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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 16 July 2011, 14:15top / bottom of page

This really only just a beginning when you consider the huge variety of plants we can grow in the garden. Just three contrasting species to finish. Alyssum stribrnyi is typical of several small species of similar form - one that I have had and lost, and would greatly like to grow again, is A serpyllifolium which makes a completely prostrate carpet. Aciphylla aurea if it takes off could be an embarrassment on the bed, as it can make a very sizeable clump! I have been less than successful with these New Zealand carrot-relatives in our dry South-East garden, but this so far looks more hopeful. I would certainly like to try more of the smaller species in the future, but most grow in areas of pretty high rainfall, like celmisias, so are unlikely to adapt to our conditions. And last but not least the really rather nice rosettes of a Draba (paysonii), never renowned for it flowers!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 23 July 2011, 18:21top / bottom of page
The reality of growing alpines!

The camera is a very selective tool and when pointed at the garden tends to disregard much that is happening. As a lifelong gardener it is as much the process that appeals to me as the moments when everything comes together in a beautiful picture. This applies to the alpine garden as much as any other and of necessity it is viewed differently to our perfect image of plants on the showbench. Some plants prosper, like Campanula tommasinianus shown below. But others do not and the saxifrage in the second picture shows the kind of problems often seen in the wild (or the Alpine House at times!), but rarely commented on. In the garden, and elsewhere, such a plant will often recover and grow away well. The third example is that stunning Phlox 'Lehmni Purple', such a fine Show plant, but though it grows for me in the garden it steadfastly refuses to flower!

The reality of growing alpines!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 23 July 2011, 18:43top / bottom of page

We try to grow the plants as well as we can but they are open to the natural vicissitudes of weather, pests (of quite a few sorts!) and at times neglect. For me this doesn't reduce the enjoyment and thrill that comes from gardening because it is fundamentally a 'realistic' activity.

The garden allows you to 'spread your wings' and grow a great variety of plants. It is a place that gives you the chance to learn about plants at you own pace over time and is competitive only to the extent that you have the energy and resources to make it so. Unlike much of horticulture the final judgement comes from you rather than from others.

The following pictures are what you could say are successes and failures on the sand bed, but in reality these are what gardening is all about and you learn as you go along. The gentian, G. septemfida subsp. grossheimii has been a good success and very effective set against a mat of Raoulia australis. The seed originally came from Plant World in Devon and it is long lived and drought resistant and with a neat and tidy habit. (It is essentially a smaller and more refined form of the species). Several other more choice species of gentian have settled down on the bed, though have yet to flower well. Other plants self-sow quite freely, which is potentially a nuisance but makes for a more natural effect. Polygala calcarea, a small erysimum and Erodium celtibericum have here all merged together, and I rather like their combination of foliage, even when out of flower.

! try when planting to aim for contrast between plants, in particular between their foliage colour and form. The silver mat of Cotula hispida makes a good partner to Daphne petraea. The choice is a personal one but the aim is to allow each plant to show itself off against its neighbours. A second example is the combination of a dwarf daphne, sempervivum and silver saxifrage. However, there are failures and the mat of Globularia repens, although combining quite well with other plants, spreads just too strongly and what's worse flowers only poorly. (Growing amongst it is one of those annoying weeds of alpine beds, a little oxalis!). This spot is likely to be used for two or three more valuable plants.

Weeds can appear at an alarming rate and plants often need to be tidied up after flowering. These 'before' and 'after' pastiches show small sections of the alpine garden, and then in context with the wider view. Inevitably such plantings need quite regular attention through the year, and this is one of the enjoyments of growing such plants. For the individual gardener this activity no doubt has the same underlying appeal as growing plants to Show, but in a different sense. One of the features of both is great attention to detail, but the garden is more forgiving, especially when life has other challenges too.

We tend to focus very much on the individual plants, I think at the expense of considering the garden as a whole. However, there is no doubt that the plants have their individual magic and so I will finish with Eucomis schijffii which is now producing its short flowerheads and confirms that the garden can be as exciting as the showbench!

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