Alpines are cultivated varieties of wild flowers, originally from the high mountainous regions of the world. Although most of them are small in comparison to, say, herbaceous shrubs, some gardeners reckon they are amongst the most beautiful plants in the world.
They are fairly easy to look after and take up very little room, in fact most are probably grown in containers such as old stone troughs or sinks. Once you have grown a few alpines, you will easily get addicted and will be on the lookout for new varieties.
The choice of plants is enormous, with plants available for most soil conditions. Many need an alkaline soil but a few such as gentians are lime haters and require an acid soil.
Many are grown as rockery plants, in scree gardens or as plantings in cavities in stone walls. However you decide to grow your alpines, they do need to be in very well drained soil. Many alpine plants in their natural habitat, grow with a minimum of soil and basically have their roots in near pure gravel. These are the sort of conditions that you need to create for your plants.
Most alpines will not need any fertilisers and unless they actually stop growing will not need any.
Some alpine plants, especially those with a grey, woolly foliage, will need protection from wetness during the winter. In their native habit they are protection by a layer of snow which actually keeps them dry. To protect your plants, make sure that the soil is very well drained and cover then over with a cloche or a sheet of glass stood on wooden pegs to hold the glass above the foliage.
© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen