Alpines are perhaps the first family of plants to welcome in the Spring. Most of these rockery plants are at their best in April and May, giving you a great selection of colourful flowers and foliage.
They are mostly small, compact plants, hardy and tough and more than capable of tolerating the cold – most of them are native to mountainous regions with relatively poor soil, above the tree-line, so freezing temperatures really don’t concern them. The one key issue to planting Alpines is drainage. These plants really don’t like sitting in water, particularly during the Winter months, where their roots can be in danger of rotting off. So, to get the best from Alpines make sure you add lots of grit when planting, or even better, create a specific bed or rock garden where the drainage system is free flowing. The other necessary factor is sunlight. Make sure you plant your Alpines in a bright, open position as your plants will thrive in a sunny spot. To really make sure your drainage is up to the job, think about a crevice garden. A crevice garden can easily be created by arranging vertical pieces of stone filled with a mix of John Innes Number 3 compost and grit. Planted in full sun, this kind of garden will give you the perfect conditions for Alpines and is very easy to maintain.
So, you’ve prepared your rock garden, made sure the drainage is just right – now for the exciting bit, choosing your plants! The best time to plant is early Spring, as soon as the weather has improved and the soil is beginning to warm up. One of the first Alpines to burst into colour is the Aubrietia family. These plants are low growing and carpet like with distinctive wooly- like leaves and purple, blue or lilac flowers. Aubrietia is the perfect choice to trail down walls or cover a rocky area. Small, neat Dianthus are another great choice. Most are fragrant and produce bright pink, white or purple flowers that are at their best in May and June. Another favourite are Campanulas. Flowers of blue, white and pink these tough little plants will cover your rock garden and burst into colour in April. Do keep an eye on your Campanulas, just to make sure they do not dominate and take over the whole area to the detriment of other varieties.
Of course, there are many Alpine plants to choose from, so do pop in just before Easter to take a look at our range.
Happy gardening, see you soon,
Simon, Alison, Edith the Jack Russell and all at Askett Nurseries.