Tiny treasures … try alpine gardening
Alpine plants are a marvel, with dazzling displays. Faced with treacherously difficult conditions, they cover themselves in berries or splurge on a flowering display to rival a rose.
There’s no better way to grow these treasures than in a pot or trough displayed on a table. They are happy here if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Some are fiendishly difficult to keep alive in our hot, dry summers and damp winters. They provide challenges and delights to the enthusiastic grower, but luckily many can be grown in an open, very gritty mix in pots or troughs with little fuss.
They like a well-drained gritty mix – wet feet is the worst thing and ordinary potting mix just won’t do. You need a very fine chip and pumice filled mix. This free draining mix needs watering every day in summer. A dripper or two in each pot and an automatic waterer will make life easier.
Pots need to be relatively deep with ample drainage holes. Shallower pots can benefit from rocks placed closely together to effectively increase the depth and mimic mountain conditions. They look very beautiful too.
Finally a good depth of very fine gravel (without dust) keeps the leaves from touching the soil, stops liverworts from growing and keeps the plant cool.
When alpines are grown in a trough or in pots on a bench it is even easier to notice things we might overlook towering above the ground as we do! Minuscule leaves cling tightly to oppressed stems that weave close to the ground. Others have a dense covering of hair to trap precious moisture and give the plant a furry silver quality. Some of our celmisias or native alpine daisies have a gorgeous coating of dense chestnut brown tomentum a cute furry animal would be proud to sport.
These plants do like it cool in summer though, so move round the back of the house in diffuse light when it is hot. The benefit of pots is you can move to suit both them and you. Bring them to the patio when they are in flower.
An assemblage of various sized and heights of troughs, some which can be lifted up on concrete blocks to make a pleasing arrangement, can provide a garden that can be moved with you almost as easily as furniture.
Making your own hypertufa pots is fun and easy. Some kit sets are for sale at the Spring Flower Show, September 16 and 17 at the Woolston Club and Hargood street. Tips on how to plant them up and a wide selection of plants for every situation are available from the plant sellers at the show.
Inspiration may also come from our gaudier overseas alpine inhabitants. There is no doubting the beauty and appeal of the snowdrops and other small bulbs, delights of early spring.
Sweeping plants dribbling over the edge add another dimension. Be sure to select plants that have a similar growth rate to cohabit a trough as an exuberant member may well take over and therefore cause the demise of the others. Otherwise choose one massed planting per pot. A tiny space can give so much pleasure.
NZ’s unqiue alpine plants, including the Mount Cook Lily, provide great delights for gardeners.
Alpine plants are ideal in pots or troughs so you can move them to suit the conditions