Spring Garden Safari - Sunday April 22nd 2012
For a particular group of gardeners in Kent this is more true than most. Our especial fascination is in learning about plants in their natural environments and bringing this to bear on growing them in our gardens. The plants that symbolise this most are the jewel-like species of high mountain meadows and rocky screes; alpines, rock plants, mountain flowers, call them what you will. They vary as much as the geography of their home and cast a spell which is impossible to overlook. Once you have grown the vivid blue spring gentian, G. verna, it is like falling in love, for the magic of the mountains is captured in your garden and the open skies and drama of its natural environment is somehow carried with it too!
This is a different sort of gardening! Compared to the herbaceous border which we look at as a symphony of colour, alpine plants and small perennials are more individual. The alpine garden is the work of Fabergé rather than Monet. But it is ideally suited to today’s small gardens because so many plants can be grown in a restricted area and bring so much enjoyment. Alpines can be supplemented with bulbs and, in shady places, with small woodland perennials which have much of the same individual charm.
At Chestfield, on the outskirts of Whitstable, is an extraordinarily fascinating and artistically planted garden in which alpines play a part, but with many other plants too. Home to an environmental scientist and his French wife, who is involved in adult education, it epitomises all that is so exciting about a garden, in the smallest of spaces. Not a position is wasted; plants are played off each other beautifully; humorous touches abound. Here is a garden at its very best. The alpine flowers are grown in raised beds alongside the house, with others in a greenhouse around the side. Some grow well, some less well, but this is part of the fun and stimulus that comes from these plants. The great surprise is how well many can adapt to our lowland gardens, and there is a great incentive to learn how they may be grown best. Other parts of the garden have a marvellous mix of perennials and small shrubs, and its location near the sea on the north Kent coast means that the climate is quite mild and some remarkably tender plants can be grown. It shows how a garden can transport you from the everyday to a place of great excitement.
Our garden in Faversham is much larger but a small area devoted to alpines has been a joy for several years. Only some 15 sq. m. in size this bed contains over 200 different plants which flower from late winter right through to early autumn. Even out of flower their foliage varies attractively in colour and form. The simple trick has been to excavate the garden soil and infill with sharp gritty sand. These are plants that grow naturally in impoverished stony screes and resent the richer fare of the garden. They are proof that even these special plants of the mountains can be long lived and successful in the garden with just a little care.
These gardens are just two of five that the Alpine Garden Society in Kent is opening on Sunday 22nd April 2012, centred around Faversham but running out to Old Wives Lees and Whitstable. They vary greatly, as all gardens do, but turn on the same passion of learning about the plants we grow, whether they come from China, California or Chile. We hope to convince gardeners that these exquisite plants of the mountains, in all their varied form, are worth the same attention as any others. That they are not nearly so difficult to grow as many suppose and the rewards inestimable. Most of all they are just too beautiful to be overlooked!
As well as this Garden Safari in April, the Alpine Garden Society also holds its Spring Show at Rainham School for Girls, on Saturday 17th March 2012. This is an opportunity for keen gardeners to see an unparalled variety of early flowers and bulbs including many dwarf daffodils and fritillarias, primulas, saxifrages and choice woodland perennials like trilliums and hepaticas. For the enthusiast a wide range of exciting plants will also be available for sale from many of the best specialist nurseries in the southern half of the UK. If you love plants and would like to learn more about them come and join us next spring. We can assure you a warm welcome!
For further details, please contact:
Dr. Tim Ingram
105 Ashford Road
ME13 8XW (tel: 01795 535919 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org)