Portraits of Alpine Plants

I have grouped the genera together, and after the plant name; in italics, is the family to which the genus belongs. This is then followed in; in brackets, by the meaning of the Latin name when known. The general description of the plant then follows, with perhaps notes on cultivation, country of origin, height and propagation. If any such notes ar omitted, thoes given under the previous entry apply.
When you see this icon at the end of a text description, it means that the picture accompanying the text has a 'mouse-over' function. Just move the mouse pointer onto the picture to see a diffrent image.

A B C D E G H I J L M N O P R S T U V

Aethionema 'Warley Rose' Cruciferae. (Possibly from the Greek aitho - to burn, and nema – a thread, but more probably referring to the burning taste of some of the species). Here is an excellent plant for a hot dry position in a raised bed or wall. This has been a great success with me in the corner of this raised bed. It is an outstanding dwarf shrubby plant that originated around 1910 in the then famous garden belonging to the late Miss Ellen Willmott at Great Warley in Essex. It grows to a height of about 18 centimeters and flowers from May to August. It is a lime lover, but will tolerate a neutral soil. I doubt you will come across this in most garden centres and will have to diligently search the lists of specialist nurseries to acquire it!

 

 

 

Allium triquetrum. Alliaceae. (From the classical Latin name for garlic). Allium is a very large genus of around 750 species and includes the various edible onions, garlics, chives, and leeks. It has played a pivotal role in cooking worldwide, as the various parts of the plants, either raw or cooked in many ways, produce a large variety of flavors and textures. The genus contains hundreds of distinct species; many have been harvested through human history, but only about a dozen are still economically important today as crops or garden vegetables. Many others are cultivated as ornamental plants. Allium triquetrum is native to south-western Europe, north-western Africa, Madeira and the Canary Islands, where it grows in meadows, woodland clearings, on river banks and roadside verges from sea level to an altitude of 850 metres (2,790 ft). It produces stems 17–59 centimetres (7–23 in) tall, which are concavely triangular in cross-section. Each stem produces an umbel inflorescence of 4–19 flowers in January–May in the species' native environment. The tepals are 10–18 millimetres (0.4–0.7 in) long and white, but with a "strong green line". Each plant has 2–3 narrow, linear leaves, each up to 15 cm (6 in) long. The leaves have a distinct onion smell when crushed.

Anemonella thalictroides.Anemonella thalictroides. Ranunculaceae. (A diminutive of Anemone, which the plant resembles). This is a most delicate and lovely little plant from the woodlands of Missouri, typically seen in the wild on wooded slopes and ridges. The white flowers, which infrequently have a pink tinge, appear in loose clusters above whorls of three-lobed leaves of a pale, dusky khaki-green colour. The picture shows it growing in the corner of a shady trough, but I also grow it amongst other woodland and ericaceous plants where it has obligingly seeded itself about forming an attractive swathe of about 12 centimeters high with a spread of about 60 centimeters. This is the only species in the genus, but there are a number of distinct named forms, some with double flowers and various flower colours. A. t. 'Betty Blake' has full, double light-green flowers; A. t. 'Green Hurricane' has green bracted flowers; and A. t. 'Oscar Shoaf' has Full double deep pink flowers.

Anthyllis montana rubra. # Leguminosae. (From the Greek, anthos – flower and ioulos – down, many of the species having downy calyces). Now, this is a plant that I have rarely seen in gardens. Maybe I have been in the wrong gardens, or possibly the right gardens at the wrong time, but it is also a fact that there are very few decent pictures of it on the internet, and also very little information. Relatives and friends who see this in flower always ask for a cutting or inquire where they can get it. It is indeed a most attractive plant, with neat silvery mats of grey-green downy foliage, which in the summer is covered in abundance with deep pink cloverheads. It prefers a well drained, dry position in full sun and flowers through the summer. It is readily available from a number of nurseries and a mature plant in full flower will stop people in their tracks as they pause to gaze at it. I think it should be seen more widely in alpine gardens. It comes from the Southern Alps, Europe; and grows about 12 centimeters high.

Aquilegia saximontanaAquilegia saximontana Ranunculaceae. (From the Latin, aquila – an eagle; the flowers resemble the claws of an eagle’s foot) This is a genus of about 70 species of herbaceous perennial plants that are found at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere growing in open meadows and woodlands. There are some outstandingly beautiful, choice and rare species that will tax the skill of many alpine gardeners; and although A. saximontana is not as choice and beautiful as some, it is still a charming and worthy alpine plant. It is native to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and grows little more than 10 centimeters high. It produces an abundance of seed and these should be sown as soon ripe; it has naturalized freely in a number of my gritty raised beds.

Arenana montana 'Grandiflora'Arenaria montana 'Grandiflora' Caryophyllaceae (From the Latin arena, sand, an allusion to the fact that many of the species grow in sandy places, hence the common name of Sandwort). They are mainly spring and summer flowering, liking a good, well-drained soil and a position in full sun. A. montana comes from the Alps of Central and Southern Europe where it cascades from narrow crevices and fissures over rocks. In the garden it looks spectacular tumbling over a raised bed or wall where it will soon attain a spread of 60 cm or more, and is therefore suited only to the largest of troughs. A. montana ‘Grandiflora’ is a particularly fine form, producing a mat shrouded with clouds of pure glistening white flowers, with a pale citron eye in early summer. It seems to resent division, but can be increased by cuttings. Height; 15 centimeters.

Arisarum proboscideumArisarum proboscideum. Araceae. (From the Greek arista, a point, bristle or spike) This amusing little tuberous rooted plant is from the Apennines in southern Italy and south-west Spain. It has one or two arrow-shaped radical leaves, from which appear inconspicuous flowers, each of which has a long brown tail, which waves above the foliage in the slightest breeze, looking just like the rear end of a mouse scurrying into the undergrowth. Easy in a cool shady woodland environment. Although not a beautiful plant, it has a charming curiosity, especially with children; hence its common name of “Mouse plant”. Flowers from March to April, and attains a height of about 9 centimeters.

Asperula sintenisiiAsperula sintenisii. Rubiaceae (From the Greek asper, rough, as the leaves are rough to touch) This was introduced from Mt. Ida in Turkey in the early 1970s as Asperula nitida puberula. I received it in a pot, as a well rooted cutting, from David Davis and Terry Nichols on one of my many visits to their immaculate garden in Hall Green, Birmingham. I derive a special personal joy when a plant that I have had for many years, that came to me as a gift, blooms yet again in the new season; the memories of happy times with dear friends (some who have sadly passed away) is then rekindled anew. It’s a gorgeous plant when grown well, and is well suited to alpine house culture. Here it is seen equally at home growing in a trough where it has formed a tight dome in a hole in tufa. Late spring/early summer will see it smothering itself with tiny pink starry tubular flowers. Older plants will often have patches of dead, brittle, dry foliage that may eventually spread to most of the plant. This is a prompt to take a few cuttings and start again with a new plant in a new location.
Asperula suberosaAsperula suberosa. Rubiaceae This is an absolute gem from the mountains of northern Greece. I bought this in 1971, and it has been with me ever since, (not the original plant I hasten to add, but from cutting and divisions over the years). The woolly grey-green foliage and delicate tubular shell-pink flowers gives one the impression that this is a plant for the alpine house only. A. suberosa is indeed a beautiful and ideal plant for the protected conditions of the alpine house, but I have seen magnificent plants growing in the open garden that would put some on the show bench to shame. One of the finest plants of this I have ever seen growing in the open garden was at the Dower House of Boughton House in Northamptonshire; the home of the late Valerie Finnis, the renowned plantswoman and flower photographer. It was growing on a raised wall in the enclosed courtyard and I just knew that day that I would do my utmost to always have it in my garden. I have achieved this for 43 years to date!

Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta'. Berberidaceae. (From the alteration of Medieval Latin - barberis barberry, from Arabic barbaris ) A genus of about 450-500 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs with thorny shoots, found throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world (apart from Australia). Species diversity is greatest in South America, Africa and Asia; Europe has a few species, and North America two. There are but a few species which are eminently suitable for the rock garden.
This is a delightful dwarf shrub, rarely attaining 40 centimetres in height and is covered with red-budded orange flowers in spring.
It was raised and introduced by a Mr T. Smith of Daisy Hill Nursery, in Newry, Northern Ireland about 1930.
Propagate by taking Semi-ripe hardwood cuttings in August/September.

Calceolaria pinifolia JCA 14308.Calceolaria pinifolia JCA 14308. Scrophulariaceae (From the Latin calceolus, a slipper or little shoe, an allusion to the shape of the pouched flowers). This is from dry and arid regions in the Atacama Desert; a virtually rainless plateau in the Chilean Andes of South America. It is shown here growing towards the edge of one of the raised beds, and is a plant that I believe few would be able to put a name to when not in flower. It forms a small woody shrublet of dark leathery linear leaves, which are quite sticky to the touch, and is quite unique and unlike any other calceolaria species. I bought this in 1997, and it grew to a height of about 15 centimeters when one of the brittle branches broke off and I was left with less than half the plant I did have. I was in two minds whether or not to dig it up and discard it as it had never shown any sign of flowering since I had bought it. Then it flowered, five years after planting and what a lovely display it was! The yellow flowers, which are lightly speckled red, appear in groups of several or more at the end of each cyme. The grassy foliage at the front left belongs to this plant; the dense growth in the back-ground is a plant of Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’
Grow outside; it is less prone to attack by aphids as it might be under glass. It has attained a height of about 35
centimeters in this raised bed.
Calceolaria tenellaCalceolaria tenella. Scrophulariaceae (The specific name tenella = frail). This is one of my all time favourite plants and one of the very first “choice” plants I ever bought. The genus boasts in excess of 380 species; is endemic to the Americas, and is most abundant in the Andes at around 3000m. C. tenella is a delightful plant for a cool peaty soil in shade. Above the tiny prostrate mats of minute rounded leaves the small yellow pouched flowers hover on thin 7 centimetre stems throughout the summer. My preferred method of propagation is by division in April. Small clumps with roots attached can be gently taken from the parent plant and either planted directly in a choice location, or potted up. This will give some insurance against total loss, as sometimes, a large, healthy, established patch will develop dead brown patches which can spread to the whole patch, and it will just dwindle away. Also; fresh seed sown with only a light covering of fine soil has germinated for me in two weeks! The ‘mouse-over’ picture shows a close-up of the attractive pouched yellow flowers with maroon speckling.
Calceolaria unifloraCalceolaria uniflora. Scrophulariaceae The picture shown right is not of my plant, but is of a 35mm slide I took of a plant exhibited at an AGS show many years ago. I did once succeed with this for a short while, way back in the mid 1970s, when it put out 15 flowers for me, and then disappeared soon after. It was then know as C. darwinii. It inhabits the stony, storm-swept shores of Southern Patagonia and Argentina; where great waves crash through the Magellan Straits, and around the Tierra del Fuego archipelago to the south.
You would perhaps be forgiven in thinking that if C.uniflora tolerates such a harsh environment in its native abode, it would surely be contented in cultivation. But this is not the case; it is a fiendishly difficult and temperamental plant to grow, is not long lived and should be sheltered from bitter winds and be given a gritty but rich soil. You must also be on constant alert against attack from greenfly and red spider mite! There appears to be a number of distinct forms with different colour variations, depending on the region from which it grows. I may try it again some day.
.....perhaps!
Campanula arvaticaCampanula arvatica.# Campanulaceae (Diminutive of the Latin campana, a bell, in allusion to the shape of the flowers). This comes from the mountains of Northern Spain, and has tiny wavy edged leaves, which become covered with star-like flowers of a deep violet-blue. It grows best in a light open soil in the sunniest exposure, and likes lime. Some writers suggest this delightful plant is ideal for trough planting, but it can eventually spread to cover every corner of the trough. This is no problem if the trough has robust plants that can tolerate and look down at this little campanula at its feet, but if other tiny alpines have to compete for trough space most will lose out to the campanula.
But don’t be put-off from planting C.arvatica by the above! It looks wonderful in one of my larger raised beds where it has made a carpet of tight green foliage over a meter in diameter, spreading around the feet of two Phlox, a Linum and a Crassula sarcocaulis. It grows little more than 3 centimeters high.
Campanula betulifolia.Campanula betulifolia. Campanulaceae. This is a saxatile species from Armenia, Turkey and Iran where it grows in volcanic and limestone rock crevices. It is often seen on the show bench, with its long sprays of dark green, birch-like leaves, (from which it derives its specific name) cascading over a 25 centimeter pot. The large white bells emerge from pink-tinged buds. Here it is shown growing over the edge of a 50 centimeter high raised bed. Cuttings of new growth can be taken in the spring and summer and these will soon root to provide new plants for new locations. It will die back below ground during the winter months, so it is wise to mark its location with a label, to prevent accidently digging it up!

Campanula cochlearifolia 'Elizabeth Oliver'.Campanula cochlearifolia 'Elizabeth Oliver'..#...... Campanulaceae This delightful little Fairies Thimble is one of the best tempered of all the campanulas and will not engage in the riotous behavior as does the species itself. The fresh green shell-like foliage, (from which the specific name derives) becomes covered in summer with a bountiful quantity of fully double, sky-blue bells. Who was/is Elizabeth Oliver? I have found little information as to where the name comes from. In his book; ‘Dwarf Campanulas’ Graham Nicholls writes “…no authority for ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ has been traced. However, the New Ornamentals Society (2003) states that ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ was found in a garden in Nottingham, England, about 1972”. I do have a number of plant catalogues dating from the early 1970s, up to the present day and not one mentions who the elusive ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ was!
Be that as it may; she will always be welcome in my garden, to tumble over the corner of a trough or a raised bed, or to run along the cracks and joints in rocks. Height; no more than 5 centimeters.

Addendum: I believe the American plant breeder and proprietor of the Primrose Path Nursery in Pennsylvania, Charles Oliver, introduced and named the plant after his daughter Elizabeth.

Campanula x wockii 'Puck' Campanula x wockii 'Puck' - With bee!Campanula x wockii 'Puck'. #Campanulaceae (C. waldsteiniana x C. tommasiniana) Puck, is a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, who encounters and talks with one of Titania’s fairies. The name is very apt for this lovely little bell flower, as the flowers must be a top fashion headgear accessory for any fashion conscious fairie!

This, for me, must rank as one of the very best of all Campanulas. It forms a compact dome of foliage no more than 15 centimeters high, completely hidden by a profusion if elfin bells of dark blue in July and August. I first bought this from Stanton Nursery in Leicestershire, in 1975. It is not a rampant beast like many of its tribe and will confine itself to the corners of a trough or a choice place in a raised bed or scree. Soon after flowering it dies down, but don’t be dismayed, as it will appear the following spring with renewed vigour. Propagation is achieved by division in April.

Campanula zoysii.Campanula zoysii. Campanulaceae (Commemorating the botanist Karel Zois (1756-1799), who found the bellflower in the Bohinj Alps and on Mt Storžic). This is a rare treasure from the mountains of Slovenia, the Italian and Austrian Alps and the Julian and Kamnik Alps, where it grows tightly wedged in limestone crevices. The flowers are unique in the genus in that they are pinched together and puckered at the mouth forming a star shaped ruff at the tips. It favours a very gritty, limey mixture, and is yet another plant that is a martyr to marauding slugs. This is sadly no longer with me, but was contented for a while inhabiting a home between two pieces of tufa rock as shown here. It grows little more than 5 centimeters high.
Cassiope lycopodioides 'Beatrice Lilley'Cassiope lycopodioides 'Beatrice Lilley'.#.Ericaceae. (Named after Cassiope, the mother of Andromeda). This is a relatively small but captivating genus of lime-hating shrublets from the Artic and mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They need moist growing conditions at their roots and also in the air around them, but should also receive a fair amount of light to flower well. These conditions are provided for in their mountain habitat; but are more difficult to provide in cultivation. Every other year give them a light top-dressing of a leafy/peaty, ericaceous compost and work this down into the centre of the plant, which will encourage new roots to from and help prevent the stems turning brown and bare. If you have a pool or stream in the garden where water cascades and splashes over rocks producing mist laden air, this would be an ideal environment. C. lycopodioides is one of the easer species and forms a dense mat of overlapping wiry stems, clothed in deep green foliage. Each white flower is held in a brilliant crimson calyx.
C. l. 'Beatrice Lilley' was a chance seedling which arose in the garden of the late Sydney Lilley of Sutton Coldfield. He was affectionately known as ‘Ericaceous Sid’, as he grew and exhibited Cassiopes and other related ericaceous subjects to perfection, which to this day, has rarely been equalled by others!
Centaurium scilloides. Gentianaceae (From the Greek centauros, the half-man-half-horse of mythology. Chiron the Centaur is said to have healed a wound in his foot by using this herb). A large species containing annuals, biennials and perennials found in manu parts of the world. This little gem is a member of the gentian family and is native too much of Europe, including Britain, and to the Azores. In June and July the tiny five petal flowers of rose pink will emerge from each tuft, providing that the spring and summer have a fair share of sunshine. Now this is a plant that will seed itself about in troughs, screes, raised beds and the rock garden, and will appear in unexpected places without ever becoming a nuisance. It can sometimes flower to the end of October in a mild year and attains a height of about 8 centimeters. As well as self-sown seedlings, (which doesn’t appear to occur in all gardens) it can be propagated by division, or by cuttings rooted in a sandy soil.

Collomia debilis var. debilisCollomia debilis var. debilis Polemoniaceae. (From the Greek kolla, glue, referring to the sticky secretion around the seeds). I sent for seeds of this from RMRP a number of years ago and it has established well in my raised beds, where it has seeded about in a number of locations. It’s a member of the phlox family and comes from Washington, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California and South Western Wyoming. They are not long lived plants and will last three years at the most, but there are always young seedlings popping up; sometimes a few meters away from any other plant. In his book, ‘Alpine Plants of North America’, Graham Nicholls mentions a number of desirable varieties that boasts flowers colours in cream, white, pink, lavender, and blue; and an annual, C. grandiflora, with trumpet-like flowers in a salmon orange. I have made a note to look out for these in plant and seed lists as ‘must have’ plants.

In December 2010 RMRP (Rocky Mountain Rare Plants) closed down. My first order from them was in 2001 and for quite a number of years since then I ordered and received many packets of seed collected in many locations including the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and the high deserts of the American West.

Corydalis solida 'Prasil Strain' Fumariaceaee. (From the Greek korydos - a crested lark. The flowers have spurs like those of a lark). In Ingwersen's "Manual of Alpine Plants", it states that Corydalis is, "A genus of some twenty or more species..." That was over three decades ago! Today there are about 470 species recognized. They are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere and the high mountains of tropical eastern Africa. They are most diverse in China and the Himalayas, with at least 357 species in China. In February, the small “asparagus tips” emerge from the soil, and after flowering, at the end of spring and beginning of summer the foliage will die down and the plant disappears underground – it is therefore wise to mark there position with a label so that they are not mistakenly dug up! I sprinkle Vitax Q4 All Purpose Fertiliser pellets around the newly emerged shoots. Propagate by division in late summer.
Corydalis solida 'Beth Evans' Fumariaceaee. This is an excellent form, producing its flowers at the beginning of March in my garden. It hasn’t yet produced the abundance of blooms as shown HERE:
This “bulblog” shows a floriferous trough in Ian and Maggi Young’s, garden in Aberdeen, North East Scotland. (scroll down to the 6th row of pictures) full of Cc. 'Beth Evans'…I’m hoping I can get a show like that in 5 years.
Here is the invaluable advice Ian gave me when I asked how I could have a great trough like that!
“I started out many years ago (about 25-30) with a few bulbs and have built them up since then. It should not take long to build up enough for a trough because they will at least double themselves every year if you grow them well.
The secret is replant them every year into a humus rich compost that never dries out when they are in active growth and does not get too hot and dry in the dormant season. Roots will form in late August and the plant is just appearing through in our garden now. Many so called 'Beth Evans' are not; they are just good pink forms of C. solida.
Good luck and I look forward to seeing your trough full in about 5 years.”
Crocus. After the snowdrops, no other flower embraces the arrival of spring with such a fanfare as the humble crocus. As the warmth and energy of the suns rays intensifies, its magic is cast on the white, yellow, lilac and deep purple buds, and they open seeming within moments to indulge precocious bumble bees to their first feed of rich nectar of the year.
Crocus.chrysanthus. Iridaceae. (From the Greek, krokos, saffron) The species itself grows on open hills and meadows in wild places, in Turkey and the Balkans. They are wonderful harbingers of spring and come into bloom in February and are much more suited to the alpine garden than the larger flamboyant Dutch Crocuses.
Dozens of forms and varieties of C. chrysanthus have been propagated vegetativly, and there is a wonderful choice of colours available. All the varieties of this species may be identified by the small black tips on the orange anthers. In the UK they like full sun, but will tolerate part shade in a well drained position in a soil that is not too fertile. The four photos above show C. c. ‘Cream Beauty’, C. c. ‘Blue Bird’, C. c. ‘Ladykiller' and C. c. ‘Gypsy Girl growing in a well drained gravel pathway. They are all desirable, extremely easy and excellent value, as they will naturalise and increase year after year. Purchase the corms 20 or more of each variety to give a spectacular show when they flower; and plant them about 7 centimeters deep and as much apart. A few others of distinction and some of my favourites are – ‘Jeannine’, ‘Zwanenburg Bronze’, ‘Prins Clause’ and ‘Romance'.

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Bird’

 

Cymbalaria pallidaCymbalaria pallida.# Plantaginaceae (From the Greek kymbalon – a cymbal, referring to the leaf shape of some species). This is a genus of about ten species, and was once included in the family Scrophulariaceae, from which it has now been removed. It is native to Central Italy, where it grows naturally on loose rocks and scree. In cultivation it is ideal for growing in cracks and crevices, in the rock garden, raised beds and walls. In older publications and catalogues it is frequently found under its now defunct name, Linaria. Some bemoan this little charmer as being rampant, but I have never found it to be so; granted, it will soon fill the corner of a small trough and edge out the more delicate plants, so give it the space it requires and enjoy its charm! It grows little more than 3 centimeters high, with a spread of 30 + centimeters.

Cytisus decumbens. # Leguminosae. (From the Greek kytisos trefoil, having reference to the trifoliate leaf shape of some species). This is a large race of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and small trees. This is a sun loving race easily grown in any well drained soil. It is summer flowering from Southern France to the Balkans.
C. decumbens grows to no more than 14 centimetres high and has small clusters of brilliant yellow flowers carried on the previous year's shoots. It loves to hug and cascade over walls, rocks and raised beds, as shown in the picture to the right. It is also a fine low groundcover plant.
Propagate by taking cuttings in June with or without a heel and with a minimum length of about 5 centimetres. Established plants resent being moved and rarely survive this trauma. The common name for this genus is brooms.

 

 

Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’. Thymelaeaceae. (Named after the nymph Daphne. Who, pursued by Apollo, was rescued by being turned into a laurel tree by the river god Peneus). I received this plant in a mail-order parcel in 1973 from C. G. Hollett, Greenbank Nursery, Sedbergh, Cumbria. Alas, the nursery closed down a few years later, but at one time offered the widest range of alpines and related plants to be found in any one nursery anywhere in the world. Nearly a quarter of a million plants were raised annually! D. cneorum comes from central and south eastern Europe to Russia and ‘Eximia’ is possibly the finest form of this magnificent plant, with long narrow leaves of bright green and dense terminal heads of deep pink, intensely fragrant flowers. It does well if planted where the foliage gets the sun but the roots are in shade. Give it a yearly top-dressing of 40% peaty loam and 60% gravel, and work this well into the plant so as to cover half of the exposed stems. This is a plant that will take up quite a lot of room, and will soon develop a spread of over a metre, (3 feet) in diameter. Although I have moved small plants to a new position in the garden with success; reallocating a large plant is rarely successful. Due to the efforts of plant breeders in recent years there is now a tremendous choice of newer Daphne in a huge variety of shape, size and colour.
Daphne x susannae 'Cheriton'Daphne x susannae 'Cheriton'.# Thymelaeaceae I bought this from Blackthorn Nurseries a number of years ago.
It is an excellent variety, whose hybrid vigour will soon make it spread to a somewhat open dome of about 120 centimetres in a relatively short time. It’s a hybrid between D. arbuscula x D. collina with deep glossy green foliage and highly fragrant purple-pink flowers in the summer, with a repeated flush of blooms in the autumn/fall. Cuttings taken in late May soon root, and can be planted in a variety of locations in the rock garden.
Dianthus erinaceusDianthus erinaceus. Caryophyllaceae (From the Greek dios – divine, and anthos – a flower; so named by the Greek botanist Theophrastus, about 300 B.C.) There are about 300 species in the genus, mainly native to Europe and Asia, with a few species extending south into North Africa. The alpine gardener will usually favor those that grow at the higher altitudes, as these form small cushions with short stemmed, (often sessile) flowers. D. erinaceus is such a cushion-forming species, whose leaves are very prickly to the touch, hence the specific name erinaceus – a hedgehog. Seed of this was collected in the Kaz Dag Mountains in northwest Turkey in the 1960s. It is well established in cultivation but is not often offered by alpine nurseries. It likes a hot, dry position and dislikes winter wet, and is usually rather sparse with its flowers in cultivation. The photograph illustrated here shows perhaps just one fifth of the plant, the other four fifths is devoid of any flower. The section of the foliage that is in flower has grown over and onto the rock, which has reflected back the heat to the foliage. Is it possible that this has induced that section of the plant to flower?
Dianthus freyniiDianthus freynii. Caryophyllaceae This grows in the Balkan Peninsula, and is thought to be only a form of D. glacialis by some authorities, which it closely resembles. It’s a splendid choice for the edge or corner of a trough, with low tufts of narrow, grey-green foliage, which become hidden in summer beneath a wealth of small, soft pink flowers carried on 3 centimetre stems. It’s a long lived plant which flourishes in a gritty compost with added lime.
Dianthus erinaceusDianthus alpinus ‘Joan’s Blood’ Caryophyllaceae This is a dazzling form raised at Joe Elliott’s Broadwell nursery, and makes a small dome of bronze-green tightly packed foliage for much of the year. The 2½ centimetre wide flowers, which are carried singly on 7 centimetre stems, are an astonishingly brilliant blood red, with a black central ring and blue tipped stamens. It likes lime and tufa and is a gem in a scree or trough. There is the possible apocryphal story that it was named after Joe’s wife Joan, who cut her finger whilst pruning near this plant. I must apologies for the poor picture, as it doesn’t do justice to the true colour of the flowers. I hope to replace it with a better one next season.

 

Diascia cordata.Diascia cordata. Scrophulariaceae. ( From the Greek di, two, and askos, a sac. The flowers have two spurs ) A small genus of annual and perennial herbs, native to South Africa. In most gardening publications, prior to the early 1970s, there was little or no mention of Diascias, and the only species that was mentioned was D. barberae; described as a foot high (30 centimetres) half-hardy annual with rose-pink flowers, derived from seed collected by Col J. H. Bowker and sent by a Mrs. Barber to Kew in 1870. Little mention was made of the species for nearly a century; and then in 1971 Edrom Nurseries gave a plant called Diascia cordata to John Kelly of Stanton Alpine Nursery – and the genus had a wake-up call! He then crossed D. cordata with D. barberae, and obtained just one worthy plant from the nine seed of the cross. This was given the name Diascia 'Ruby Field', which was introduced to the gardening world after winning an RHS Award. Despite the popularity of this new, hardy hybrid, little more happened with Diascias for almost a decade. It is only recently that the boom in the diascia trade has gained momentum. Today, there is a huge choice of Diascia forms and hybrids, in colours of salmon, pink, coral, apricot and white. I have tried a number of these over the years, but the most reliable and permanent one in my garden has been Diascia cordata, which I originally bought from Stanton Alpine Nursery in 1975.
Dicentra cucullariaDicentra cucullaria.# Fumariaceae (From the Greek, di –double; and kentron – a spur, referring to the two spurs of the petals). The common name, “Dutchman's breeches” derives from the white flowers that look like upside-down baggy white breeches. It occurs mainly in the eastern half of North America, from Nova Scotia and southern Quebec west to eastern North Dakota, and south to northern Georgia and eastern Oklahoma. It is a herbaceous perennial with a shallow root, supporting many small of-white bulblets in tight clusters. It’s typically habitat is a rich moist woodland, shaded banks and ledges in scattered locations, and it is especially abundant in the mountains. Small plants do take a season or two to fill out and get established, and soon after flowering the whole plant disappears underground; it is therefore important to remember where you have planted it! I grow this amongst other woodland dwellers in a fine composted bark, and have also incorporate a generous few handfuls of this bark with those I have planted in the raised beds and troughs. It grows to a height of 15 centimeters and flowers in the spring.
Erinus alpinus 'Mrs. Chas. Boyle'Erinus alpinus 'Mrs. Chas. Boyle' Plantaginaceae (From the Greek eri, early or erineos, the wild fig). The genus contains about 30 species, which were formerly included in the family Scrophulariaceae. This is the only species met with in the alpine garden, and is native to the mountains of Western Europe. It has also become naturalized in many parts of the British Isles. It’s a delightful little plant, easy and common, and although not a long lived plant it will seed about all over the place. Some will bemoan this habit, but I have never considered it to be a nuisance; even when it pops up in a patch of Sempervivum arachnoideum, or a Kabschia Saxifraga, as it is easily removed.
In the early summer it produces a profusion of 7 centimeter wiry stems, each bearing small terminal corymbs of bright pink, lipped flowers.
Erysimum 'Orange Flame' Cruciferae. (From the Greek eruo, to draw up; some species are said to produce blisters) Perennial dwarf "Wallflowers", widely distributed in the Northern Temperate Zones. Some of the species are rather weedy, but there are a few that make excellent garden plants for retaining walls, perennial borders or gravely banks. They are spring flowering, need full sun and will do well in any good garden soil. Cut hard back after flowering; they are not long lived plants but are easily kept going by cuttings taken in August and inserted in a sandy compost in a cold propagating frame. Grows to about 18 cm high.
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee'Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' # Berberidaceae. (From the Greek epi - upon, and media – the land of the Medes) In Linnaeus’s time there was only one known species; E. alpinum, a native of Southern Europe. Then in 1821 other species were discovered in Asia Minor. A few years later, Philipp Franz von Siebold introduced several outstanding Epimedium species in a plant shipment from Japan. Later, several other species were discovered in Western and Central China; but for very many years just a few of these were available only from various nurseries specialising in rare and uncommon plants; consequently, few gardeners knew of their existence. These lovely woodland plants have been popular in their home-place for many centuries, but only in the last two decades have they received the interest they deserve in the West. Many of the more recent “new wave” species of Epimedium have come from China; and a “wake-up” call has prompted a number of plant breeders around the world to come up with some very exciting cultivars and forms that are now available to gardeners.
E. grandiflorum occurs in Japan, Korea, Manchuria and Far Eastern Russia; and E. g. 'Lilafee' is a popular and easy dwarf form from the famed German plantsman, Ernst Pagels, and well suited to planting in a cool woodland environment amongst other forest dwellers. It is also adaptable to being planted in a large trough, in sunshine, as shown here. The flowers grow well above the foliage, and the whole plant never gets much more than 25 centimeters high.

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Nanum’.Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Nanum’. Berberidaceae. A lovely dwarf form, ideally suited for the corner of a trough, as seen here. The creamy-white flowers on 10 cm. stems are followed by tiny apple-green leaves, with a distinct burgundy edge to them.

Remember where you plant this little charmer as it is positively deciduous and will disappear from view during the winter months. Propagation is achieved by splitting and dividing the matt forming clumps in the spring or autumn/fall

Epimedium grandiflorum 'White Queen'.Epimedium grandiflorum 'White Queen'.Berberidaceae. I bought this as named, but have been unable to find any reference to it! There is a ‘Rose Queen’, ‘Red Queen’ and ‘Silver Queen’ listed as available from a number of sources – but not a 'White Queen'. Be that as it may, it won’t deter me from growing this attractive plant. Epimediums are deciduous, and the dried leaves and stems are best left on the plants during the winter months, as they tend to protect from heavy frosts. and act as a light mulch. In the spring, just before the new growth emerges, the previous seasons growth should be trimmed right down to the within a few centimetres of the clump. It is recommended that they be divided every three to five years, depending on their rate of spread. This can be done in spring, before growth starts, or preferably in early autumn/fall. The congested rhizomes can be carefully split apart with a sharp knife, and you will then find that the several divided rhizomes will grow and prosper in their new locations.

Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten'Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten'. Berberidaceae. E. x perralchicum is a robust, evergreen hybrid with glossy deep green leaves which have an attractive bronze sheen when young. It was named by Professor William Stearn in 1938, who found it at Wisley in a planting made some time between 1878 and 1902 by the former owner George Ferguson Wilson. It was given its hybrid status due to it being distinct from the surrounding plants of E. perralderianum and E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum. Stearn noticed that; “most of them agree exactly with neither E. perralderianum nor E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum, but combine in various ways their features”.

The German cultivar - Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten' - selected by Heinz Klose, has a more toothed margin to its more elongated spiney evergreen leaves, and the largest flowers of this group, which are held well above the foliage for some time before the leaf growth tends to hide them. There are no leaves on the flower stalk. There is another form selected from the original hybrid named - E. x perralchicum’Wisley’, but it is said that it has less coppery markings in the spring and perhaps dosn’t colour quite as much as 'Frohnleiten' does in the autumn/fall.

The picture below shows the handsome foliage which is typical of Epimediums.

Eriogonum ovalifolium, ex South Pass, WY. Polygonaceae (From the Greek, Erion – wool, and gonu – a joint. Relating to the downy nature of the stem joint). This is a large genus from N.W. America, boasting around 250 species; but there are also very many varieties within various species. The common name is known as wild buckwheat. Many species of Eriogonum are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). Several of these are monophagous, meaning their caterpillars only feed on this genus, sometimes just on a single taxon of Eriogonum. Wild buckwheat flowers are also an important source of food for these and other Lepidoptera. In some cases, the relationship is so close that Eriogonum and dependent Lepidoptera are in danger of coextinction. This plant is now over 16 years old; grown from wild collected seed from RMRP. E. ovalifolium is a highly variable species and Panayoti Kelaidis recommends growing all of them from every location.
Eriogonum caespitosum, cult. ex Idaho. # Polygonaceae. This is a most desirable species, forming a dense mat of wolly grey leaves, with heads of characteristic yellow flowers on short steams just above the foliage. As the season progresses the flowers fade to a rusty red. It is native to the western United States, from California to Montana, especially the Great Basin. It is shown here growing in a raised bed, in a gritty well-drained soil. It is covered with a sheet of glass during the wet winter months and has been growing here for over a decade.This also came from seed purchased from RMRP.
Gentiana ‘acaulis’.Gentiana ‘acaulis’. Gentianaceae. (Named for King Gentius of Illyria, c. 500 B. C., who is reputed to have discovered the medicinal properties of the roots of the yellow gentian, G. lutea, from which a tonic bitters is made) The derivation of the plant which has been grown for centuries in gardens under this name is uncertain and has been the subject of endless debate and speculation; strictly speaking, no plant in the wild should bare the name G. ‘aculis’. Hence the specific name being in inverted commas. To go deeper into this debate would only be of interest to the very learned botanist, of which I am not….I will therefore move on.
Most people will be able to grow this plant almost anywhere in the garden, but only a chosen few will be able to get it to produce its huge trumpets of deep sapphire blue. Unfortunately, I am one of the many who can’t get it to flower, but it should be tried in every garden; you may be one of the fortunate whom the gods grant favors to!
The lovely display shown right was photographed many years ago on a visit to Hergest Croft Gardens, Herefordshire, in the UK; where it adorned both borders of a pathway leading to Park Wood.
Gentiana saxosa.Gentiana saxosa. Gentianaceae. (saxosa = from stony sites) A complete contrast to the previous plant, is this delightful little New Zealand species, andthis too has never seeded itself about; but scatter the seed in a seed tray and it comes up like cress. It forms a dense mat of narrow, recurved, dark green, glossy foliage. It comes into flower about August and these are cup-shaped stars of white with fine grey veining and the yellow centre with brown-tipped stamens adds to the beauty of this little gem. It does have a tendency to flower itself to death after a few years; the foliage becoming shrivelled and brittle soon after flowering. The rock at the back here isn’t actually rock……It’s a piece of hyper-tufa that I made many years ago before I had the opportunity to obtain the real thing. Grows to about 8 centimetres high.

Gentiana 'Shot Silk'. Gentianaceae This is a distinct and robust grower in my garden which increases well in one of my raised ericaceous beds in a fine composted bark, with the likes of dwarf Rhododendrons, Phyllodoce and Corydalis as its neighbours. It was first shown at the Wirral AGS show in 1990 by Dr. Keith Lever of Aberconwy Nursery. It is a good freely flowering plant, who’s large, trumpet-shaped flowers are held upright on short stems. It doesn’t like to much direct sunlight and needs to be kept watered in the growing season. With me it comes into flower the last week in August and is at its best during the last week in September and the first two weeks in October. It will still boast a number of attractive blooms up until the coming of the first autumn frosts.

It can be propagated by division in March and grows to a height of around 8 centimetres

Gentiana verna angulosa.Gentiana verna angulosa. Gentianaceae I grow this in troughs and raised beds, in a rich, gritty, loamy compost. I wish it would seed itself about naturally, but it never does with me. Seed will germinate readily when sown in a seed tray and this can be done each year as there is an abundance of seed available in each single seedpod. I don’t prick out each single seedling. I lift a clump of about a dozen or more and place them directly into there allocated place. This is just such a planting, in the gravel of the pathway, tucked into a corner. I find it resents disturbance, and is not a long-lived plant.

When I bought this plant for the first time, many years ago I looked for cultural advice in the books I had. Most of the advice at that time advocated the use well-rotted cow manure. As this was somewhat difficult to obtain in the small quantity needed I substituted rabbit droppings; from my daughters pet rabbit! I ground these up in a pestle and mortar from the kitchen and applied this to the bottom of the planting hole of my gentians. As you can imagine, my ground herbs and spices added too many a culinary dish always had that extra……..something!

Geranium 'Ballerina' Geraniaceae. (From the Greek geranos - a crane - the seedbox and style of plants, being reminiscent of the head and beak of the bird). This is a genus of 422 species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants. They are found throughout the temperate regions of the world and the mountains of the tropics, but mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean region. Some species in the genus have a distinctive mechanism for seed dispersal. This consists of a beak-like column which springs open when ripe and casts the seeds some distance. The fruit capsule consists of five cells, each containing one seed, joined to a column produced from the centre of the old flower. The common name "Cranesbill" comes from the shape of the unsprung column, which in some species is long and looks like the bill of a crane. This attractive herbaceous perennial grows to a height of 15 centimetres. It is a good plant for a wildlife garden and Geraniums attract butterflies and moths and is an important food source for the larval stage. It was raised and introduced by Alan Bloom, c. 1963.
Propagation is best achieved by division in spring or autumn.

Globularia bellidifolia. # Globulariaceae. (From the Latin, globulua - a small globe - the "Globe Daisy") A small genus of mat-forming Mediterranean plants for dry sunny positions preferably in a limy soil. It is said that they are not always free with there flowers; but many of those I have seen growing in there natural haunts appear to flower well. The many round heads of small blue flowers on short stems contrast most pleasingly with the tiny glossy dark green leaves. An easy plant to increase and display in troughs, raised beds and the rock garden by division or cuttings in August/September. The plant shown here on the left has a width of 30 centimetres and a height of a little under 9 centimetres.

Globularia repens 'Nana'. Globulariaceae. I have this plant in several locations in my garden, where their prostrate woody stems can spread out over a rock, (as shown in the photo) the heat from the rock might possibly kick-start the plant to flowering. The thick mats of dark, evergreen leaves contrast delightfully with the sessile little powder-puff flowers of pale blue. This is smaller in all parts to the previous plant (shown above) and it is seen here growing next to its larger counterpart. It grows to a height of no more than 1.8 centimetres. I have never tried to propagate from seed but cuttings at the end of August root readily. Its brittle stems loved to hug and tumble over the sides of a trough or raised bed.

Haberlea ferdinandi-coburgiiHaberlea ferdinandi-coburgii. # Gesneriaceae (Named for Carl Constantin Haberle (1764-1832), professor of botany at Budapest) A lovely plant from Bulgaria and north-east Greece, related to the better known Ramondas. Most books will advise that it is a plant for a cool shady place in a leafy or peaty soil. But my ignorance of this advice in my early years of alpine gardening allowed me to plant it here, growing in full sun in a very shallow trough.
The trough was, (and still is) placed against a hot south-facing wall under the kitchen window. The Haberlea was tightly wedged against the north-facing side of the tufa and therefore didn’t get much sunlight at soil level, but the heat reflected back from the wall and the direct heat from the sun that the trough received created a very hot environment; not the recommended position for a plant that likes a cool shady spot! So why did is survive and flourish?
Both my two daughters and I are guilty of filling the bath too much, which results in the excess bath water gushing out of the overflow pipe and onto the trough. I hadn’t planned this to happen and did at first think about moving the trough; but I never got round to doing it, and won’t do it now, as over the years many plants have done well in this trough!
Hacquetia epipactis. Umbelliferae. (Named after Balthasar Hacquet, (1740 – 1815), an Austrian physician and botanist.) This comes from the Eastern Alps and is the only species in its genus. Hardy and long-lived, but slow growing, it appears with me towards the end of January and is at its best around mid March to early April. At first site it looks like a plant with ‘green flowers’, but what appears to be the petals are in fact glossy, olive-green bracts, and it is these which circle the tiny true "daisy" like flowers of yellow. It’s a charming little plant which prefers a heavy loamy soil in part shade which never dries out. It grows to a height of about 8 centimetres and can be propagate by division or root cuttings in late summer or early autumn.

Hebe pinguifolia 'Pagei'. Scrophulariaceae (From the Greek, Hebe – the goddess of youth and the cup-bearer to the gods.) A genus of Australasian shrubs which were at one time allied to and much confused with Veronica. There are over 90 species of hebes, the largest genus of flowering plants in New Zealand. They are found throughout, from the coast to the mountains, from the semi-tropical north to the cool south and in areas of high and low rainfall. They inhabit a variety of habitats. Their distributions also extending to Rapa in French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands, and South America. All of the known species occur in New Zealand.
Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’
is a small shrub, forming low mats of grey-blue foliage and displays a good show of small white flowers in early May to June. This popular hebe cultivar was named after Edward Page, foreman of Dunedin Botanical Gardens, in the South Island of New Zealand sometime before 1926. It is easy to propagate from cuttings and will attain a height of about 45 centimetres. For more information on hebes log onto the link here: - /http://www.hebesoc.org/

Iris cristata ‘Alba’.Iris cristata ‘Alba’. Iridaceae (From the Greek, iris – a rainbow, probably alluding to the varied colours of the flowers) This is the rarer white form of the more usual lilac flowered dwarf crested iris. Lovely pure white flowers with a lemon crest. It comes from much of the Eastern United States, from the shores of the Great Lakes, south into Mississippi and Georgia, through the Carolinas and the eastern seaboard, to Maryland. It is registered as an endangered species in the wild due to loss of habitat from commercial development and water sport activities along the shoreline of the Great Lakes, and although it has a firm foothold in cultivation, it isn’t seen in gardens as much as it should be. It thrives in shade, and once the spreading rhizomes become established and contented, it will spread into an almost impenetrable groundcover where few weeds will venture.
It grows to a height of about 12 centimeters and can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes in spring. Slugs and snails can sometimes be a problem, as they often chew only the base of the flowering stem, causing each one to tilt and eventually wither. One morning you will perhaps notice several healthy flowers flopped over, and the tell-tail crescent chewed at the base, undisputable evidence of the nocturnal feasting of these unwelcome gastropods! – I hate slugs!

Iris lacustrisIris lacustris. Iridaceae (lacustris = of the lake) This is one of the smallest of all irises, and was once regarded as a variety of I. cristata, but botanists have now given it a specific rank. It is endemic to the northern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and grows nowhere else in the world. It suffers from the same habitat destruction as the former mentioned iris. It tolerates full sun to almost complete shade, but flowers mostly in semi open habitats. The showy, deep blue flowers, which are approximately 4 centimeters in width, are produced singly on short stems, just below the height of the flattened light green leaves. It comes into flower with me around the first week in May and continues into early June. Again, beware of slugs and snails.

The first picture shows a patch of several flowers and was taken in bright sunlight. Two hours later the sun went behind a black cloud, and I took the second 'mouse-over' picture of the three flowers that were about 18 centimeters away from the first patch. It just goes to show the difference that sunlight, or lack of it, can have on a picture!

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'.Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'. Iridaceae This was the result of a deliberate cross made in 1995 by the late E. B. Anderson. Most authorities believe that the cross was between I. histrioides major and I. winogradowii. Although in his book, ‘Seven Gardens’; Anderson states that the cross was between I. histrioides major and I. danfordiae, the latter being the pollen parent. Whatever the parentage is, it is a distinct and delightful dwarf iris that produces its blooms in late February and early March, tolerating the harshest of winter weather. Purchase the bulbs by the dozen and plant them twice their own depth, 8centimeters apart, in a well-drained fertile composted bark medium, in sun or part shade.

It is long lived when grown outside and the bulbs rapidly increase and naturalise over the years. Propagation is achieved by carefully digging up and dividing the bulbs in mid-summer/early autumn.

Jeffersonia dubia ‘Alba' Berberidaceae. (Named in honour of Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826), a President of the United States of America, who was a keen naturalist and gardener). A genus of just two species from widely distant habitats. J. diphylla comes from eastern North America and is the less attractive of the two. J. dubia is the more beautiful plant; it is also more obtainable and easier to grow, coming from the woodlands of Northeast China, Russia and Korea. The type plant has flowers of a true crystalline blue. Less common is the white form, J. d. ‘Alba’ as shown here to the right. Grow them in a humus rich soil and associate them with other ericaceous woodland plants.
One eminent and successful plantsman recommends growing Jeffersonia in almost full shade in a cool position to prevent the possibility of the leaves overtopping the flowers before the blooms are fully developed. Other equally successful growers suggest that the shade should not be too deep, lest the leaves overtop the flowers! Get the balance of shade and coolness correct and you will be duly rewarded. The flowers appear in April/May. Propagation by division is not always successful and seed sown as soon as ripe is the better option. Likewise, it is not recommended to try and move a well-established plant. In the autumn/fall when the plant retires below ground, the dead wiry stems should be cut away in preparation for the following spring emergence of flower and foliage.
Lewisia cotyledon. Portulacaceae (Commemorating the name of Captain Meriweather Lewis, who with William Clark formed the Lewis and Clark Expedition which explored the territory of Oregon in 1804 – 1806). The genus Lewisia is confined to the western states of North America, from British Columbia, Washington and Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado and California. There are eighteen or so species in the genus, with the State of California being particularly rich, boasting several distinct species within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.
Until quite recently they were generally considered to be difficult plants and would be found only in specialist nurseries, and in the collections of dedicated alpine growers. In his book ‘Lewisias’ – (published in 1978), the late Roy Elliott mentions, “The huge 15-year old hybrids of L. cotyledon in the vertical walls at Bodnant” And the Lewisa bed at Branklyn, the renowned garden of the late Mr. and Mrs. Renton of Perth, who started growing Lewisias in 1925 where they eventually hybridised to a tremendous extent and seeded themselves about in the screes. I recall seeing Lewisia cotyledon and Lewisia columbiana growing in the open in Roy Elliott’s garden in the mid 1970s!
But it is only in the last few decades that they have become more widely available, and are now enjoying a much wider popularity with gardeners in Britain, the United States, and many other countries around the world. You will find a wide choice of many colours in garden centres and even some supermarkets in the spring.
Lewisia cotyledon hybridLewisia cotyledon hybrid
Lewisia columbianaLewisia cotyledon hybrid
The above four pictures show three L. cotyledon hybrids and a L. columbiana (bottom left) growing in the open in my garden. Most years they do benefit from being protected in the wetter months by being covered by a sheet of glass, but there have been occasions when they haven’t had this winter protection but have still managed to put on a good show of flowers in the spring.
The photographs don’t show this, but each plant is planted at an angle of about 45 degrees, to allow the rain water to drain from the crown of each plant.
The three pictures shown above are L. 'Ashwood Carousel Hybrids’. These were bred and developed by Ashwood Nurseries of Kingswinford in the West Midlands. They were launched at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1996 and soon after I bought several in a variety of colours – magenta, yellow, pink, apricot, orange, salmon and white. They are much dwarfer than the better known L. cotyledon hybrids, and come through each winter unscathed, and flowering each spring. They receive no covering whatsoever.
Linum suffruticosum subsp. salsoloides ‘Nanum’.Linum suffruticosum subsp. salsoloides ‘Nanum’. Linaceae. (suffruticosum = shrubby; salsoloides ‘Nanum’ = like saltwort, small) This is a treasure, which hails from the Maritime Alps and is perfect in a sunny scree or trough. From prostrate mats of miniature larch-like foliage emerge sprays of large pearly white flowers all summer. This first came to my notice as a superb slide at the very first AGS Birmingham Group lecture I attended in the early 1970s; and I acquired it at the earliest opportunity. Cuttings taken in late summer, early autumn can be placed in a cold frame and left undisturbed until the following spring, by which time they will have produced well-rooted young plants.
As can be seen, there were many more buds to open, and I did think of waiting a day or two before taking this photograph. There was a heavy downpour of rain the following evening which bashed the flower about quite a bit, so I was pleased I took the picture that day! I think if you have the opportunity to take a half decent picture, don’t wait for the next chance. You may miss the preeminent opportunity to take the best picture.

Linum ‘Gemmells Hybrid’. Linaceae. (The name is derived from linon, the Greek name for flax).This choice and scarce hybrid was raised and introduced by Gemmells Nurseries of Ayrshire in the 1940s; and is a cross between L. elegans and L. campanulatum. The rich butter-yellow blooms open from pointed spiral buds and each petal is veined with pale terracotta. It does best in full sun in a well- drained soil; and being a hybrid, it must be propagated by cuttings, but suitable non-flowering shoots can sometimes be hard to find. It grows to a height of about 15 centimeters. This important genus contains about 150 plant species widely distributed around the world but rarely found in the tropics. Linseed oil is derived from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant L. usitatissimum, and has long been used as a drying oil in paints and varnish. It is also used in making linoleum, oilcloth, and certain inks.

The "mouse-over" picture shows a young plant growing in my daughters trough.

Linum perenne 'Blue Mist'Linum perenne 'Blue Mist'. Linaceae. A European species, also found locally in England. The Flax family is one of the very few genera which have species which produces flowers in all the three primary colours, yellows, and clear blues and in the case of the showy annual, L. grandiflorum, bright crimson; as well as white. L. p. “Blue Mist” is a graceful but rather frail plant whose tall 36 centimeter stems can sometimes be battered by wind and rain, but this can be prevented somewhat by planting between more robust plants of the same height to give some protection from the elements. It flowers for weeks during the summer, and seeds sporadically in my garden, pleasantly popping up in unexpected places without ever becoming invasive
Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue.'Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue.' Boraginaceae. ( From the Greek lithos, a stone, and doron, a gift. An allusion to the beauty they add to the barren rocky places in which they grow ). This plant will be found in older publications and catalogues as Lithospermum diffusum. The type plant, L. diffusa, comes from S. W. Europe, but is seldom grown in cultivation, but the named clones, 'Heavenly Blue' and ‘Grace Ward’ have long been amongst the top ten list of favourite rock garden plants. In the early 1900s, Dr. W. H. Lowe of Wimbledon, gave a plant of Lithospermum diffusum 'Heavenly Blue' to E. A. Bowles, which was later distributed by Amos Perry of Enfield. It is said that due to countless generations of vegetative propagation it has now lost its former vigour. I must confess that I can’t now grow this plant with the degree of success I did a few decades ago. The picture shown here was taken at a National Trust garden about 20 years ago, tumbling over a metre high sandstone wall. It is a lime hater, so for any degree of success it needs a sandy, lime-free soil, with added peat or leaf-mould and a sunny position.

Mimulus cupreus 'Whitecroft Scarlet'Mimulus cupreus 'Whitecroft Scarlet'. Phrymaceae. ( From the Latin, mimus – a mimic; the flowers supposedly resemble a mask, or monkey’s face ). This is quite a diverse genus, containing about 150 species found in many temperate parts of the world, particularly in the Americas. They were, until quite recently, placed in the family Scrophulariaceae, but their removal from that family has been supported by studies of chloroplast DNA first published in the mid-1990s. M. cupreus is native of damp areas and streamsides in Chile, and has given rise to a number of exceptional coloured varieties, of which M. c. 'Whitecroft Scarlet' is one of the best.

In cultivation it favors a cool moist spot in a moderately sunny location.

Mimulus naiandinus.Mimulus naiandinus. # Phrymaceae. This is probably better known to gardeners as M. ‘Andean Nymph’, and you will still find it under this name in many seed catalogues and garden centres. I grew it many years ago in the mid 1970s from original wild collected seed from the Cheese & Watson Andean Expedition. It was found growing on damp rock faces by a small waterfall, pollinated by humming birds. At that time, when I acquired it over 30 years ago, it was only known by a collector’s number. It is but a fleeting and enchanting beauty and doesn’t stay around for long after flowering. I expect it pines for its natural habitat, where the very air is laden with fine misty water droplets from a cool mountain waterfall. Very often I have seen it in garden centres where it rarely displays the vivid markings as shown in the photograph; as it is very variable from seed, and can be an anaemic thing with little attraction.
Better to try it from seed, as you then stand a chance of getting a beauty. The mouse over gives a close-up, showing the attractive foxglove like flowers, with lovely speckling and splashes of red on the crushed strawberry petals with a ground colour of palest cream.
Morisia monanthos ‘Fred Hemingway’Morisia monanthos ‘Fred Hemingway’ Cruciferae. (The name is commemorative of professor Moris of Turin). A monotypic genus that comes from Corsica and Sardinia where it grows in sandy conditions at sea level. It has attractive, dark, glossy-green saw-toothed leaves and bright yellow flowers, which appear from March-July. Suited to a trough, scree, or raised bed in full sun, in a well drained, sandy, but not too rich a soil. Morisia has a long tap-root, and is not a long lived plant in cultivation, and is best increased by root cuttings.
Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Connie No 2’.Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Connie No 2’. Amaryllidaceae (From the Greek narkao, to be stupefied, or narke, stupor, as some of the species have narcotic properties). There are about 60 species in the genus Narcissus, but many thousands of cultivars are also available today. In Shakespear’s time only about two dozen different daffodils were grown in British gardens. The alpine gardener will invariably be attracted to the smaller species and cultivars, and there is a wonderful selection to be had, many growing not much more than 20 centimetres high. The species N. bulbocodium, the “Hoop-petticoat daffodil”, is native of Algeria, Morocco, Spain, Portugal and SW France; growing in rocky ground and peaty moorland. I bought the cultivar N. b. ‘Connie No 2’ from Hythe Alpines several years ago, and planted the bulbs 1½ times their own depth in an east-facing trough, which is in shade for most of the morning. There are many other bulbocodium forms of variable size and flower colour, which will flourish and multiply in a well-drained soil that gets ample moisture during the growing season. The slender grass-like leaves appear in February and it reaches its peek of blooming in the second or third week in April with me; attaining a maximum height of about 9 centimetres.
Narcissus cyclamineus 'Tete-a-Tete'. Amaryllidaceae. The species N. cyclamineus was once a common plant in the wild, but is now a rarity in is native haunts of Spain and Portugal. During the past hundred years vast numbers were taken from restricted wild habitats by unscrupulous people wanting to make big money…fast! During the past few decades they have been offered in garden centres, chain-stores and mail-order firms as a cheap, easy species; but nowadays it is hard to obtain and rather expensive to buy, and should only come from nursery-raised bulbs. The many various cultivars are readily available though, and these make a wonderful show in the early months of the year. N. c. 'Tete-a-Tete' is one such cultivar, and although its perianth segments aren’t as reflexed as much as the true species, it’s a most charming plant in its own right. It prefers a moist, but well-drained, slightly acidic leafy soil, and the photograph shows it growing in such an environment in a gravel path, against a 25 centimetre high raised alpine bed. The original 25 bulbs, planted about 5 or 6 years ago, were recently lifted, and the count was 248 bulbs, although some were no bigger than a pea. Many were replanted in their original location in new compost, whilst others were planted in new locations.

Oxalis ‘Ione Hecker’Oxalis ‘Ione Hecker’.# Oxalidaceae. (From the Greek oxys, sour or sharp). The late E. B. Anderson crossed O. laciniata with O. enneaphylla and created this wonderful hybrid. I bought this from Jack Drake’s nursery in 1979, and since then it has been divided a number of times and now occupies troughs and raised beds in several locations. In the early 1980s I traded-in my old Russian Zenith SLR camera for a brand new Pentax ME Super SLR; and the first picture I took with my new camera was O. ‘Ione Hecker’. I entered this slide in the first AGS Photographic Competition, held in 1994, and it won second prize in its class.

E. B. Anderson was a renowned plantsman who introduced a number of outstanding plants into cultivation. He died in 1971, in his eighty-sixth year; but during his lifetime his knowledge of alpines and dwarf bulbs was probably unrivalled anywhere in the world. He wrote a number of books, of which most are now out of print, but are worth looking out for!

Oxalis laciniataOxalis laciniata Oxalidaceae. (From the Latin, laciniate, deeply incised or cut, referring to the pinnately divided leaves). This fabulous little plant from Patagonia, (which should be included in every collection of alpines; be it in trough, scree or alpine house), was introduced by Mrs. Ruth Tweedie in 1955. It has delicate grey-green finely cut foliage with flowers of a deep purple-blue, each petal bears deeper purple veining which radiates outwards from the base. It is very variable and there are a number of dark flowered forms that are worth looking out for. I bought this plant in the mid 1970s from Joe Elliott’s Cotswold Nursery. Division of the pale pink scaly rhizomes in September/October is an easy means of increase. E. B. Anderson grew this unusually well in his garden at Lower Slaughter in Gloucestershire, and in his book “Seven Gardens” he says; ‘It is important to top dress regularly, as the curious scaly roots will work up to the surface in the winter.’
The mouse-over shows these scaly rhizomes, dug up and divided prior to replanting. I plant them horizontally, about 6 centimeters deep, with the fine brittle white growth facing upward, taking care not to damage them.
Paeonia mlokosewitschiiPaeonia mlokosewitschii. Paeoniaceae (Commemorating Paeon, an ancient Greek physician) This is a genus of 33 species of hardy herbaceous and shrubby perennials and a few shrubs; and are amongst the grandest and most showy plants for a border in sun or shade. P. mlokosewitschii (sometimes referred too as "Molly the Witch", a humorous mispronunciation of the species name, which many find difficult to pronounce) is native to the Caucasus Mountains, which stretches from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, where it inhabits the windswept foothills, finding shelter and protection amongst oak and hornbeam. It was on one of many visits to the outstanding garden of the late Roy Elliott that I was given a 6 centimeter pot with about three fat lipstick-red buds emerging from the compost. “Try this,” he said, “But be prepared to wait about three years before you see a flower!” That was in the early 1970s. This beautiful plant is still with me today, as are the fond memories of those garden visits.
Slow growing to start with, but once established it will display its magnificent clear yellow goblets for very many years. After the flowers shed their petals, the glaucous, bluish-green foliage remains, then in the autumn the fat seed capsules split open to reveal a mix of shiny dark-blue and scarlet seeds. It prefers a heavy soil, but should not become waterlogged, and grows to height of about 70
centimeters.
Penstemon californicus.Penstemon californicus. Scrophulariaceae (From the Greek pente, five and stemon, a stamen, in reference to the five stamens). This genus consists of over 250 species; coming, for the most part, from the mountainous regions of Western North America, including Mexico. P. californicus is an absolute gem and is a rather rare inhabitant of Southern California and Mexico, growing at altitudes of 7000 feet, (2134 metres). The mats of silver-grey stems form a perfect foil to the deep purple/blue flowers with a white throat. This came to me as seed purchased from the Colorado firm of Rocky Mountain Rare Plants. I grow this in the open garden in a trough, and cover it during the winter months and I have had it for several years now. It is not long lived in my garden, so a routine of taking cuttings is regularly employed as insurance, as a perfectly healthy plant may suddenly die back in a very short time! Most books will advise August as the best time to take cuttings, but become an opportunist; I take cuttings from April to September and often have rooted plants 4 months in advance of what the books advice. This applies to many plants, not only penstemons. All the species demand a perfectly drained compost. A good top-dressing of stone chippings around the neck of these choice plants protects the foliage from being in contact with soil on rainy damp days. It grows little more than 7 centimeters in height.

Penstemon davidsonii.Penstemon davidsonii. Scrophulariaceae This comes from eastern Oregon and has tiny oval leaves. In June/July the large lavender flowers are produced. It loves to tumble over the sides of a large trough or a raised bed as seen here. All penstemons demand perfectly drained compost and a routine of taking cuttings should be regularly employed, as a perfectly healthy plant may suddenly die back in a very short time. Most books will advise August as the best time to take cuttings, but become an opportunist. I take cuttings from April to September and often have rooted plants 4 months in advance of what the books advise. This applies to many plants, not only penstemon.
Penstemon linaroides subsp. coloradoensis.Penstemon linaroides subsp. coloradoensis. Scrophulariaceae I grow this in one of the larger raised beds and cover it with glass during the winter months. The small tubular flowers are pale purple-blue and these contrast beautifully with the attractive foliage of narrow blue-grey glaucous leaves on a somewhat brittle woody base. My scant description does small justice to this lovely Penstemon. If you see it listed in a catalogue, post your order off the same day, if you are lucky enough to see it at a nursery or a plant stall, elbow your way through casual onlookers and pounce upon it, claiming it as your own! Once you have it home take a few cuttings without delay, as many species of Penstemon can die back quite quickly, sometimes in the peak of health. It is not really known what causes this condition, but a large section of the plant may be affected. Cut out the affected parts and take cuttings from healthy non-flowering tips. I bought this from Kim Davis’s Lingen Nursery in Shropshire several years ago, but sadly they have now closed down. These dwarfer penstemons are a passion of mine, but never last with me much longer than three seasons, but I keep them going by always having the back-up of cuttings at various stages and growing at least two or three in the garden at any one time.
Penstemon fruticosus subsp. scouleri 'Albus' Scrophulariaceae This, I believe, comes from Southern British Columbia, WashingtonPenstemon fruticosus subsp. scouleri 'Albus' and Northern Idaho, and is a magnificent plant for the alpine gardener. The buds start out with a greenish-yellow hue and open out to 3 centimeter long tubular flowers of a pure white, (a rare color in penstemons). The leaves are narrow and finely toothed and with age become darker and glossy. It is at its best in its third or fourth season when it puts on a glorious show of flowers as shown in this photograph; but it appears to exhaust itself after its prolific flower output and many of the stems turn brown and brittle. It is always worth taking cuttings at almost anytime as they root very easily, and new healthy plants will always be around in the garden to eventually put on a grand show of flowers. I would certainly not like to be without this penstemon.
Penstemon paysoniorumPenstemon paysoniorum Scrophulariaceae This started out with me as one of a packet of 21 seeds from RMRP in November 2004, and it flowered four years later. The vivid deep blue flowers, which appear in the summer, stand 7 centimetres above the clumps of smooth bright green leaves. It comes from the dry, arid sagebrush desert regions of southwest Wyoming, at elevations of around 2,000-2,300 metres. This is grown outside in a gritty, open, well draining soil and covered with a sheet of glass during the winter months. There are a number of other choice dwarf penstemons that come from the xeric deserts and high plains of America that are well worth growing.
Penstemon rupicola.Penstemon rupicola. Scrophulariaceae. (The specific name rupicola = growing on rocks). A species confined to western North America, from the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains of Washington and Oregon, and into Northern California. It is an easy plant to grow providing it has excellent drainage and is grown in a sunny position. It is shown here growing in the corner of a trough. It is not a long lived plant and will become woody and brittle after a few years, and its output of flowers will become very sparse. It is then time to take cuttings and start with a new plant.
Petrocallis pyrenaicaPetrocallis pyrenaica. Cruciferae (From the Greek petros, a rock and kallis, beauty). A genus of just a few species. This is a treasure from the high screes of the European Alps, from the Pyrenees and east to Carpathia. It forms a dense little cushion no more than 4 centimeters high, even when covered with its almost stemless clusters of sweetly scented lilac flowers. In his book ‘Alpine Gardening’, Roy Elliott praises this delightful scree dweller thus; “- and it is all too seldom that gardeners appreciate the fragrance of some of the lowly plants from the hills. Hence our constant advocacy of raised beds for the growing of alpines; not only are they nearer our noses, but nearer our eyes, so that we can see both the beauty of their flowers and the aphis at their hearts.” I am fortunate in that the times I have stooped down to take in its scent of vanilla and honey, I have never yet seen aphis at its heart!
Phygelius aequalis. Scrophulariaceae. (From the Greek phugo, to take flight or seek refuge, and helios, the sun, since these plants are shade lovers andPhygelius aequalis. seek refuge from the sun in their native habitat) A genus of just two species of slightly tender evergreen shrubs native of South Africa, where they inhabit rocky stream banks in open woodland and forests. The coral-pink, drooping, tubular flowers are about 5 cm long with a yellow throat, and the inner tips of the five scalloped edges a blood-red and attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and in their native land tropical sunbirds with long curving beaks are attracted to the flowers pollen.
Although the generic name suggests these plants are shade lovers; in the cooler climates of the United Kingdom and North America they will tolerate more sun than they perhaps would in their South African habitat. You will read in many older publications that this is a tender plant in the Northern Hemisphere and will only grow in the open with some form of protection. I have grown the plant in the photograph, for five years against a north facing wall, and although a server winter might cause it to die back to the ground, it will usually send up new growth in the spring. Strictly speaking, Phygelius can’t be classed as an alpine; (it grows to a height of about 90 centimeters) but neither can many other plants on these pages; nonetheless I include it as a back-drop plant, where smaller plants are planted at the front of it.
Phyllodoce aleutica.Phyllodoce aleutica. # Ericaceae. (Named after the sea-nymph, in accordance with the custom of naming genera of Ericaceae after nymphs and goddesses initated by Linnaeus) Phyllodoce is a genus of just a small number of species of evergreen ericaceous plants from the Northern Hemisphere. P. aleutica comes from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and Northern Japan.The first time I saw and was introduced to this plant was on my first visit to Roy Elliott’s renowned Birmingham garden in the early 1970s. I instantly ‘fell-in-love’ with it, and was told that the specific name refers to the necklace of islands, (the Aleutian Islands) that extend from Alaska to Russia. I asked again the name of it, and kept repeating the name again and again in my mind – “Phyllodoce aleutica, Phyllodoce aleutica”. Later that day when I got home, I looked on a world atlas to find out where these necklaces of islands were. How could something so beautiful grow in such a remote and wild location? That was very many years ago; and since then I have become addicted to, and ‘fell-in-love’ with many other wonderful alpine plants from other remote and wild locations! When I now see this plant in flower in my garden, my memories take me back to the first time I saw it; in that wonderful Birmingham garden, that is sadly now long gone.
Phyllodoce x intermedia ‘Fred Stoker’Phyllodoce x intermedia ‘Fred Stoker’. # Ericaceae. The species is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere; and in western North America where P. glanduliflora and P. empetriformis overlaps, a range of natural hybrids ocure and from time to time distinctive clones are selected and are given fancy names. P. x i.‘Fred Stoker’ is one of them. When I bought this I hadn’t got a lot of room for it in the rock garden amongst the other Ericaceous plants, so I put it in one of the completed raised beds, which receives some shade, intending to move it when I had created more room in the rock garden. It was planted with a good few handfuls of sieved forest bark at its feet and a top dressing of chippings. I never did get round to moving it, as it seems to like its present position. I have done the same with a number of dwarf Rhododendron and Cassiope, and these grow and flower well in the raised beds. The 'mouse-over' shows a close-up, of the urn-shaped pendant flowers in clusters, each with a prominent maroon calyx. This is easy to propagate from cuttings and I grow them in groups of three to five where they form an attractive intermingled swathe of ground-cover amongst other plants of the same ilk.
x Phylliopsis 'Sugar Plum'.x Phylliopsis 'Sugar Plum'. Ericaceae. During the past few decades a number of successful bigeneric crosses have been made by Hillier Nurseries of Winchester, using Kalmiopsis leachiana with various species of Phyllodoce. In 1987 a cross was made, using a large flowering K. leachiana as the pollen donor, and Phyllodoce caerulea as the seed parent. This cross only produced two seedlings which flowered in the spring of 1991. One of these seedlings produced larger flowers than the other and these were a plum-purple with a distinct red calyx, produced in great abundance and staying in flower for quite a long time; which is believed to be due to the flowers being sterile. It is seen here at the peek of its flowering period during the third week in April, growing in a raised ericaceous bed of Melcourt_Composted_Fine_BarkTM which I find is ideal for very many ericaceous plants, primulas and autumn flowering gentians.
I take cuttings soon after flowering is over.
Phlox ‘Beauty of Ronsdorf’Phlox ‘Beauty of Ronsdorf’. # Polemoniaceae. (From the Greek phlox, a flame, referring to the brilliancy of the flowers).George Arends (1862-1952) who owned a nursery and lived in Ronsdorf, Germany, was a prolific breeder of perennials. This subulata hybrid is just one of his many Phlox introductions. It is not an easy plant to come by, but is offered from time to time by a few alpine nurseries. The stemless flowers are smaller than most other varieties and these are a lilac-mauve with a deep pink centre. It is an outstanding phlox if grown well, as seen here planted in the corner of a large trough, but is equally at home in the rock garden itself. This large genus is, with one exception; native to North America. The many local forms and garden varieties of P. subulata and its cultivars present little difficulty in cultivation and asks only for a well drained open soil, in a sunny, but not parched position. I cut them back after flowering, but they are not long lived plants. As they get older they become less vigorous, and rarely look good after their third year. It is always good practice to take cuttings after flowering and start again with new plants. It grows to about 9 centimeters high when in flower.
Phlox bifida ‘Ralph Haywood’.Phlox bifida ‘Ralph Haywood’. # Polemoniaceae. Phlox bifida is a native of the Midwest USA, in parts of Missouri, Iowa, southern Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. The specific name means – cut or divided into two parts or portions, and in the case of Phlox bifida, each of the five petal lobes (corolla) has a V-shaped notch cut out of it, giving a fringed appearance to the flowers. The common name in its native home is Sand Phlox, but some believe it should be more aptly called the Ten Point Phlox.
There are a number of clones that have been developed over the past years, and to my mind, P. b. ‘Ralph Haywood’ is one on the best.
It has pale lavender-blue flowers, with the characteristic and attractive cleft-cut petals of the species, which you can just about see against the darker background of the raised bed. On established plants I cut back some of the old growth in early spring so that the flowers appear on new growth and not at the end of last years bare stems. A wise practice is to always have a cutting or two, as backup….should a plant start to deteriorate.
Ralph Haywood was a tall, quiet gentleman and an expert plantsman and propagator, who once worked at Joe Elliott’s renowned nursery at Broadwell in the Cotswolds; and then later became foreman of the Alpine House and propagation departments at Wisley. Sadly, Ralph died at the early age of 42, but his name lives on in a number of outstanding plants.

Phlox bifida ‘Starbright’Phlox bifida ‘Starbright’ Polemoniaceae. Here is another bifida cultivar, which doesn’t have it’s petals as prominently notched as the previously mentioned plant, but is nonetheless as attractive; as the petals are two-toned in colour, with a dark lavender-blue starting at the centre shading to a much paler hue at the tip of each petal. I haven’t yet been able to find much information on this plant regarding its cultivar name and origin.

It is shown here cascading over the edge of a 35 centimetre high raised bed. The yellow plant in the background is Linum ‘Gemmells Hybrid’.

Phlox 'Kelly's Eye.Phlox 'Kelly's Eye. Polemoniaceae. In the mid 1970's I made a number of visits to the late John Kelly’s Stanton Alpine Nursery in Leicestershire, and each visit would yield wonderful surprises of new plants for me to try. If you were new to the nursery and not know by Mr. Kelly, you would not be made aware of the choicer and rarer gems like Briggsia, Dionysias and Diosphaera displayed in the alpine house towards the rear of the nursery. I bought Phlox ‘Kelly’s Eye’ on one of my early visits, and from that day to this, it has always been one of my most favourite phlox. It is readily available nowadays from many garden centres and nurseries, is easy to grow and propagate and is always recognised by its compact habit and its delicate pink blushed flowers with a distinct and vivid crimson eye.
After a number of further visits, during which time John Kelly got to know the sort of plants I was growing and having success with, I was shown the alpine house. I did eventually get the Briggsia, and Diosphaera, but the Dionysias always eluded me!
Physoplexis comosaPhysoplexis comosa. # Canpanulaceae. (From the Greek physa, bladder, and plexis plaiting or weaving, referring to the joining of the corolla). This is an outstanding plant to grow in a hole in tufa, and was planted here a decade ago in a trough, and has never yet failed to produce its clusters of unusual bottle-shaped flowers. Its native abode is high in the Dolomite peaks, wedged tightly between the crevices and fissures of the carbonate rocks. In older publications you will often come across it under its now defunct name of Phyteuma comosum. It is a gastronomic delight to slugs and snails, who given the chance, would devour the whole plant in just one sitting! I believe the only place to grow this outside, is in a trough where protection from slugs is more manageable than elsewhere in the garden. Grows up to 6 centimeters high.

Polygala calcarea 'Lillet'. Polygalaceae (The generic name is derived from the Greek polys, much or many, and gala, milk, as it was thought that its presence in pastures increased the milk yield in cattle) Hence the common name of milkwort. There are over 500 species, but only a few are worthy of cultivation; P. c. 'Lillet' is most definitely one of the worthy ones. The species P. calcarea is widespread in Western Europe, Great Britain and Ireland, growing mainly in limestone areas, hence the specific epithet, calcarea, meaning "growing in lime". The form Lillet shown here is a more desirable and choicer plant being freer-flowering and more compact than the type. It was collected from a wild location near Lillet in North Eastern Spain.It likes an open limey soil in full sun and some authorities have suggested that the addition of vermiculite and crushed tufa in the planting hole is most beneficial. Propagation is achieved by taking cuttings of semi-ripe shoots soon after flowering during the first two weeks in June. Although rather slow growing, it can be a long-lived plant and I have seen magnificent specimens several times the diameter of my rather young plant shown here.

Polygala chamaebuxus var. grandifloraPolygala chamaebuxus var. grandiflora. # Polygalaceae. Coming, as it does, from the Southern Alps, northern and central Apennines, as well as the eastern Pyrenees, it can be truly classed as an alpine plant. The purple and yellow pea-like flowers appear in mid-to late spring and continue well into the summer months. Its natural habitat is a leafy soil in semi-shade at the edge of light woodland, or full sun at higher elevations in the mountains. It will associate well with ericaceous and peat-loving dwarf-shrubs. New plants are somewhat slow to establish but patience and care will be rewarded in a few years by a spectacular show of bicoloured flowers with a slight fragrance of honey. It grows up to 15 centimeters tall, with a spread of 20 to 30 centimeters. Soft cuttings taken in July and August and inserted in a clay pot filled with an ericaceous compost, covered, and placed in shade will be ready to plant out in the Spring.

 

Potentilla nitida 'Rubra'.Potentilla nitida 'Rubra'. Rosaceae (From the Latin potens, powerful, as some species have active medicinal properties) There are around 500 species in the genus, consisting mostly of hardy herbaceous plants, with a few shrubs and sub-shrubs. They come mainly from northern temperate and arctic regions. Potentilla nitida hails from Southern Europe, especially the Dolomites, where it forms spreading mats of attractive silver-green foliage, covered with fine silky hairs. The almost stemless pink flowers can be up to 2½ centimeters across, and are of a charming, wild-rose pink, but these can vary to deep rose or, occasionally white. I bought the plant shown as P. n. 'Rubra' which is said to be more richly coloured than the type; and I have a feeling that I should perhaps label my plant as P. nitida.
There is a particularly rich coloured form called P. n. “Lissadell”, which I believe is of Irish origin, but I haven’t seen it offered for very many years.
Potentilla nitida and its forms are sometimes sparse in putting out its flowers in cultivation and it is recommended that it gives a better show if grown in a limey soil and not overfed. It flowers in June-July and grows little more than 5 centimeters in height.
Pratia angulata.Pratia angulata. Campanulaceae. (Named after C. L. Prat-Bernon, a French naval officer) How many gardeners buy a plant on the strength of its description in a nursery catalogue? I did just that when I read “…. like a piece of blue sky fallen to earth!” The plant in question was P. angulata. Other than the catalogue blurb, I had little information at that time, knowing only that it came from New Zealand. T. C. Mansfield in ‘Alpines in Colour and Cultivation’ says “…is in all probability the best of an undistinguished family, bearing a mass of white starry flowers followed by large red berries. It thrives best in a moist but well-drained soil” Well! Thrive it certainly did; soon covering an area of over a square metre and even came up in the lawn! It belongs to the Campanulaceae family, but has also appeared in Lobeliaceae. I never saw any berries on my plant, and it quietly disappeared over the next few seasons without my noticing it. I believe it has appeared on the show bench quite a number of times; but I have missed those events. I saw and photographed it in the 1980s in The Savill Garden, Windsor Great Park, and have passed it by on various plant stalls since. Should I try it again?.... I’m not sure!
Primula x ‘Lady Greer’.Primula x ‘Lady Greer’. Primulaceae (From the Latin primus, first, i.e. the first spring flower) The neat dark green crinkly foliage with crimped edges sets off the pretty heads of very pale yellow flowers; the tips of aech petals blushing to the palest pink. This primula and the following two will be found listed under section Vernales in older publications, or as juliana hybrids, but should now be correctly referred to as Primula x pruhoniciana hybrids. I will still call them as listed here, as you will find most present nurseries do. After flowering the foliage plumps up to twice its size, but come the autumn they will disappear, leaving knobbly rhizome-like growths just above the soil. Give them a moist soil rich in humus, but they must have excellent drainage; they will not tolerate an overly wet soil.
Propagate by division soon after flowering; this should be done every one, two or three years; leaving them longer between dividing is not recommended as there is a chance they wont survive as healthy plants for very long afterwards. By dividing regularly, one plant will become 3, then 9, then 27….and so on! In several years you will have wonderful wide carpets of these delightful flowers, cascading between and over rocks, and at the feet of rhododendrons and the like – I wouldn’t be without them!
Primula x ‘Peter Klein’.Primula x ‘Peter Klein’. Primulaceae At the time this delightful plant appeared in cultivation here in the UK in the late 1960s, early 1970s; it caused considerable controversy as to its origin. I believe the American plant breeder, the late Peter Klein crossed P. rosea and P.clarkei to produce this hybrid, but at a meeting at The Royal Horticultural Society Joint Rock Committee in March 1971 it was noted that the plant, when in flower, resembled P. clarkei in all points, except that the flowers were borne in an umbel on a scape, whereas those of P. clarkei may well be umbellated. At this point my information becomes rather limited.
At a further meeting in September 1972 the committee was shown the leaves of P. rosea, P. clarkei and P. ‘Peter Klein’, whereupon the committee agreed that the leaves of P. ‘Peter Klein’ were satisfactorily intermediate in shape between those of the two species. On this evidence the reputed parentage of P. ‘Peter Klein’ was deemed to be justified.
This example goes to show, in some small way, how and why a plant eventually receives its legitimate name.
Primula x ‘Garryarde Guinevere.’Primula x ‘Garryarde Guinevere.’ Primulaceae This is a beautiful Irish-bred plant of polyanthus habit, with rich bronze-purple foliage and large heads of soft pink flowers, each with an egg-yoke centre. This was first shown in Dublin in 1935, and I believe it is a cross between P. pruhoniciana and P. margotae. At that time there were a number of named ‘Garryarde’ hybrids. Sadly, most of these are possibly no longer in cultivation; many clones suffered from a gradual build up of viruses. Large clumps harbour diseases and pests, and the rosettes tend to die off in the centre of the clump where water and air cannot penetrate. If they are to look there best, division of congested clumps every few years is a must! A healthy young plant will then be less susceptible to diseases and pests. You may from time to time, come across P. 'Garryarde Crimson', P. 'Garryarde the Grail', P. 'Garryarde Victory' and P. 'Garryarde Galahad', being offered for sale; but view them with caution, as they will probably not be as they are labelled! 18 centimeters high.
Ptilotrichum spinosum.Ptilotrichum spinosum. Cruciferae. ( From the Greek pteron, a wing, and thrix, a hair ). A genus closely related to Alyssum which you may find under the guise of A. spinosum in older publications. In nature, this plant is widely distributed in Southern Europe and North Africa, where these age old sun loving plants grow in vertical cliff faces often up to a metre across. It grows into a compact silver-grey dome of spiny, faintly scented foliage, and covers itself with Alyssum-like corymbs of tiny white or rose tinted flowers. It needs a lot of space in the garden, and the hottest site available, preferably growing over rocks, or up against a hot south facing wall. The photograph shown here was taken in 1986 at the R.B.G. Edinburgh, and shows what must be up to a dozen plants intermingled with each other to form a very impressive display, in this equaly impressive rock garden setting.

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rubra’.Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rubra’. # Ranunculaceae (From the Latin pulso, to strike, or set in violent motion. The relevance is uncertain) The Pasque flower. One of the oldest plants in cultivation, and also one of the easiest to grow. It can be seen growing on some of the chalk hills of the British Isles and, in greater splendour on the chalk downs of Brittany, Normandy and elsewhere in Europe. It varies considerably in colour from rich lavender to deep violet. The buds are covered in dense silky hairs, and the finely cut carrot like foliage which at first starts with a silky-grey sheen, and become less so as they age and grow taller. I have grown this plant for many years, and have a number of photographs of it, but none as showy as the one shown.
But this is not my plant! The picture was taken on a cold wet Sunday in early April, 2004; in Olive and David Mason’s garden which was open to the Birmingham Group AGS members that day.
Propagate by taking root cuttings when all the flowers have faded, but disturb the majority of the root system as little as possible by digging down one side of the plant and carefully removing one of the thickest, longest roots from the parent plant. Once you have your root cutting, make good the disturbance by adding a few handfuls of suitable compost, firming it in, and watering. Slice the root(s) in 3 centimeter long sections, and cut each sections at a noticeable angle at the bottom of each; you will then be able to see which the top/bottom is when you plant them.
Ramonda myconiRamonda myconi. Gesneriaceae (The generic name is commemorative of Louis Francis Ramond, Baron de Carbonniere (1753-1827), French botanist and traveller in the Pyrenees. The specific epithet is also commemorative). This is the correct name for the plant often grown as R. pyrenaica. Ramonda is a genus of just three species, R. myconi being the one most often meet with in the garden. It forms a flat rosette of rough dark-green corrugated leaves, with deeply toothed edges. The flowers are usually five-petalled and stand well above the foliage, from three to five on each short stiff stem. It favours a shady site facing north and should be planted horizontally in rock crevices. During a very hot dry summer the leaves tend to shrivel and go crispy-brown at the edges, but give them a good soaking with water and they will miraculously plump up again! They are spring and early summer flowering, are very long lived and grow to a height of around 12 centimeters. Propagation is achieved by leaf cuttings, and if the top-heavy leaves tend to topple over in the compost; skewer each leaf with a cocktail stick for support. The ‘mouse-over’ image shows R. myconi growing in crevices in a stone wall at the Royal Botanical gardens, Edinburgh, in 1986
Rhododendron Ericaceae. ( From the Greek, rhodon, a rose, and dendron, a tree ). This is a large genus, with over 900 species and over 24,000 named hybrids, ranging from tiny prostrate alpine plants, no more than 3 centimetres high with leaves no bigger than your finger-nail; to tree like specimens with leaves up to 1 metre long. There is an enormous variation in the size and shape of the flowers; they can be cup-shaped, bell-shaped or tubular. The range of flower colours is huge, from white, red, pink, orange, yellow, blue, to violet and mauve, with some showing two-toned colours in each flower. Some varieties give of a wonderful heady scent and to experience there alluring fragrance when in a woodland full of many of these rhododendrons is an experience that will be treasured forever.
One must not forget to mention their attractive foliage. New leaf growth in spring can be an apple green, or a bronzy red; then as the season progresses, they take on various shades of darker green, some with a glaucous blue to silver sheen. Look on the underside of some leaves and you will see a handsome cinnamon-brown covering of very fine hairs.
I have grown dwarf rhododendrons for as long as I have had a garden, as they are amongst my most favorite group of plants. Although I do dearly love the larger growing species and hybrids my garden is too small to accommodate these majestic beauties, but I do implore you, to not go through life and never see these regal plants. I would therefore recommend seeing them in the many great stately gardens that the U.K. and Ireland are justly renowned for. If you are fortunate enough to have a few acres of woodland then you have a wonderful opportunity to grow some of these taller species and hybrids.
But if like me your garden is small, do not despair, for there is a tremendous choice of dwarf and semi-dwarf species and hybrids to choose from. So with this in mind, my choice here will be limited to describing some of these.
Rhododendron impeditum 'Blue Steel' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron calostrotum 'Gigha' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron 'Oban' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron 'Ginny Gee' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron 'Baden Baden' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron sargentianum (Dwarf Yellow) Ericaceae.
Rhododendron 'Princess Anne' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron 'Wee Bee' Ericaceae.
Rhododendron calostrotum ssp. keleticum.Rhododendron calostrotum ssp. keleticum.Ericaceae. It was during a visit to the R.B.G Edinburgh very many years ago that I was inspired to try group plantings of dwarf Rhododendrons as ground cover, after seeing R. calostrotum ssp. keleticum planted in groups. At that time I had a few dozen rooted cuttings of R. calostrotum ‘Gigha’, and subsequently planted a number of these in groups of three and five, which turned out to be a great success. The species is native to the alpine regions of Tibet, Yunnan China, upper Burma & northeast India, and many of the finer subspecies and forms grow no more than 30 centimetres high and can flower with an intensity that can completely cover the foliage, and is one of the best dwarf Rhodo’s available. The Edinburgh planting in the photo consists of about five separate plants…..Outstanding!

Rhododendron lepidostylum.Rhododendron lepidostylum. Ericacaea. The award for the finest dwarf Rhododendron for foliage must go to R. lepidostylum; a Native of SW Yunnan, China, found at altitudes of between 3000–3700 m. in small areas on cliffs, crevices and boulders.
The small, densely-growing, glaucous-blue leaves, have bristly silvery hairs on the leaf margins and the plant will in time reach a height of about 60 cm and grows wider than high, forming a compact dome, whose shape could wrongly be mistaken as being clipped like privet to achieve this! The pale yellow flowers are inconspicuous, but as a foliage plant; it stands supreme!

Another picture taken at the R.B.G Edinburgh.....

Romanzoffia unalaschkensis.Romanzoffia unalaschkensis. Hydrophyllaceae. (Comemerating Prince Nicholas Romanzoff, who financed a round-the-world expedition in 1816-1817). This is quite a mouthful of syllables to get your tongue around to spit this name out; but a charming little plant nevertheless. This comes from the West Coast of North America and the Aleutian Islands. It has glossy green, kidney-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. These arise from small fleshy white tubers that sit just above soil level. The flowers are creamy white, five-petalled cups, which appear in tiny clusters in late spring. It will seed itself about amongst the smaller ericaceous plants in the peat bed and even the smallest seedling will boast one or two flowers. Soon after flowering the whole plant dies back to the tubers, and will remain dormant until the following spring. It grows to a height of about 8 centimeters. I cannot recall from where I obtained this plant, but I have had it quite a number of years.
Salix hylematicaSalix hylematica. Salicaceae. (From the Celtic sal, near, and lis, water). There are many dwarf willows that will endear themselves to the alpine gardener; and none more so than this dwarf, creeping, mat-forming species from Western China. The glossy green leaves and contrasting burgundy stems and catkins makes this an attractive plant during the spring and early summer. It is quite a vigorous grower but can be pruned back each year to suite. Another attractive feature of this willow – and one that is often overlooked – is the strong and delightful fragrance of honey that is emitted as the leaves yellow and fall during October/November. In the spring, snowdrops emerge through its canopy of foliage where it spreads away from the pathway and onto the rock garden. This wasn’t an intentional planting combination, but the result is very pleasing and attractive. Its height is never much more than 5 centimeters and is readily increased by cuttings.
Sarmienta repensSarmienta repens. Gesneriaceae (Named after Mart Sarmiento, a Spanish botanist).This is the only species in the genus, and is native to Chile where it grows at low altitude in the interior valleys of the Valdivian temperate rain forests on costal mountains, favoring humid areas, with almost constant rainfall. It has a semi-creeping habit, with rather thick fleshy leaves, and can display hundreds of narrow waisted tubular flowers of bright scarlet in June. It is regularly seen on the AGS show bench several times bigger than the plant shown here. In cultivation in needs a cool sheltered site in a lime-free peaty soil, but can perhaps be managed more easily in the alpine house. In its native environs it grows among damp mosses, and is often found growing epiphytically in the cleft of tree branched where decaying leaves have gathered. I didn’t manage to keep this plant for long grown outside; and if I ever get it again I will grow it under glass.
Saxifraga x boydii ‘Aretiastrum’.Saxifraga x boydii ‘Aretiastrum’. Saxifragaceae (From the Latin, saxum, a stone or rock and frango, to break. Growing in rock crevices this herb was supposed to be capable of breaking rocks, and, was accorded the medicinal quality of breaking up stones in the bladder.) I bought this plant in the late 1970s as S. ‘Valerie Finnis’ and it will often be found under this epithet in many of the older books and catalogues. However, I believe it was raised in Germany in the early 1900's as S. x boydii ‘Aretiastrum’, and this is the name it should now go by. Whatever we must now call this excellent old hybrid, it will always remain a favourite of mine. In time it will form a dense grey spiny hummock, which can be completely hidden by the robust sulphur yellow flowers, which have a slight greenish tinge. It is said that it can be easily identified in full flower as the petals have a recurved appearance. This can be seen on some of the flowers here, but whether this is a foolproof means of identification......Well; I just don’t know!
Saxifraga x edithae 'Bridget'. Saxifragaceae. Seen here, growing in the same piece of tufa, in the same trough as the original plant did some 30 odd years ago. It’s an attractive plant, producing tight domes of silvery-blue rosettes and elegant arching heads of rosy-red flowers, each with a ring of yellow stamens in the centre. I have recently started developing a trough devoted solely to Saxifrages after seeing yet again Ron and Joan Beeston’s lovely trough display in their Worcestershire garden. This will stand full sun better than others and is not so prone to sun-scorch; it flowers in April and grows to a height of about 9 centimeters.
Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Ruth Draper’.Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Ruth Draper’. Saxifragaceae. If I were to be asked which would be the optimum alpine plants to grow in tufa, the Saxifrages would, I am sure, be the outstanding choice. I grow many of these in troughs and raised beds on the north facing side of tufa and cover them only when the first buds start to open. I think that to see a perfect symmetrical dome of a Saxifraga, Dianthus or Primula etc, in a pot in the alpine house, in prime condition for a forthcoming show; can literally take ones breath away. But I also believe that the less than perfect symmetry of a plant growing in the open has a different but equal attraction. Here, it is growing in a slight valley between two pieces of hypertufa rock.
I have grouped the genera together, and after the plant name; in italics, is the family to which the genus belongs. This is then followed; in brackets, by the meaning of the Latin name when known. The general description of the plant follows, with perhaps notes on cultivation, country of origin, height and propagation. If any such notes are omitted, those given under the previous entry apply.
A trio of Saxifraga (Shown below)
Top left: Saxifraga burserans ‘Gloria’.
Bottom left: Saxifraga megaseaeflora ‘Jupiter’.
Right: Saxifraga ‘Peter Burrows’.
A trio of Saxifraga
Scilla peruviana. Hyacinthaceae (From the Greek skullo – to injure; the bulbs are said to be injurious). This is a genus of around 80 species of bulbous plants from Europe and the non-tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Despite the specific name, S. peruviana doesn’t come from Peru, or indeed anywhere else in South America. I believe it originally arrived in Bristol on a ship called the “Peru” from the Mediterranean. It is shown here growing outside in a raised bed. The form most often seen in cultivation comes from Portugal and Spain and puts out a robust 15 cm. diameter compact dome of many starry violet-blue flowers, each with an inky-blue centre and a contrasting ring of six creamy-yellow anthers. Propagation is by offsets or seed, sown in September. Plants take about five years to flower from seed.
Scilla siberica 'Spring Beauty'Hyacinthaceae The species itself is a native of Southern Russia, the Caucasus, Turkey and southwards into Syria; where it grows in woodlands, scrub and amongst rocks. S. siberica 'Spring Beauty' grows slightly taller than the type, attaining a height of about 15cm with star-shaped flowers of an intense royal blue. The bulbs are cheap, so buy them in quantities of no less than 50 and plant them as shown here, about 7cm deep, in a well drained gravel pathway in part shade in a humus rich soil. Grow them also beneath deciduous trees and under shrubs.

The ‘mouse-over’ image shows a close up of the flowers.

Sedum dasyphyllum. Crassulaceae (From the Latin, sedeo – to sit; from the manner in which some species grow on rocks) This is a genus of about 500 species and varieties of, mostly, fleshy stemmed and leaved plants, ranging from prostrate plants to sub-shrubs. They are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and also spreading into Central Africa and Bolivia. It must be said that many will be of limited interest to the majority of alpine growers, being plants of little distinction; but S. dasyphyllum is one that has a quiet charm, forming clustered mats of tiny densely set, egg-shaped leaves of turquoise, with a hint of pink. It grows to a height of less than 1 centimeter, and as shown in the photo no higher than the pebbles around it. In June and July it will send up tiny starry flowers of palest pink on 2 centimeter long stems. It will never become a nuisance, for it is to diminutive to do so; other plants can, and do, grow up through it.
Sedum spathulifolium 'Capa Blanca'. Crassulaceae. This deservedly popular sedum was introduced in the mid 1930s from the coastal area near Cape Blanco in Southern Oregon. It is often listed as S. p. 'Cape Blanco' in some nurseries and plant catalogues. It is shown here growing in a gravel pathway and is equally at home growing in rocky crevices. The fleshy purple-green leaves are often dusted with a white powdery farina, giving the foliage a somewhat attractive pewter appearance. It will often send up flattish heads of mustard-yellow flowers; but it is primarily a foliage plant.
It favours a well-drained neutral soil in full sun and associates well with sempervivums, (houseleaks).

Sempervivums (including Jovibarba). Crassulaceae (From the Latin, semper, for ever; and vivo, to live; a reference to the long life of these plants.) Although the genus itself contains only about 50 species, there are a countless number of hybrids, clones, forms and selections to choose from, numbering in the thousands! They have a fascinating charm and beauty and are indispensably to the alpine gardener, and their varied shape, texture and colour could well spellbind you into becoming an avid enthusiast. Their natural habitats are the mountains of Iran, Turkey and Morocco; and into the Balkan, Carpathian, Alps and Caucasus mountains.
Since the Middle Ages in many places in Europe, Sempervivums have traditionally been grown on roofs between thatching, tiles, timber and grass-turf, where they were believed to guard against thunderbolts, lightening and storms, and to ensure the prosperity and good fortune of the occupants. The Roman Emperor Charlemagne actually decreed that all imperial buildings in his possession should have their roofs planted with houseleeks. The species most associated with this practice is S. tectorum – the common houseleek. The specific Latin name means "the always-green plant on the roof."

The 16 photographs below were all taken in my garden over a number of years, and show just a small choice of the many colours and forms that are available. The majority of those shown were originally purchased from www.fernwood-nursery.co.uk

Click on each picture below to fill the screen and see more detail.
Sempervivum 'Reinhardt'
Sempervivum calcareum - from Guillaumes
Sempervivum 'Crispyn'
Sempervivum 'Tristesse'
Sempervivum 'Reinhardt'
Sempervivum calcareum - from Guillaumes
Sempervivum 'Crispyn'
Sempervivum 'Tristesse'
Jovibarba heuffelii subsp. glabra - from Ljubotin
Jovibarba heuffelii 'Vesta'
Sempervivum nevadense
Sempervivum calcareum 'Greenii'
Sempervivum 'Gulle Dame'
Sempervivum giuseppii GDJ 93.17
Jovibarba sobolifera 'Miss Lorraine'
Sempervivum 'Pippin'
Sempervivum octopodes var. apetalum
Sempervivum 'Blue Boy'
Jovibarba allionii x hirta
Sempervivum arachnoideum var. tomentosum
Silene acaulis.Silene acaulis. Caryophyllacaea (From the Greek, sialon - saliva; the sticky excretion of the leaves of some of the species is said to catch flies ). The Moss Campion; is a small mountain-dweller that is common all over the high arctic and the higher mountains of Europe and North America, the Alps, Carpathians, Urals, Pyrenees, British Isles, Faroe Islands, Rocky Mountains, Spitsbergen and as far south as Spain.
It forms a densely tufted, domed cushion, composed of long shoots with four or five small green leaves at their apex and many remnants of old leaves below. The plant has a solid, very long taproot. The leaves are narrow with short stiff hairs on the margin. The numerous small five-petalled flowers of vivid pink are seldom more than one on each shoot. S. acaulis displays "compass flowering", developing flowers on the south-facing part of the cushion first, later on the north side. It has a long flowering period, and grows mainly in gritty soils and screes. On sunny days the plant produces a higher temperature within the cushions than the temperature outside. In cultivation it tends to be shyer flowering than in its native abode, and it is therefore recommended to give it a Spartan diet and scree conditions in an open sunny position to produce a good show of flowers.
Silene hookeri subsp, ingramii.Silene hookeri subsp, ingramii. Caryophyllacaea. The genus Silene boasts around 500 species of annual, biennial and herbaceous perennials from the northern hemisphere and South Africa. Whilst there are a number of worthy rock garden and alpine plants in the genus there are also some that can only be considered as pernicious weeds and should not be allowed in the garden. The outstanding beauties of the genus can be found in some of the species inhabiting the west coast of North America, which will tax the skill of the most experienced alpine gardener. The plant illustrated here is one such beauty; a native of Northwestern California and Southwestern Oregon, inhabiting dry, rocky ground in open coniferous forests and brush. The clear pink flowers have deeply cleft petals with a boss of white whiskers in the centre. It is shown here growing in a gritty raised bed, where it was covered in the winter months with a sheet of glass, but it is better managed in the alpine house in a gritty lime- free soil rich in humus. Grows to a height of not much more than 5 centimeters.
Tiarella cordifolia var. collina 'Oakleaf'Tiarella cordifolia var. collina 'Oakleaf' Saxifragaceae.  (From the Greek diminutive of tiara, a turban. A reference to the shape of the seed pods). This is a small genus of five species native to eastern Asia, the Himalaya and North America. The natural habitat of T. cordifolia is in the deciduous and mixed woodlands of Michigan, Nova Scotia, and to the eastern edge of Wisconsin and south through the Appalachians to Georgia and into Mississippi. They are often found in mossy places and wet hollows in these shady, dense woods; and can carpet large areas with their attractive leaves and flowers.
A number of renowned plant nurseries in America have breed and introduced an exciting range of Tiarella in recent years and ‘Oakleaf’ is considered to be one of the best of these new generation of foamflowers. In cultivation they are well suited to grow in a woodland environment, and like a position in dappled shade. However, they are very adaptable, and any good leafy soil with a cool and moist root-run will please them, but they must be given ample room to spread. They can be best propagated by division of the rhizomes in spring. It grows to a height of about 45 centimeters and can be as much in width.
Trillium grandiflorumTrillium grandiflorum Liliaceae. (From the Latin triplum, triple; the flowers and leaves being in three parts.) Commonly referred to as “Wood Lilies”. A genus of around 30 species of shade loving plants, which like a cool moist leafy soil and, once established and contented can be very long-lived. The majority come from North America, but also have representatives in Japan and the Himalaya. The one most often meet with and also one of the easiest and most beautiful of all is T. grandiflorum; whose natural habitat are the leafy forests of Canada to the mountains of North Carolina, and west to the Great Lakes and beyond, carpeting vast areas with their 8 centimetre diameter flowers of glorious white, which fade to a pale pink as they age. They resent disturbance, and the lifting and dividing of a large established plant is not recommended. However, I have successfully lifted a few small clumps making sure I disturbed as little as possible the bulk of the plant. The flowers are at their best towards the end of April and the beginning of May. By mid August the whole plant dies back, and its former beauty is but a memory; but come the following spring and you can rejoice in its glory once again. It grows to a height of around 30 to 37 centimetres.

Trillium hibbersoniiTrillium hibbersonii. Liliaceae. This tiny plant was first discovered in 1938 by Mr. J. A. Hibberson, on the rain-soaked west coast of Vancouver Island, BC. It is still a rare plant in the wild, where it occurs in just a few localities. It is often listed as Trillium ovatum v. hibbersonii, but as a result of recent taxonomic studies and re-evaluation I believe it can now retain its original specific status.

I acquired this in 1998 from Jack Drake; and I grow it in a shady trough in Melcourt composted pine bark, with about 20% added sharp builders sand. I’ve often found it a difficult plant to photograph, as its flowers usually face downwards, but this year, (2010), it obliged me by holding its blooms more upwards facing. With me it grows to a height of about 4centimetres, with the flowers being about 2½centimetres across.

Uvularia grandifloria. Liliaceae. (From the anatomical term uvula – the lobe pendant from the back of the soft palate in man – a reference to the hanging blossoms.) A genus of five species native to the deciduous woodlands of eastern North America; from Quebec to Tennessee. The common name is “Large merrybells” and the plant is now listed as endangered in some states. Deer can often decimate large areas by eating their succulent shoots in spring. The plant was used medicinally by the native tribes of North America; an ointment made from the leaves reduced swelling, and the ground-up root relieved stomach pain, backache and aching muscles. U. grandiflora was introduced into Britain in the early 19th-century by the Scottish plant collector, John Fraser (1750-1811). He had a nursery in Chelsea which was sponsored by the nearby Chelsea Physic Garden, so uvularia was an interesting find for him. U. grandiflora is the most attractive of the five species, reaching a height of about 45 centimetres. The conical six-petaled, downward-facing flowers each have a contorted spiral twist to them, giving a most unusual and eye-catching attractiveness and charm to the plant. It is a plant that associates well with epimediums, trilliums, erythroniums and other woodland plants, where it will often seed about as shown in the “mouse-over” picture. These young seedlings will be left to naturalize for a few seasons and later many can be potted-up, or moved to other locations in the garden.
Vaccinium nummularia.Vaccinium nummularia. # Ericaceae. (The Latin name is of disputed origin). A genus of about 450 species, mostly from the cooler areas of the Northern Hemisphere. V. nummularia grows in rocky places on mountain woodland thickets on slopes at elevations of 2000 - 3500 metres in the Himalayas; from Sikkim to Bhutan. It requires a lime free soil, in a moist but freely-draining position in dappled shade, but fruits better in a sunny position. The attractive foliage of bristly arching stems are clothed in oval, glossy, dark green leaves and the dense clusters of pendant, pink, five-lobed, narrowly urn-shaped flowers appear in April – May, followed by round black fruit with a grey bloom in the autumn. Grows to a height of about 30 centimeters.
Viola jooiiViola jooii. Violaceae. ( From viola, the Latin name for the violet ). The family itself consists of about 16 genera and around 800 known species, widely distributed throughout the north and south temperate zones. There are many choice species that will appeal to the alpine gardener; none more so than the rosulate violas from the Andes; but these are difficult to obtain, and even more so to successfully cultivate. This little viola shown here is native to the mountains of Romania, the legendary haunt of Count Dracula, vampires and werewolves, where it grows on calcareous rocks, but not at high altitudes. I have had this for a number of years but it is very frugal with its show of flowers, although I have seen it on the AGS show bench literally covered with its purple fragrant flowers!
This Spartan output of blooms is due to the plant being cleistogamous, a common trait in Violaceae, Leguminosae and some grasses. Cleistogamy comes from the Greek Kleistos, meaning closed; and describes the ability of certain members of a genus to self-pollinate and produce seeds without the need of a flower opening. I grow V. jooi in a raised scree bed and in troughs and it is also suitable as an alpine house plant.
 
Vitaliana primuliflora subsp. praetutiana. # Primulaceae. (Named after the Italian botanist, Vonati Vitaliano, 1717-1762). Over the years, botanists have thrown all sorts of generic names at this plant, and in older publications and catalogues you will find it posing under Androsace, Douglasia, Gregoria and Primula. It comes from the mountains of Spain and Central Europe and is a choice subject for scree, trough or raised bed, forming a close mat of slightly hairy grey-green foliage, bespangles with deep butter-yellow stemless flowers; that appear in April-May, and last for weeks! Cuttings taken before the flower buds appear will be well rooted by mid-summer, when they can be planted out in various locations in a sunny position. It grows to a height of about 5 centimeters. The ‘mouse-over’ image shows the same plant photographed a year later.

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