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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 April 2012, 16:39top / bottom of page

Can there be a better time of year as plant after plant comes into flower? Because the sand bed has now been made for some three or four years now some nice groupings of plants are developing, and although it is lovely to appreciate the plants individually I think they look even nicer when combined together. Having said this see what you make of the third photo? (The seed pods probably give it away). A star in more ways than one is Dianthus 'Conwy Star' - a superb selection from Aberconwy with beautiful glaucous foliage and very fine flowers. And finally looking to the sand bed across our front garden...lots still to flower.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 18 April 2012, 18:56top / bottom of page
The value of foliage in the alpine garden

Earlier on I commented on the value of foliage in the garden and as spring gets into its stride here are some more examples...

The variety of foliage in alpine plants is second to none and provides at least as much interest as flowers when you consider that it is here for twelve months of the year. Photographers in particular tend to look closely at form, and gardeners how to associate the shapes and colours of plants. Even though alpines tend to be more individual in the garden, contrasting and setting off plants against one another can still be a definite feature of how we plant - and here foliage certainly plays as big a part as flowers. For most gardeners flowers and colour is the immediate draw, and it is often this that sells plants, and as photogaphs, articles in glossy magazines. In the longer term setting of the garden though, it is the way plants grow and their foliage that provides so much of the interest. Spring provides wonderful examples on the alpine bed!

Saxifrages like S. x andrewsii show this so well with their encrusted and serrated leaves. Primula marginata ?Laciniata? is equally striking. Leaves can become quite curious as in Olympiasciadum caespitosum and its relative Bolax gummifer (both umbellifers, a family not renowned for its flowers in any event). In Azorella patagonica/filamentosa, which came from Lamberton Nursery, the leaves are more normal to the eye but have an attractive glaucous cast. Certain plant families, like the umbels, really do have notably fine and fascinating leaves. The silver foliage of Stachys candida is particularly distinct and provides a great foil for many other plants, as do Potentilla ovina (from Little Heath Farm) and the stunning New Zealander, Leucogynes leontopodium. The colour and form of the famous ?vegetable sheep? define those plants more than anything else, even if they are next to impossible to grow - hybrid raoulias and carpeting forms like australis show this well in the garden. The South American oxalis have especially appealing foliage - the example below, ?Ridgeway Sapphire?, came from Parham Bungalow Plants. Grasses and sedges of necessity give complete contrast when associated with alpines - Luzula ulophylla is quite a curiousity - but there are few other such species small enough to use. Many of the smaller hypericums I find particularly attractive, though they are rarely regarded in the first flight of alpine plants. Again it is their foliage, here flushed red in H. nummularium, which stands out. Leaves can be scalloped and hairy as in Teucrium pyrenaicum, or smooth as in Dryas x suendermannii; fine and tendril-like as in the incomparable Paeonia tenuifolia; or with the elegant precision of Lupinus chamissonis. Even the relatively ordinary, the aquilegia, becomes something special in the alpine world, with the leaves of A. triternata (a vivid American species with red flowers) flushing red-purple.

So in aesthetic if not scientific terms, foliage defines a plant as much as its flowers, and for the gardener is worthy of the same consideration.

The value of foliage in the alpine garden

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