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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 12 March 2015 by Tim Ingram

A Blank Canvas...

A blank canvas. So how would you go about replanting an extensive rock garden like this one at Wisley?

The scale is so different to the average garden and the viewers, perhaps, more demanding? It is a huge project and, as everyone knows who grows alpines and rock plants and has a great interest in them, something more than just colourful bedding.

My first thoughts would be to introduce drama with open steppe-type plants such as Eremurus and Iris in drier places. Long lived dryland species - Linum narbonense, dwarf Acanthus, Erinacea anthyllis, aromatic sub-shrubs of all sorts - possibly modifying the soil to pure sand and gravel in some places. Rather than relying too extensively on traditional rock plants over the whole extent of the garden. There are many dwarf versions of generally more vigorous woody plants which could be used to provide long-lived structure between the conifers already present and soften something of the dominance of the rock-work. Different areas coud be devoted to plants from different continents and to introduce more botanical diversity, given the immense variety of plants listed in the Plantfinder. A few umbellifers would find their way in if I was given the chance!

The scope is great and the rock garden a big challenge and opportunity. It will be fascinating to see how it develops. However you view a rock garden, and certainly one on this scale, it is that diversity of plants and relationship to the world outside which is its real strength. How can this be presented to an audience often rather less aware of the plants from these mountain places and of their horticultural demands?

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