JOHN’S JOURNAL

How To Create a Rock Garden

Often in the gardening world we see trends and fashions and Alpines and Rockeries are certainly one of the constants in the gardening world, but have they been a little forgotten? Alpines are such splendid plants and with the average size of gardens getting smaller they are the perfect choice and following their requirements gives you the chance to create your very own miniature landscape by means of a rock garden, full of character and interest all year round.

So where do you start? Well the ideal aspect for a rockery is somewhere with some sunshine, so east, west or south facing. It also doesn’t have to be flat or level, a banking is the perfect place allowing you to take advantage of the gradient and help deal with the slope. You will need some rocks whether they be sandstone or limestone and if it’s a small area dig the whole area over first, the depth of a fork and then begin setting in your rocks as loosening the soil will make it nice and easy then. The rocks always want to be set level in little groups and clusters and avoid setting them in in straight lines, Mother Nature doesn’t do straight lines, and it also looks odd if you dot all the stones around individually as they look like they’ve fallen out of the sky then! Bury them into the soil and create irregular sweeping lines and groups, leaving little nooks and crannies for your plants. Rocks also make it easy to maintain as you can use these as stepping stones later on down the line.

Then it’s onto the planting, if you need some more soil John Innes No.2 is the perfect addition or some loam based topsoil. Alpines don’t need a lot of nutrients otherwise they will grow too long and leggy. If it’s a large rockery you want to get some height so include a small feature tree. Then your next layer wants to be some miniature shrubs or miniature conifers, great for evergreen interest and if you pick the right conifers they will stay small, not like the ‘dwarf conifers’ in the old days that ended up blocking out light to your upstairs windows! Then after these it’s time for the alpines, there’s so many different ones to choose from, different colours, shapes and sizes, then finally mulch it with either bark or gravel depending on preference and voila there you have it!

Now don’t worry if your garden isn’t big enough to house a rockery you can always do it in a small pot or container and at the nursery you will see some of these below The Potting Shed, that’s the beauty with Alpines they are the dwarfest group of plants and perfect for smaller spaces!

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Here you can send in and find out the answers to those gardening problems

 

Can you grow alpines in pots?

Yes they are perfect for pots and containers and a traditional way of planting them up would have been to use a trough, stone troughs make the perfect home for them but don’t worry if you don’t have a trough and it doesn’t have to be traditional either, you can plant them in something quite contemporary, just remember to add some feature rocks and then dress it off with gravel.

 

What type of compost should I use for alpines in pots?

We use a 3 part mix for our Alpines at the nursery, 1 part is John Innes No.2, 1 part Pearlite for additional drainage and the final part is multi purpose compost to bulk the mix out. Don’t forget the gravel at the bottom of your pots or trough for drainage so the soil doesn’t block up the drainage hole.

 

Can alpines grow in shade?

They all need some sun otherwise you’re into woodland/shade loving plant territory, so either east, south or west. Some alpines don’t like the hot afternoon sun like some of the Primulas and Saxifrages so these thrive with some morning sun and afternoon in the shade. As a general rule half a day sun for all of them is the minimum to keep them happy

 

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

 

Plant of The Week

Mossy Saxifrages

A vigorous group of Alpines with mounded green cushion like foliage bearing hundreds of flowers during the early Spring weeks. Plant them in a well drained soil and they even look good in the Winter months with their fresh green rosettes