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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 07 August 2011, 17:56top / bottom of page

Earlier on I mentioned the great value of foliage and now that nearly all plants on the sand bed have finished flowering this comes into its own. Most dramatic are the structural rosettes of Yucca whipplei and Dasylirion species. The former was grown from seed and has grown at a phenomenal rate - a friend had a specimen flower after ten years, with a flower spike some 4m high (!), but it can take very much longer. It is an unusual, but I think quite effective plant to associate with dryland alpines; however, it is a devil to weed around!

The dasylirions were imported (sharing the cost with a friend) from the Yucca Do nursery in America. I was afraid that they might not prove all that hardy but with overhead protection and such well drained conditions they showed no damage last winter (the worst in terms of damage to plants that we have had for over 20 years). They are now making fine statuesque plants, accentuated by the fine teeth ling each leaf!

(Photos: Yucca whipplei, Yucca & Dasylirion sp. (Garza Garcia), Dasylirion miquihuanensis, Dasylirion sp.)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 07 August 2011, 18:09top / bottom of page

And just a couple of plants in flower. First the delectable little Campanula cochlearifolia (actually not on the sand bed but I am sure it would do extremely well there). The second is Silene schafta, a particularly attractive form with pale pink flowers that I have always known as 'Ralph Haywood', but the Plantfinder gives the name 'Shell Pink'. The former name seems highly appropriate because it was introduced by Ralph Haywood when he was at Broadwell Nursery and distributed from there (see AGS Bulletin 60, p19).

(As an aside Ralph Haywood went on to work at Wisley and made a wonderful planting in the Alpine House which he describes in the AGS Bulletin 54, p.330, and has always stayed in my memory).

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 August 2011, 08:59top / bottom of page
Summer thoughts

Alpines have the potential of making the smallest garden remarkably exciting and mind opening. The picture below may seem not too very different to many other such plantings. But just to look at it more closely. There are over 25 plants in this small area. They all have their own origins which are of great interest. Ornamentally they are rather wonderful in flower but also in foliage and form. Many can provide seed and propagating material or they can simply be admired individually for their beauty. This is the power of a garden.

There is very little in flower now with us; a smattering of blooms on the little Asperula gussonii; and the charming and tiny Cyclamen intaminatum. Daphne arbuscula and Artemisia schmidtiana 'Nana' make a nice pairing.

Summer thoughts

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 August 2011, 09:10top / bottom of page

And a few more examples of foliage, not on the sand bed but could easily be in such a situation. Othonna cheirifolia - this looks pretty awful every winter but always recovers and is like no other plant for its foliage. Near it we have Artemisia canescens and a similar description applies. This has been in the garden for very many years but I find it next to impossible to propagate, cuttings seem to rot off almost as soon as they are taken. None the less it is one of the very best silvers. Finally Cotyledon orbiculata. This is really an experiment - previous trials on a winter covered raised bed failed. This time it is planted in pure 6mm grit, around 6 to 9in deep and I will give it overhead protection in winter. The seed source was from high altitude, collected by Jim Archibald, and in theory it should be able to withstand very low temperatures if dry. This is the excitement of the garden!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 01 October 2011, 17:06top / bottom of page
Extending the sand bed

Gardening with trees and shrubs, or even perennials, requires more space to move into as your fascination with the subject expands. With alpines at least small incursions into the lawn pay big dividends! (If your other half is not there to remind you that there are many other more important things that need doing!). The relatively small sand bed in our front garden is now pretty full and new acquisitions this autumn really require room to show themselves off. To extend the bed is quite easy, as the photographs show, but even this very small area has required the removal of around half a to of soil and infilling with fine sharp grit. A hard morning's work!

Extending the sand bed

The 'sand' used is very fine potting grit derived from shattered flint and the picture below shows this in close up. It would be interesting to compare results with sharp sand or ballast as more normally used. As I have mentioned before it is probable that these would hold more moisture and require less watering than I have had to do in dry periods. I have two large pieces of tufa left over from a previous raised bed and therefore have added these to provide some relief. It would have been very nice to use a lot more tufa associated with the bed, and David Sellars, a North American grower with experience of sand beds and tufa recommends that the two associate very well. I imagine there would be very good transfer of moisture from deep sand to blocks of tufa. Even the two blocks here make an appealing feature.

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