Late Spring gardening in the South Sound is where “fast and furious” meets “survivor”. Panic gardening sets in and now you can see what plants and pots survived. The weather has settled and nurseries explode with color and people. This is the South Sound at its best…bulbs, rhodies, azaleas, cherry trees and a parade of once blooming spring blooming shrubs
And even so, we still want something new…this year’s temptation is…
GARDENING WITH “MIFFY” PLANTS
Alpine gardens are not rock gardens. Alpine gardening is for high altitude plants that tend to grow slow, low and mounded…short. Alpine plants are adapted to harsh conditions like wind and cold that basically stunt their growth. Rock gardens can be anywhere as long as they have heat and sandy soil…a HUGE difference between the two.
Alpines plants include a wide range of plants including small shrubs, dwarf conifers, ornamental grasses, perennials and annuals. So, basically it’s everything you already grow, just smaller versions.
Alpine plants can be “Miffy” plants, ones that are not the very easiest to grow…a little fussy. That’s mostly because we’re used to overwatering and fussing with the plants we grow. The South Sound in late spring is full of color and flash. Alpine gardening can be nuanced and personal…small scale. You can pay more attention to individual plants.
Some easy to find alpine plants are familiar names. They just have to be the dwarf forms of plants like Dianthus, Aubrieta, Campanula, Willows, sedums, thyme, …there are plenty of alpines out there to get started. There is a whole world of dwarf everything…a whole new gardening world.
Starting the alpine garden takes a special mix of soil. Here is….
A GOOD STARTER
Alpine plants like being grown “hard”, i.e., grown in soil that is lean, not fertile. A fertile soil would make them grow “soft” and they wouldn’t survive through any harsh conditions. So, just like every other kind of gardening…soil is everything. Not much alpine soil is needed because alpine roots are not only tough they are shallow.
Recipe for Alpine Trough
2 parts freshly dug soil
1 part sharp sand
1 part pumice
1 part organic material like coir or a potting mix
If pumice is hard to find, perlite works too. Perlite has an added advantage. You know how wet the soil is just by looking at the pieces of perlite. It’s white when dry and grey when wet.
Alpine gardening is not new. Most gardens are growing in home constructed hypertufa troughs. They are very expensive to buy but are made with very inexpensive materials. There are plenty of articles and instructions out there to make troughs, mix your own soil and get the right plants. Information hasn’t been gathered in one spot and published in one place…until…
HYPERTUFA CONTAINERS BY LORI CHIPS
You wouldn’t think that a book about Hypertufa containers could fill a 250 page book but author Lori Chips left no stone (no, I won’t say it)…
Chips teaches the mechanics of building hypertufa troughs in every shape possible. She tells you how to fill them with the best soil mix alpine plants.
Each completed trough in “Hypertufa Containers” is a miniature landscape filled with dwarf conifer, alpine ground covers spilling over small rocks and plants small enough to qualify for a fairy garden.
If you would like to find out everything there is to know about Hypertufa trough building, planting and displaying, there is no other book like this one.
Timber Press, 256 pages, 108 color pictures, $27.95, soon to be released