It has taken somewhat longer to write than I had planned, but I do believe it truly is worth waiting for. In my last article I finished by mentioning raised beds. So here is part two about rock gardens and planting ideas beginning with "Sink or Troughs" as rock gardens.
Sink or Trough:
The concept of growing alpine plants in troughs and glazed sinks caught on in the 1930s. Using a container shows that rock garden plants can be grown almost anyplace, including on a balcony or patio, the plants are raised above the ground, bringing them in to easy reach. There is a less obvious virtue however, some difficult alpines which often rot outdoors can survive the winter in the exceptional drainage provided by a deep trough.
Many attractive reconstituted stone troughs can be found nowadays - the key feature to look for is an adequate drain in the base. Old glazed sinks can be covered with hypertufa which is created of 1 part cement, 1 part sand and 1 part fine peat blended to a moist mix with water. Place the sink or trough on firm supports in a sunny spot and cover the drainage hole with pieces of rubble and fill to within 2 inches of the top with a standard planting mixture. Allow it to settle for a couple of weeks after which you can plant up, aiming for a mixture of shapes, sizes and colours. Here you are able to use choice and delicate types to maximum advantage, but avoid rampant carpeters. Place some rocks between the plants and cover the suface with a 1 inch layer of stone chippings. Water on a regular basis throughout the growing season.
This really is among my favourites. A dry-stone wall is created without using any mortar. In northern rural areas of Britain you will see mile after mile of dry-stone walling built by bonding flat stones together, In the home garden, soil or planting mixture is needed to fill the gaps between the stones. In these cracks, a variety of rock garden plants could potentially grown.
There are two varieties of dry-stone wall, the free standing double-faced one which has a central core of soil, and also the retaining type used to support a raised bed or face a bank. Building a free-standing wall ought to be left to a professional, but to build a retaining type is well within the scope of your normal home gardener. Use limestone or sandstone - an easier-to-handle alternative is the dry-walling variety of reconstituted stone block. A wall above 1ft. will need a 6 inch foundation of rubble or concrete. Lay large, flat stones for the lower layers, pushing them together tightly with a fill of planting mixture between the sides and layers of stones. Each stone should slope downwards and backwards, a 10 degree slope is satisfactory. Plant as you go, placing the specimens sideways. Rooted cuttings are generally easier to use than plants that are pot-grown. Pack the mixture around the roots. When constructing a wall against an earth face, planting mixture should be packed n firmly to fill the area between the rear of the stones and the front of your bank. Spray the wall with water when planting is finished, also water during dry weather until the plants are established. Recommended plants include Alyssum, Aubrietia, Dianthus, Phlox and Thyme for a sunny face and Arabis, Campanula and Saxifraga for the shady face.
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