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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 09 July 2014 by Tim Ingram

A few summer portraits - Part 2

A few summer portraits - part 2

A few summer portraits - part 2

Raoulia australis - the smallest flowers in the garden? Mentha requienii can't be far off. The detail of plants captivates at every level. This plant grows in pure gritty sand and recalls the New Zealander Steve Newell's talk at the Edinburgh Alpine Conference in 2001 where he described how many of these 'scabweeds' grow in very sandy and dry places in the Southern Alps. (We are also having greater success with choice alpines such as Celmisia sesseliflora and Bolax glebaria in the garden in pure gritty sand, but in these cases in a cooler and moister situation).

Aubrieta canescens - from Parham Bungalow Plants, and a very attractive species for our original raised bed built with railway sleepers some 15 years ago. This bed has changed greatly over the years but always with some fascinating plants growing on it, of which the following are a few now...

Stachys candida - a good foliage plant through the earlier part of the year but like many silvers requiring some winter protection. It has some very showy relatives such as S. lavandulifolia which we now have on the new Mediterranean bed, but is yet to flower.

Matthiola scapifera - this little stock from N. Africa has proved a real star, flowering for a long time through the spring into summer. This also came originally from Parham Bungalow, and the genus again includes some intriguing alpine species worth exploring.

Dorycnium pentaphyllum - curious little relative of the better known shrubby Dorycnium (or Lotus), that we saw at Cally Gardens a few years ago. Like clover a great bee plant.

Leontopodium coreanum - an archetypal alpine genus, but not so often grown. This species came from Kevock and is a good doer on the raised bed.

Alstroemeria garavantae - this species grown from JJA seed (2.027.000) has been a great success seeding, but not too vigorously, on the raised bed and definitely has that charm which so many of the  newly developed hybrids lack. It certainly tempts one to try more of the wild species, even if most are relatively tricky plants to succeed with.

Thymus sp. - and just the detail of a thyme growing on the bed. This particular plant came from Mann's Wholesale Apine Nursery in Essex (as described elsewhere on the website with reference to the display the Kent AGS made at the Kent Garden Show last year), but I couldn't resist showing  a picture or two of their fine plants here too...

Superb plants and superbly grown!

The origins of plants - that is the people they have come from, hold as much importance in the garden as their natural origins and botanical affinities. We have a number of alpines that came originally from a wonderful French nurseryman, Jean Poligné, a unique character and friend of Jean-Pierre Jolivot who I have mentioned earlier. It would be nice to convert some of the slides I have of his nursery into digital images, and to learn more about one of the rare alpine nurserymen in France.

This plant though, Scabiosa cretica, was a gift from Margaret Wilson in our East Kent AGS Group, who gardens on the outskirts of Walmer on the Kent coast, with a particularly mild climate. A very attractive sub-shrub which so far has been hardy with us too.

And my mystery plant for July. If I say it comes from the highlands of Ethiopia and I had it originally as cuttings from the Chelsea Physic Garden then a few readers might know it?

Aloe aristata - a surprising and very hardy species which we grow with dwarf yuccas and dry-land alpines in the sand beds. A plant that few gardeners would ever classify along with alpines, in the same way that most would not visualise hardy cacti and the smaller agaves such as A. parryi. A different style of ('alpine') gardening.

Eryngium bourgatii (selected form by Graham Stuart Thomas with especially fine leaf markings). This, and other selections, makes an extraordinary show in summer and considering its origins and habit a very adaptable garden plant. We use it in a bulb bed, combined with sedums and a few other later flowering perennials, where its self-seeding habit fills the ground after the bulbs have died down. Amongst all of these an interesting variant with much longer and narrower floral bracts, and more vigorous habit has arisen. This doesn't look to be a hybrid as no other eryngiums grow nearby?

Dianthus superbus - an aptly named 'pink' which also has a superb scent and can be much more showy and colourful than this particular form. An excellent prospect for a sunny alpine meadow of self seeding plants...

Asclepias speciosa - an example of the remarkable form of the flowers of this rather unique genus (actually related to Amsonia and Gentiana). We are trying, so far with limited success, other species which vary from quite vigorous (some would too vigorous) perennials for quite wet soils to very choice dry-land plants that could possibly adapt to sand bed type conditions with winter protection. Watch this space...

Lobelia laxiflora var. angustifolia

Bouvardia glaberrima - a relatively tender perennial of the American south-west which has overwintered on the new bed. Will be very interesting to see if it persists over time.

Finally two really excellent penstemons, P. 'Hidcote' above, and P. harwegii 'Alba' below (I think one of the most elegant of all species). Introductions to a stunning and not always too easy genus of American 'foxgloves' that includes some of the finest of all alpines, if only they were easier to please! But also many very good garden plants too...

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