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Plants in the Garden: Fun with a Sand Bed!

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 11 June 2013, 08:51. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 09 June 2012, 17:19top / bottom of page

When we opened our gardens for the Garden Safari in Kent, we decided on April because a) few gardens open this early and so we thought the event would be more distinctive and b) we thought many alpines and woodland plants would be flowering in advance of the drama of early summer. These are both true but actually alpines become more colourful and dramatic later on and late May/early June could well be a better time to capture attention.

Now the campanulas (C. 'Birch Hybrid') and helianthemums ('Firedragon') begin to flower, as well as Alyssum stribrnyi and the unusual and highly attractive Lithodora x intermedia. Teucrium aroanum is particularly floriferous this year, whereas T. musimonum, probably as befits its choice persona, just makes a tidy little plant on the sand bed. Here also Gypsophila briquetiana is flowering for the first time; if this was covered in flowers then it would make some plant. Near this is a pristine white form of Edraianthus graminifolius, which as I have referred to earlier, is excellent in sand. The final picture is a little messy, a combination of Globularia (like many not flowering very well), a Turkish (I think) Centaurea grown from seed, and the seeding heads of Romulea. For me the seed of these plants is as important as anything else and so I try to collect as much as possible. This may mean that the garden looks a little unkempt at times, but it's a good excuse to hold back on being overly tidy.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 June 2012, 06:35top / bottom of page

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 June 2012, 06:48top / bottom of page

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 June 2012, 07:04top / bottom of page

The last set of images didn't load properly so I have tried again. The final three pictures are a rather interesting form of Triteleia ixioides on a very gritty raised bed, notable for the blue stripe in the centre of the petals (definitely worth collecting seed from!); Omphalodes lojkae, also on the raised bed where it has struggled through hot dry spells. This comes from the Caucasus and is beautifully pictured in Holubec and Krivka's outstanding book, where it is described as growing in 'north facing limestone crevices, rock walls and boulders, in rather wet conditions'. In cultivation they recommend growing it in limestone cracks or tufa with minimum soil, in a north facing site. It is that exquisite blue that so few plants have. It self-sows gently but I need to find a cooler spot to suit it; - and by contrast the final fling of Yucca whipplei overlooking the sand bed, Lithodora x intermedia in the foreground. Now the yucca has been lashed by summer storms and rain, but it will remain an astonishing memory.

Contribution from Rick Lambert 19 June 2012, 11:09top / bottom of page

I have come in to this discussion rather late, but John Good's contribution interested me. Is your sand drying out because of position, wind or sun.

After visiting Ron Beeston I created a raised ballast bed and several sharp sand ones including 2 ton of sharp sand dropped onto my front garden. I have been amazed at the results and most (but not all) plants seem to find moisture though I did concoct a mist watering system for the first 18 months. I just wonder what the life span of a sharp sand bed is. Some plants seem eventually to get roots into the garden soil below the sand and they settle down. This year I have a healthy crop of seed on Tristagma nivale.

Dianthus, Androsace and Saxifraga love the contitions.

I will try and post some pictures but I find this part of the web site difficult and mildly eccentric.

Rick Lambert

Contribution from Tim Ingram 19 June 2012, 15:14top / bottom of page

Hello Rick - I think the main problem we contend with in the south-east is such protracted hot dry spells which make any alpine bed dry out severely. In a way I treat them just as very large 'containers' and water when I see the plants beginning to need it. The sand though does hold moisture at depth and once plants are well established I'm not sure how much watering is really needed. Usually I go over the bed watering newly planted specimens in the driest spells (especially this year as the hosepipe ban means we can't use a sprinkler). I think the wonderful subtlety of different gardens and climates means that every keen gardener 'tunes' into their particular conditions, and this is one of the most interesting things that can come across on a Forum like this, especially in the diary sections. There must be a number of AGS members, like Ron, whose great skill in gardening with alpines could really enliven these pages. I have a nursery friend (Marina Christopher) who has a strong interest in entomology and is aiming to create a chalk planting by simply dumping 60 tons of chalk in her garden - a simple idea and it will be fascinating to see the results!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 June 2012, 13:20top / bottom of page

Succulents, not surprisingly, love the sand bed and the two pictured, Delosperma cooperi and Rhodiola trollii, are very different but equally appealing. These came from Ron McBeath's wonderful Lamberton Nursery, along with a whole boxful of other treasures (see the picture very much earlier in this thread). I have been more surprised by Leucogynes grandiceps, which although I have planted it on the cooler north side of a large block of tufa, I had expected to struggle through recent hot dry spells. Elsewhere I am trying the North Island Edleweiss, L. leontopodium, and have given this a cool, gritty shaded spot where so far it seems suited. Oxalis 'Ridgeway Sapphire' is a superlative selection from Parham Bungalow Plants which has intermittently produced these incredible richly coloured flowers. I shall be more than happy if this increases for next year.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 June 2012, 13:37top / bottom of page

Elsewhere various summer alpines are doing their thing - plants like Thymus 'Ruby Glow' and my favourite umbel Athamanta turbith. The very first alpine bed I built some 25 years ago, neglected for the past ten as the nursery took precedence, is now being rebuilt as a place to grow plants for propagating material of a wider range of alpines. Hopes of using tufa in this bed have lapsed as supplies have dried up, so it may be that developing a crevice planting in this area will be the way to go. Plants to go in here include many seedlings from North American and Czech wild collected seed, and a growing number of small umbellifers and legumes, both of which are particularly favourite genera of mine. I would like to raise my hat to all those who collect seed in the wild - thank you for the opportunity to grow so many remarkable plants, and for the chance to propagate them further and introduce them into cultivation.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 21 June 2012, 08:36top / bottom of page

A few pictures taken through the year, not of the sand bed but of the purpose behind any garden - that is to grow and propagate plants. It has been a hard process rebuilding the nursery but the work is steadily coming to fruition - young plants, plant sales, the wonderful Snowdrop day we held at Goodnestone Garden near Canterbury, the Kent AGS Show of course, and our Kent Garden Safari. Having put many comments and pictures on the website I should probably now retire gracefully and concentrate on growing the plants.

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