There is something quite fascinating about alpines. Robust little rock plants with jewel-like flowers that look like they have arrived from another planet. Their rugged-exotic appearance makes them look unpredictable and hard to grow. However, mainly originating from cool mountainous regions, they are very suited to our climate and make great plants for containers or small gardens.
The other day I visited an alpine show. The room was filled with admiring ‘oos’ and ‘ahhs’, as crowds of people all cradling cameras, huddled around tables trying to get the perfect photo of a delicate mass of tiny yellow flowers. It was great to see so many people, however I don’t think my presence did much to alter the average age of the shuffling crowd. It struck me that growing alpines probably isn’t very ‘cool’, but why not? It’s definitely alternative and if you are a fashionable, twenty-something living in a studio flat in London, some vintage terracotta pots with curious-looking plants would certainly make a good talking point. Not to mention an awesome Instagram subject. Perhaps growing alpines is the answer that all of us un-cool folk have been looking for?
With that in mind, here are some tips about why we should all grow alpines and hopefully, why it should make us all a little bit cooler…
- Alpines are often thought of as plants that grow ‘above the tree-line’, however anything small and hardy can be an alpine, like conifers or cacti.
- I’ve seen that cool people like to put flowers in their beards and hair; alpine flowers are the perfect size for accessorising one’s facial features. The flowers come in a multitude of different shapes and colours.
- Nothing says ‘trendy-without-trying’ like someone who is well travelled. Rock plants come from every corner of the globe and are simple way to bring the rest of the world to your garden with out going anywhere. You could even pretend to have been soul-searching whilst staying in a boutique mountain retreat where your alpine grows.
- Alpines can be planted at any time of year in unfrozen soil. Although the best time to plant them is March and April.
- If the thought of gardening is a little daunting, something like a small rock garden in a bowl is a great way to get started and also a great way to get kids growing too.
- Do your bit to save the planet. There are lots of alpines from southern Europe and further afield that are drought-resistant and once established will happily grow and flower with little water. Really useful if you just forget to look after your plants or live in a hosepipe ban area.
- Spend a long time maintaining your appearance so that you look like you don’t care about your appearance? Alpines genuinely don’t need much maintenance at all and they still look great.
- A single alpine looks lovely in a statement container. A perfect excuse to go rummaging in thrifty little shops or grab a bargain at your local street market. Just make sure that the container has good drainage.
- The following plants all have alpine varieties, are easy to grow and could be your unique new DJ name: Aubrieta, Crepis, Ranunculus, Thymus, Sempervivum, Sedum or Erinus.
- There is also a huge range of alpine bulbs, a lot of them flower in the spring when there aren’t many other plants growing. Great bulbs to start with would be Crocus, Fritillaria, Narcissus or Tulipa.
- Remember how at university all the cool people would join the obscure clubs, like the ‘Tea-drinking Society’ or the ‘Human vs. Zombies Society’? Alpine-lovers can join the AGS (Alpine Gardens Society) who hold loads of events, local meetings, plant sales and seed exchanges.
Take a look at the AGS website for loads more infomation about growing alpines: http://www.alpinegardensociety.net