BRIAN KIDD: A kitchen sink drama – ideal for alpines

Redundant sinks can be converted into miniature alpine gardens

Redundant sinks can be converted into miniature alpine gardens

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BRIAN KIDD: The crafty gardener’s guide to saving cash this summer

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I had a lovely lettter from Mrs Williams who lives at Southsea.

She has just moved here and has updated her home and is proud of her new kitchen.

Much of the old one has been dumped, but there is a large former brown and cream sink which has been saved because the builders told her it would make a good bird bath!

‘Have you any other good ideas Brian?’ she asks.

What about using an old stone one to create a little sink garden for alpine plants?

Real stone sinks are quite expensive, but you may be able to transform this sink which can be made to look interesting with real alpine plants.

To disguise the fact that it’s a sink and not a real stone container the outside of the sink can be coated with a mixture like hypertufa.

Use one part cement powder, one part fine peat and one part sharp sand mixed together with water.

This is applied to the outside and the rim of the sink. It WILL stick to the sink, you just have to be patient.

Try to get a natural effect, not just a smooth covering. It needs to look a bit rugged.

Put the empty sink on two bricks to keep it off the ground and using a wet paint brush to moisten the outside of the sink.

By this time next year it will have weathered and will look like real stone.

A layer of broken clay flower pots should be put into the place where the plughole is in the base.

Now fill the sink with John Innes No1 compost.

If 20 per cent extra sharp sand is added, this is the perfect media for alpines.

Fill the sink to within an inch of the top and then we are ready for planting.

Choose one miniature conifer such as chamaecyparis obtusa nana gracilis. This is a good miniature.

Plant it on one side of the sink with a nice piece of rock alongside.

Cyclamen coum will flower in February. It has pink, red or white flowers, is only three inches tall and has marbled leaves nearly all the year and looks great alongside edelweiss.

You will only need five alpine plants. Have a look at a catalogue to find out what will provide colour or interest all year.

Try not to use rock garden plants which are already in the garden as they may be too tall. Choose some little gems to give yourself a cultural treat.

After planting, just sit back and enjoy the outcome.

The sink garden will need watering. Rainwater is ideal, but feel the compost before watering. With the drainage in the base, it will never become waterlogged.

Finally, during the autumn, after picking off any dead foliage, cover the surface of the compost with white stone chippings, this looks good and professional and stops mud splashing on to the new leaves and flowers which form in the spring.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Yellow crocus are coming into bloom in sheltered places. To stop them being damaged by sparrows in the morning, cut out the shape of a cat lying down. Paint it black with a white patch on the front for realism and insert two marbles for the eyes and place it nearby. Sparrows will now keep off the blooms.

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