Alpine plants are a great choice for rockeries, Cornish walls and container planting. This group of plants, as their name suggests are plants that originate from rocky, mountainous regions and usually flower in springtime and early summer. They remain fairly dry from the covering of snow through the winter and as the snow thaws in spring, the snow melts and the plants burst into life.
As gardeners, we can easily recreate these conditions for the plants and this means good drainage! In pots this can be recreated by adding lots of sand or grit to create an open mix, and crocks at the bottom of the pot to ensure the drainage hole doesn’t become blocked. Alpine plants do not like wet feet! In a rockery, the soil must be free-draining, so if you have clay soil, then add lots of sharp sand and grit to create an open texture.
Here are five of our personal favourites:
Erigeron karvinskianus will happily self-seed into the tiniest bit of soil and has dainty white daisy flowers, fading to pink and will flower all spring and summer long. I have even seen this plant flowering in December in coastal areas. Perfect for bees and butterflies.
Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’
Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’ has stunning deep blue flowers smothering the evergreen foliage in June and July. It looks beautiful when allowed to cascade over a Cornish wall. Unlike other alpines, this plant needs an acidic, humus-rich soil so when planting add some ericaceous compost.
Rhodohypoxis is a dainty alpine with red, pink or white flowers and unless planted in very free-draining soil in a sheltered position, it is best grown in a pot and kept in a cold glasshouse in winter. It’s one of the fussier alpines but worth it for its beauty we think!
Armeria maritima is usually found on cliffs and the seashore and have pretty flowers on wiry stems over neat mats of grassy evergreen foliage. The flowers are usually pink but there is also a white variety. They are also a great food source for bees.
Lewisias are one of the showiest of the alpines. The gorgeous flowers are white, shades of pink, yellow or apricot and are produced in spring and then usually again in summer. They grow in crevices on shady, north facing cliffs where their roots can access moisture but the collar of the plant remains perfectly drained. It’s important to plant Lewisias at an angle, to allow water to drain from the crown of the plant.
And it’s not all about the flowers! Sedums are a great addition to your planting scheme, with their interesting and often colourful foliage, plus many species are evergreen so you have interest all year round.
To add some structure and height to your rockery or container use a dwarf evergreen shrub such as Hebe ‘Green Globe’, a compact Hebe growing to only 40cm, or Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’, a slow-growing dwarf conifer to 40cm x 1m with lovely, blue foliage.
Spring is a great time to plant alpines so come and see the great range we have hand-picked for you.