delicate plants don’t fry.
  • Study the prevailing wind so you know where most rain will fall and plant the rain shadow area with plants that need to stay dry.
  • If in doubt about drainage improve it by adding grit. If the soil is clay, a pile of brick rubble 15 inches below the surface will aid drainage no-end.
  • The soil can be average soil but will not need extra nutrients or fertilizer except for special situations. Pack all crevices tightly with soil to prevent unwanted pests like mice.
  • Plan your rock positions and lay the grain or style of rock all in the same direction. Do not mix rock types or the harmonious effect can be lost.
  • Do not plant higgledy piggeldy but select plants that fit into a simple plan. Keep slow growing plants needing similar conditions together. Consider haveing zones in the rockery for different plant requirements.
  • Mulch new plants with pea gravel

Continue Reading →


Campanula Family for the Rockery

One of the smaller varieties of Campanula should ring a bell for rockery or alpine gardeners.


The bell flowers of Campanula come in many sizes upto 15 foot tall in the case of Campanula pyramidalis grown as a pot plant. The smaller low growing plants are more suitable for the Rockery or Alpine garden. The above example is growing in the space at the top of a low retaining wall and has been there very happily for at least 20 years.

Campanula Facts and Tips

  • The smallest Campanulas hug the ground and throw up flower stalks only a couple of inches. Campanula censia, C. excisa, C. pulla and C. Pusilla fit this category.
  • Campanula gargancia despite its name and C. rupestris have clusters of tiny star flowers that hug the ground.
  • All the miniature kinds of Campanula are at home in cool, semi-shaded nooks in the lower levels of the rockery.
  • Still diminutive in stature Campanula allioni or C. carpathica have larger saucer shaped flowers upto one foot tall.
  • Camapanula rotundifolia has blue, white or double forms.
  • Tufted and prostrate forms dived with ease in September. Those with errect stems need to be grown from cuttings.
  • Campanula barbata is biennial but the low growing C. aucheri is perennial and both have a long tap root that protects them from bad weather conditions.

Continue Reading →


Alpine Growers Club AGS


This is an update from my last report on the AGS in September 2009. After 7 years of happy membership I am letting it lapse and saving the money to spend in the garden. The local branch society never lived up to my aspirations as a club despite some great speakers, I never felt part of the in crowd. The national society provided an excellent magazine and a seed distribution service which I will miss until I decide to rejoin.


For my birthday I received membership to the Alpine Garden Society ‘The Big Society for Small Plants’. The package supplied with my membership is very impressive, in addition to my national membership card I received a membership voucher for 1 years local group membership and a list of 53 regional venues. As a special offer my first years membership will run from August to the end of next year and at £25 for 16 months, it seems great value.

Alpine Package

Competitions and shows are a large part of the society’s activities . A full programme (72 pages) for 2009 with rules and specifications was sent with my pack. This years remaining events include, 26th September 2009 Gillingham Autumn show, October 3rd Loughborough show and October 10th Newcastle.  A 2010 programme  is promised shortly. Whilst I am not likely to enter competitions it was interesting to see what plant varieties were consistant winners.

The Alpine Gardener Bulletin volume 77 no.2 is a superbly produced 140+ page book with stunning pictures. Whilst this is the 80th anniversary edition I hope the other quarterly books are to the same standard. ‘Alpine news’ lists books and holidays for sale and it is a good idea keeping these adverts on a separate leaflet, away from the main publication.

Seed distribution is also one of the services the society offer and you get more seeds if you collect and donate your own seeds.

So far so good the Society seems to be a great advocate for Alpine gardening and have a good membership package. As with all societies I guess the more you put in the more you get out so it looks like I will have to polish my Alpine gardening skills.

Membership details available here.

alpine 076

The Scottish Rock Garden Club links with The RHS and Alpine Garden Society on the joiny Rock Garden Plant Committee.


Saxifrages in Alpine Gardens

There are a host of different Saxifraga or singular Saxifrage. They make for an interesting group to grow and collect both in the garden and in troughs or pots depending on the variety. Saxifrage kolenatiana has rosettes that throw up spikes of flower in summer similar to its better known Saxifrage relative ‘London Pride’.

Groups of Saxifrages

These are just some of the groupings of Saxifrage each contain many variants, varieties and species for which you need a more detailed document. See links below.

  • Saxifraga x arendsii or Mossy Saxifrage is useful for walls, troughs and shady rockeries.
  • Saxifraga stolonifera  groundcover under flowering shrubs or small trees OK in shade or Saxifraga x urbium London Pride
  • Saxifraga cotyledon or Pyramidal Saxifrage for troughs and pots
  • Saxifraga paniculata: Encrusted Saxifrage, group 4 for walls, edger; sun to part shade
  • Saxifraga primuloides: a miniature variety for shaded rockeries

Links and Further Information

The Saxifrage Society

Saxifraga World


RHS  Silver Saxifrage Trials

Book Cover

Click on book to buy from Amazon.


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