Spring bulbs seem to always go hand in hand bringing hope for brighter days and warmer temperatures. And, as the days lengthen, birds chirp and hares jump, another type of tiny plant make the show in beautiful and colourful cushions: alpines.
They are small indeed, but what they lack in size, they make it up in colour making beautiful carpets even in the most difficult sites. They are easy to grow and very rewarding.
Saxifraga and Aubrieta: The Spring Stars
No wonder why these very low-growing plants (up to 10cm only) are best -sellers with their small daisy-like flowers in bold colours in Spring. They will grow well in the paving or in walls (especially the aubrieta) but also make wonderful window box plants mixed with pansies and greenery.
Similar to the aubrieta, the arabis comes in pink and white to suit all colour schemes. And for pastel shades, you may try the phlox with its soft blues and lighter colours.
The ‘tall ones’: Primulas and Armeria
With blooms standing on 20cm stems, these are little taller than most alpines. The primulas come in a wider variety of colours (from yellow to purple), making it an interesting choice in the cottage garden. On the other side, the Armeria resembles chives, with its tufted grass-like foliage and the small pompom flowers in pink or white. It flowers from late spring into summer, extending a little the season.
The succulents for year-round colour
Sempervivums (Houseleek) and sedums (stonecrop) are THE rockery plants. These succulents basically grow themselves and are extremely easy to propagate by cuttings. Ideal for beginners or for children as their culture is virtually impossible to fail. They flower in summer rather than spring (note, however, that only mature sempervivum flower, but when they do, it is an absolute stunner) and are evergreen.
The Sedums come in a very extensive variety of foliage colour and shape. It is impossible to get bored of this plant. It is also the plant used the most for green roofs for its low-maintenance qualities and its yellow or white flowers that are very attractive to bees.
Position: Alpines grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. They are very easy to grow but they will not tolerate to have their roots sitting in damp soil for too long.
Soil: Ideally, mix your planting compost/soil with grit for improved drainage whether you are planting them in post or in the ground.
Maintenance: Water sparingly but regularly until they are established. You may feed during the growing season with liquid seaweed, sparingly, again, as their needs are very little. Taller varieties need deadheading as the flowers fade.
Planting Combinations: Alpines look fantastic with spring bulbs! They also have similar needs in terms of light and moisture making them perfect companions.
The following varieties are perfect for pollinators: