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Cultivation (growing techniques): Czech Interlude - Trough Demonstrations

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 20 March 2015, 08:20. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 15 July 2013, 08:00top / bottom of page

Initially the gap between the plants was just filled with large pebbles, but it didn't look right (although it is easy to say that about the whole thing! - It is a very subjective judgement). Putting in a couple of small chockstones of Kentish rag helped to stabilise the planting, and is a great improvement.

So the completion of 'Frenchman's Cap'. I think it is less attractive than the first trough behind it; artistically one could say more 'brutal' because of the dominance of the central stone. That critical appraisal though is what helps in deciding on the next project, and once the plants have grown and filled out the planting the appearance will be very different. Since the stone weighs not a great deal less than the trough(!), there is even less chance of this making an appearance at the Rainham Show, but it would be good fun to do landscapes on a smaller scale for particular sorts of plants.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 17 July 2013, 07:36top / bottom of page
'Gillian's trough'

They say that buses never arrive except in convoy, and the same is true of alpine troughs too. Once the bug has bitten it doesn't leave you alone. This third trough was planted using some hypertufa 'rocks' left over from coating two of the troughs. These were simply made in a pit of sand, using a real piece of tufa as a mould. The two photographs show the trough being set up to plant, and in close up the texture of the hypertufa. It is easily drilled into and we have every hope that it will be as effective as real tufa in growing plants.

'Gillian's trough'

I won't describe this any more as this is my wife's trough and she has told me not too - she would like to follow its development photographically herself. Suffice it to say that casting the hypertufa rocks has suggested to us a way of remaking an old established raised bed, utilising artificial tufa on quite a large scale (and following the inspiration from seeing the way Robin and Sue White have used real tufa in their garden. Here they are growing very many choice species such as Physoplexis comosa, Paraquilegia, Asperulas and much more - ahh, plus a few daphnes!)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 July 2013, 16:26top / bottom of page
Renovating a trough planting

A number of our troughs have come from the garden of a local alpine plant enthusiast, Joyce Davies. Joyce and her husband Gerry were both extremely artistic - Gerry taught Art at Canterbury College, and Joyce early in her career designed for Liberty in London. Between them they amassed 50 or 60 troughs (many old sinks that were covered in hypertufa), and which had mostly become quite overgrown, but none-the-less contained all sorts of interesting plants.

This particular example has a fine clump of Scabiosa graminifolia (a particular favourite of mine for its silvery linear foliage), rather large for such a situation, but it suggested a planting with some stronger species than the previous troughs mentioned. In time these will be propagated and subsequently planted in a raised bed which we are still preparing.

Renovating a trough planting

Most of the plants were lifted, complete with that creeping oxalis which is such a menace of alpine plantings, to be cleaned up and re-potted. The trough is a shallow one and was filled with a gritty soil mix - as much of this was removed as possible and the trough then half-filled with fresh John Innes No. 3. Unlike the earlier troughs many of the plants to go in here are stronger growing and a richer substrate will be necessary for them.

The top half of the trough was filled simply with sharp river sand and then, as before, stone used to provide relief, and plants arranged to give good contrast and variation across the trough.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 July 2013, 16:49top / bottom of page

I think without the visit to the Czech gardens this May I would never have planted so boldly with stone, and yet now it seems so obvious. This is an indication of how the personal inspiration from others can have such a strong impact on how you garden yourself. In fact this trough contains a good number of interesting species brought back from the Czech Republic, plus a shrubby Junellia succulentifolia which was a kind gift from Martin Sheader.

There was at one time an Estate Agent who described properties humorously and accurately (none of that 'deceptively spacious' which seems to mean neither one thing or another). This refreshing honesty, as you might imagine, was short lived because it doesn't form a basis for negotiation. Planting troughs, though, does have as its purpose finding the right home for each plant, and I can't be the only one who finds this such a wonderful way of growing alpines.

In this trough an overhanging rock seems to provide a good spot for Asplenium ceterach (which was a fine feature of several of the gardens we visited).

Having discrete planting spots which are hemmed in by rocks is one thing to aim for when planting a trough like this, and helps in spacing out plants as widely as possible and in variety. The natural settings of alpine plants in the mountains are so intimately associated with the way we view them, that trying to recreate something similar in the garden is very appealing. This may not work for Eritrichium nanum or Ranunculus glacialis but does for many other species, and like the skills acquired steadily in cultivating plants for exhibition, enables a finer and finer tuning of those 'green fingers'.

In truth many of the plants chosen for this trough are ultimately too large for such a situation - the last plant pictured above for example (a Matthiola in Vojtech Holubec's garden) is planted on the front corner in the previous photograph, with the Junellia behind it. But if you are always propagating from plants in the garden this is not a problem, and in any event troughs are easily re-made. The last two pictures just show the trough front and back after topdressing with coarse gravel.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 July 2013, 17:17top / bottom of page

The way that troughs can be planted has no end and many years ago there was a superb AGS Chelsea exhibit based around very many troughs planted up with particular groups of plants - xerophytic ferns for example; silver saxifrages; Paris/Ariseama/Roscoea; and a crevice planting with aquilegias and irises. The centre-piece of the display was a stunning specimen of the Hawiaan Silversword (grown from seed I hasten to add). Troughs devoted to ericaceous species (as decribed by Barry Starling) and hardy cacti (cf: my notes looking back through the Bulletin), show the huge value of growing plants in this way, and I have the suspicion that many of these examples will find their way into our garden over the next year or two - and if they a small and portable enough might also make interesting displays at the Shows.

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