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We started to build the Alpine Garden in 1998. The garden was split into several small sections, each representing a different range of alpine conditions and the appropriate plants for those conditions.

The low walls and terraces of the garden were built by the Central Scotland Branch of the Drystone Walling Association of Great Britain. They did a terrific job, giving the basic structure to the garden and creating the miniature landscape that became the backdrop to show off a range of tiny alpine plants. The plants in this part of the garden prefer more alkaline conditions (pH above 7).

The Everyman's alpine area, as Lesley named it, contains alpine plants that are commonly available and easy to look after.

Over time, some of the original plants started to take over parts of the garden. In 2007/2008, Lesley and Carole set about revamping the Alpine Garden and taking out some of the thugs and adding some more well behaved interest.

There are so many different ways to garden with alpine plants: scree beds, rockeries, troughs and sinks, cold frames, and even alpine glass houses. When you add to this alpine plants that prefer alkaline soils and those that are indifferent to soil pH or those that are ericaceous, it's an incredibly wide range of plants to deal with.

Having listed all these different ways of growing alpine plants, there are common denominators that are the same for most true alpine plants. The plants themselves, whether they are herbaceous or shrubby perennials, rarely grow above six inches in height; they all come from mountainous regions and are pretty hardy. Given their origins, we can also work out that they need extremely free-draining soil and low nutrient levels: these plants certainly don't need feeding every two weeks. Some alpines cannot cope with our wet winters so they must be given shelter, not from the cold but from the rain. Such plants can be grown in frames, glass houses or be cloched in winter.

There is also a good range of dwarf plants available at nurseries and garden centres. It's worthwhile including these in any alpine garden or rockery along with the true alpines mentioned above in order to give a bit of height to the planting scheme.

If you are thinking about creating your own alpine garden, rockery or planting up a few troughs, it's really important to choose the right site and prepare the soil. It's probably a good idea to check your soil pH (easy to use kits are available from most garden centres) as this will help you decide which plants to grow. Remember, your choice can include plants that aren't strictly alpine plants - there are some lovely dwarf conifers available, as well as dwarf narcissi, tulips and irises that all add to the charm of a rockery or alpine trough. The site must have plenty of light; preferably it should be in full sun and the soil should be well drained. Dig plenty of horticultural gravel into the soil, this will improve the drainage even further. Once planted, top dress the trough or rockery with a layer of gravel.  This will help to prevent water gathering at the neck of the plants which can rot them.


Some of our favourite alpine plants include:

Iberis 'Dick Self'

Aubretia 'Doctor Mules Variegata' - this is a classic plant for an alpine garden. Grown at the edge of a raised bed, the mat forming habit causes it to tumble over the edge. It is truly eye catching when in flower.

Dianthus 'Flashing Lights' - what a performer - the tiny bright red flowers on this plant are so fetching. Its also easy to care for. Simply snip off the faded flowers with some sharp scissors, leaving the evergreen foliage to do its thing.

Pritzelago alpina (formerly Hutchinsia)

Lapland Willow

Creeping Thyme - creeping plants really suit a rockery. This one has the added benefit of being tough and wonderfully scented. Plant it near the path or bench so that you can really enjoy the scent whenever you brush your hand or foot past it. Plus, when it flowers the plant is transformed into a sea of little purple flower heads.

Phlox sp.