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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 11 February 2013, 20:59top / bottom of page

Our sand bed is a more modest affair, and the lawn has still to be removed to gain a more proper effect, but slowly the effects of inspiration are rubbing off, and there is huge enjoyment growing plants in this way.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 23 April 2013, 16:28top / bottom of page
Spring 2013

On the sand bed plants are only just beginning to flower. Iris suaveolens (not quite as striking as the one exhibited recently!) makes a superb little plant. The muscaris will be weeded out, and date back to a much earlier incarnation of this part of the garden (they take quite a bit of removing). In fact though a choicer, smaller, well behaved muscari (and there are such things) would associate rather well with the iris. Forms of Primula marginata are beginning to flower - the first is 'Clear's Variety', which we must have had perhaps for twenty years. The second, a kind gift from Alan Furness on visiting his garden after the Edinburgh Conference, is less grown - 'Shipton' - a very appealing pure colour. There five or six other forms on the bed, including a small pure white variety from Peter Erskine which is very nice indeed, but they grow very slowly and really could do with richer fare. So the sand bed is something of a compromise for certain plants and we aim to try making richer screes for these in the future. One of the most successful plants, though it wouldn't win great plaudits from many alpine gardeners probably, is Arabis androsacea. This makes a good tight cushion and is seeding around gently. For the botanically minded it is nice to sing its praises. It may be even better planted into tufa.

Spring 2013

Growing - or needing - similar conditions are Rhodanthemum hosmariense, an extraordinarily long flowering and valuable plant, and Euphorbia rigida. If we started the garden again then the large sand beds pioneered in the States and by Peter Korn in Sweden, would probably be the way to go, like a smaller scale version (plant wise) of Beth Chatto's famous gravel garden. As it is our front garden is gradually taking on this persona, as larger plants are removed and choicer ones take their place.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 30 April 2013, 18:52top / bottom of page
... just making it into April...

These are four plants flowering just now. The first, Narcissus panizzinianus was grown from JJA seed and is certainly one of the loveliest species in the garden. This sets seed well and is gently seeding around, which is very pleasing. The second two pictures show two superb Dianthus from Aberconwy; D. 'Conwy Star' and 'Conwy Silver' (in the tufa). Pulsatilla vernalis is tucked in between the two blocks. And finally a glorious little gentian, G. pumila (hybrid?). This is very perennial and runs around quite widely in the sand, very different from G. verna angulosa, and produces intermittantly these vivid blue flowers.

... just making it into April...

Many more plants are beginning to flower now but will have to take a back seat to the Czech Alpine Conference which is coming up. There could be some interesting images to show in a couple of weeks time... !

Contribution from Tim Ingram 11 June 2013, 08:39top / bottom of page

Can there be any plants that captivate as much as alpine plants? I've said it enough now for it to be obvious that they appeal most to me in a garden setting but in the AGS I do feel in something of a minority, and of course I understand why. Here though are a few more examples of alpines flowering on the sand bed this summer and the simple excitement these bring to the gardener.

There is no great complexity to this bed, except like all gardening a close observation of the plants and attention to watering and occasional feeding. In time it changes as it becomes clearer which plants prosper and adapt best to subtle differences in aspect and position. The greatest delight though is how many very disparate species in origin and form have taken to growing well in essentially these same conditions. I think the detail of this is difficult to illustrate to gardeners (compared to the individual beauty of plants at Shows), because few people take the time to look closely and study. None the less visiting the gardens in the Czech Republic has certainly fired the imagination and suggested new ways of creating growing conditions for tricky alpines. It would be nice to think that more gardeners would consider these in the future because it might filter through to a wider understanding of alpines in the garden, and in garden design.

So to re-iterate the sand bed is not especially large and details of how it was made are given at the beginning of this thread. There are probably far too many plants on it but that is a sign of how successful it has been in growing many different species, and it provides a great deal of propagation material. To illustrate the variety of plants here is Campanula aucheri, Aster natalensis, Leucogynes grandiceps and Rhodiola trollii, and with others mentioned later there are species from all corners of the world.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 11 June 2013, 08:51top / bottom of page

The individual plants are beautiful in themselves but even more appealing is how they can combine to make a 'picture' (and this is something we were very aware of when making a display at the Kent Garden Show). Onosma echiodes and Saxifraga cotyledon are superb at the moment. The third picture shows a grouping of Lithodora oleifolia, Rhodanthemum 'African Eyes' (like all of its genus amazingly long flowering) and Erinacea anthyllis. This latter, wonderfully pictured at Holehird by John Richards, has only just started to flower after 4 or 5 years, and I hope will now only get better year on year. It must be one of the most exciting of all alpine shrublets. The final picture, although not on the sand bed, is Lithodora x intermedia, another very nice Boraginaceous plant for the rock garden.

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