Miniature life blooms down in rock garden

Narcisssus tete a tete
Narcisssus tete a tete

A chance to see special plants

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Things are on the move in the rock garden. The little groups of snowdrops have lasted well having been in bloom for five weeks The miniature irises still look good, although they only last in flower for about a fortnight.

There are also pretty groups of miniature daffodils. The delightful February Gold has just started to flower and will be closely followed by another little gem called Tete a Tete.

Spring is traditionally the best time to enjoy colour in the rock garden but as with all successful gardening it requires forward planning, so, if you love spring bulbs, it’s important to put a note in the gardening diary to plant these bulbs and corms in September or October.

Have you noticed that crocus and other little gems in flower at the moment have lasted so well? They have been splendid this year whereas last spring the weather was too warm and the crocus in particular only flowered for about a week.

Most bulbs are flowering at the right time this spring and the great thing about all these displays is that they cheer us up and begin to point towards summer.

Once the spring bulbs have finished other little gems will follow, but if there are bare patches it’s so easy to visit garden centres and nurseries to buy a replacement to fill the gap.

There are delightful saxifrages for example. There’s a wide choice in full bud and most gardeners go for the ones with the largest number of buds. As soon as the flowers show their colour, they are bought, taken home and planted so they enhance the rock garden.

The term rockery isn’t as attractive as ‘rock garden’ as the word ‘rockery’ conjures up images of bits and pieces of concrete, slate and flint which have been heaped up, soil added and covered with common plants. However, a rock garden, even though it may be small, is a place which has been thought about and contains little gems.

On a rock garden, plants are grown in small pockets set between decent rock. The pockets need to contain well-drained soil. Alpine specialists mix up a compost of loam, peat and sand in varying proportions to accommodate the needs of particular species. For example, tiny pinks love a mixture of 10 parts loam with seven parts sharp grit and one part crushed chalk. They hate wet soil so this will ensure there is good drainage.

If there is space available, small evergreen shrubs and miniature conifers look wonderful and add interest all year. It’s always good to have an evergreen background.

The other great advantage about a proper rock garden is that it can be built up on top of existing soil, great if you are having to cultivate on impossible clay.

If you decide to change a rockery into a rock garden, take it easy and do a little bit at a time.

TIP OF THE WEEK

There are lots of coloured primroses and polyanthus in pots at garden centres. Smell the flowers and choose some with perfume. They will grow well on a light windowsill. Remember what your mum said, choose those with just one or two flowers with lots of unopened buds beneath the foliage.