Steps with alpine plants at Lakeland Horticultural Society, Holehird Gardens

How To Care For Alpines

Steps with alpine plants at Lakeland Horticultural Society, Holehird Gardens, Windermere, Cumbria

Follow our hints and tips for success growing alpines

Planting

  • Traditional rockery limestone is now very hard to obtain and only comes from threatened habitats so please use a substitute such as sandstone or hypertufa, which you can make yourself from sand, fine chipped bark and cement.
  • Fill the gaps between the rocks with the loam/ grit mixture as detailed below.
  • Choose a sunny spot with free-draining soil and mix in a couple of handfuls of horticultural grit.
  • If you are planting them in pots the most important thing to keep in mind is good drainage; so plant in a 2 parts loam based John Innes No 2 and 1 part horticultural grit mixture. Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom; place a piece of crock over them to ensure they don’t clog with silt.
  • Don’t use peat based compost as it holds too much moisture in winter.
  • Place a layer of decorative grit around the plant; this stops the soil splashing onto the plant and keeps slugs and snails at bay.

Fritillaria michailovskyi

Fritillaria michailovskyi

Aftercare

  • Water after planting.
  • Feed with a weak solution of a high potash fertiliser, such as Tomorite, in early spring. This will encourage more flowers to form whilst keeping the plant compact.
  • Keep picking off spent flowers to encourage the plant to produce more.
  • Many of the herbaceous perennials can be trimmed back after flowering if they are becoming too large.

Saxifrage x eudoxiana 'Hoogii'

Saxifrage x eudoxiana 'Hoogii'

Problems

  • Outgrowing their space, becoming too big and lush, can result from too rich soil or over feeding.
  • Rotting is the result of becoming too wet; either poor drainage in a container or not enough grit incorporated into the compost.
  • They are subject to the usual garden pests so at the first signs spray with a systemic insecticide.
  • Placing horticultural grit around the plant will deter slugs and snails.

Tulip 'Ancilla'

Tulip 'Ancilla'

Varieties

  • Take care when buying from garden centres as some alpine departments also include small perennials which will soon outgrow a rockery or trough.
  • Succulents, such as sedums, sempervivums and delosperma, are the ultimate low maintenance plants as once they are planted they need virtually no looking after, unless there is a hard frost forecast in which case you may have to cover with a piece of horticultural fleece.
  • You don’t need a rockery or even a garden as there are many varieties which will be quite happy growing in the crevices in the wall or between the paving stones. If you don’t have a garden you can always plant up an old sink or even a collection of broken clay pots. Watch the video and read the blog showing how to plant up an alpine trough.  
  • There is a huge variety of plants to choose from; tiny trees and shrubs, bulbs and herbaceous perennials. Sorbus reducta (Dwarf Mountain Ash) is worth seeking out but Daphne mezereum is widely available producing beautifully scented flower in early spring; it can reach 60cm (2’) but is unlikely if planted in a compost with very few nutrients. Beware of buying conifers labelled ‘small’ for a couple of pounds; true miniature trees and shrubs will be in tiny pots and can be around £10.
  • Thymes are an excellent choice for planting between paving stones as they release a delicious aroma as you brush past them.

For more information on how to enhance your garden just get in touch with our Outdoor Plant team here in store.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer so always used to producing something from the earth, whether it was animals or garden produce. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I also keep a few hens and grow vegetables for my own personal use. I gained a BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management. As a result of this I have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening.