Karen Murphy explains why now is the perfect time to plant an Alpine container
Alpine plants are easy to grow and if you pot them into a container now you’ll reap the rewards later. Old Belfast sinks or stone troughs are ideal – they’re a good size and deep enough to allow for plenty of drainage. Otherwise, cheaper stone-effect troughs from garden centres, or a shallow plastic container, will work – just ensure it has drainage holes.
I’ve planted sea thrift for its pink flower clusters in spring and santolina ‘Green Fizz’, a hardy bushy evergreen with yellow summer blooms. Chiastophyllum looks good with its red-tinged foliage and green Sedum acre ‘Aureum’ foliage will produce sprays of yellow flowers in summer and autumn. Add a small conifer for height – liquid feed in spring will set it on its way.
There’s a wider range if you grow from seed and now’s the perfect time to start as many alpine plants use the cold to break their dormancy. Fill a seed tray with John Innes No.1 and a bit of grit to improve drainage. Water, then sow seed thinly, followed by a thin sifting of compost. Place in a cold frame or in a sheltered spot. If the seeds don’t come up in six to 12 weeks, pop your seed in a fridge for about a month as they may take a while to appear.
Our pick of the best alpine plants
A delicate and pretty spreading pelargonium-like plant. It will only ever reach about 45cm (18in) tall.
Alpine dianthus will only reach 15cm (6in) at the most. It comes in a range of pinks, whites and deep crimsons.
It might look dainty and delicate, but the evergreen lewisia is hardy. It reaches about 25cm (10in) tall.
Step-by-step to a perfect alpine garden
1 Put a covering of grit or gravel in the bottom of your container to help with drainage.
2 Fill two-thirds with John Innes No.2 compost and a little horticultural grit for better soil.
3 Decide where you want your overhanging plants, then tuck them all in and fill up with compost.
4 Finally, add a layer of gravel for a neat finish and to keep all low foliage off wet soil.
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