Adrian Cooper - The Alpine Garden through the Year (8/03/2013)
March saw us really looking at alpines in all their variety. Adrian Cooper has been growing alpines since he was 8 (!), and has a fascination with them in all their diversity. For some time he grew plants in a London garden in Blackheath, and has now moved to the country just south of Maidstone. Even in London, though, he was successful with many plants that are tricky in the south; petiolarid primulas, shortias and ericaceous species. Other growers like Jim & Hedi Hancox have grown some of these very well too, showing that with dedication and care they can be grown very well in areas climatically less suitable. David Sampson, who ran Oakdene Nursery near Heathfield, was also one of the few really skilled with these plants in the south.
Adrian also showed us fine plants of Dionysias, some very choice Irises (and his friendship with Tony Hall is testament to how well he grows these), and other rare and beautiful plants like Pteridophyllum. Interspersed with descriptions of the plants were valuable comments on growing media, notably using coarse materials to ensure drainage and aeration is excellent. A good example is for Hepaticas which he found seeded down very well in a gravel path, and thrived much better in a very stony potting mix with bark, rather than peat which often tends to fill air spaces within the compost. Bark is extensively used commercially and for propagation for these very reasons.
In his new garden Adrian is building raised beds as well as growing plants in pots in an alpine house and it will be exciting to see how these develop. A thoroughly enjoyable talk, only let down (I hope he will allow me) by a lesser expertise with a camera than with growing the plants - but then it is the plants that come first and they were fascinating!