Creating small alpine garden

Alpine garden in trough

Most alpines will grow well enough in trough, provided the compost is right. It should be very gritty and free-draining. Though the soil should be well drained, you must also water regularly. You are trying to re-create the plants’ natu­ral mountain habitat where rain falls often, though it quickly runs away.

You must avoid over-rampant plants that will swamp the trough. The smaller the plant the better: so the little high alpine species will be especially suitable. Try. for example the tiny carpeting plant Raoulia australis, with its miniature silvery leaves. Most of the dwarf dianthus, or miniature pinks, will do well, including Dianthus boydii and D. deltoi-des, although they can be rather vigorous. The best behaved in the dianthus clan are the bright red varieties ‘Huntsman’ and ‘Brilliancy’.

The dwarf Aquilegia alpina with its dan­gling blue blossoms lends itself beautifully to a sink garden. So, too, do many cultivated varieties of the alpine primulas. Primulapubes-cens and P. marginata. Another good choice for a sink is saxifrage: go especially for the lemon yellow Saxifraga aizoon ‘Lutea’ or the soft pink ‘Rosea’. Lastly, consider Draba aizoi-des – a bristling little dome of closely packed rosettes, bearing bright yellow flowers in April. It is all too easily lost in a big rockery -but perfect for a garden in an old trough.

Alpine garden in sink

To create a lively garden in an old kitchen sink – throw the plug away and stand it, raised on bricks, in a sunny and fairly sheltered corner of your yard. Fill the lower third with a layer of broken crocks covered by a layer of gravel or shale. Top up with a mixture of soil, peat and grit or sand in equal parts by volume.

Go for smaller alpines to make the most of your space. A dwarf conifer and perhaps a small rock or two among them often help to improve a design.

Alpines are usually bought as growing plants in small pots from a nursery or garden centre – try to find one which stocks a good collection. They can be transplanted from the pots to your sink at any time.

When choosing, give special consideration to dwarf species of aethionema, campanula, dianthus, gypsophila, sempervivum, saxi­frage and sedum.

Alpine garden in Rocky area of garden

In a rocky area of garden you could try making a scree garden. This is a garden devoted to those alpines which thrive naturally in the rock-strewn slopes of mountains, where soil is exceptionally sparse and rain drains quickly away. Such plants can be a bit temperamental. But once established, they put down deep probing roots which grip even on the most perilous slopes.

Erinus alpinus is the easiest scree plant to grow, seeding itself and producing neat little mounds of foliage which bear masses of starry flowers. Some are a deep lilac-blue, but there are pink varieties and white ones, too – all flowering from late spring well into the summer. Many saxifrages are natural scree plants, as are alpine violas such as Viola biflora. The white-flowered Arenaria balearica clings to rocks and stones in a miniature green carpet, while Gypsophila aretioides, which is also white-flowering, grows in hard green hummocks.

The genera draba, sempervivum, rosula-ria. azorella and raoulia all include species suitable for a scree garden and are worth trying in a rocky area.