Their is something hugely satisfying and comforting about the sight of miniature, hardy alpines weaving their carpets of colour around well placed stones. It makes me feel almost like a giant hovering over a much larger landscape. Even those of us with smaller gardens can easily host a rock garden – a stone trough is an ideal microcosm for these fascinating plants.
Alpines – Specialist in survival
Alpines, by definition, are hardy plants that grow at high altitude and are accustomed to the extremes in temperature. They are commonly perennials; woody stemmed, herbaceous/deciduous, bulbs, tubers and corms. They quite often have thick, leathery or cacti like leaves, used for storing water when moisture is scarce. There aren’t any true annual alpines, although some species may be grown as annuals in the UK.
Alpines generally do better in conditions similar to what you would expect on a mountain; dry with plenty of heat and good drainage. Most Alpines are tough enough to handle a wide range of temperatures and will cope with the crushing weight of a heavy snowfall in winter.
Tip:I always like to use plenty of grit around the plants in my alpine gardens – it suppresses weeds, looks tidy, retains moisture and makes any alpine feel at home.
Easy-grow alpine plants for your rock garden – The Starter Kit
Here’s an assortment of great plants to try if you are consider setting up a rock garden.
Sedums: A great all-rounder. Extremely easy to take cuttings from – many varieties will grow from a single leaf! Will happily grow practically anywhere; amongst paving, in small pots, even on roofs!
Sempervivums: These cacti-like hardy plants will add a touch of the exotic to your rock garden. Plenty of amazing colours, textures and forms to choose from. Commonly known as ‘Houseleeks‘ because in some countries they were used to block up leaks on roofs.
Delosperma: One of my personal favourites. Unusual, eye-lash like daisy flowers above thick green succulent leaves. Very easy to take from cuttings. Fast grower. A real collector!
Helianthemums: Commonly known as the Rock Rose. Very pretty poppy-like flowers (some double) in a wide variety of colours. Easy to grow sub-shrub.
Saxifrages: Nearly 500 species! Will provide a carpet of flowers in Spring and an equally impressive mat of green, gray and yellow foliage in every season.
Iberis: Creates a sea of snow-white flowers in Spring. Dark, evergreen foliage looks a little like pine needles. A very tough sub-shrub. Easy to start from seeds or cuttings
Aubretia: A rock garden favourite for many decades. Colour blue, purple or pink flowers in Spring and a mat of mid-green hairy leaves throughout the year.
Lewisia: One of the most colourful of all alpines. Lots of different varieties – commonly have striped red, white, sunset coloured petals and thick glossy leaves.