Gardening: Brian Kidd treats himself... to a sink

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

Saturday, 4th January 2020, 6:00 am
A Butler sink filled with alpine plants.
A Butler sink filled with alpine plants.

I bought one for a fiver at the recycling centre in October and I am going to have a go at creating a sink garden... on a pleasant day, of course!

Real stone sinks are quite expensive but you may be able to find an old butler sink which could be converted to look really 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 of hypertufa using one part cement powder, one part fine peat and one part sharp sand all mixed together with water.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is applied to the outside AND the rim of the sink. Don’t forget the rim. You will find it will stick on, but be patient and try to attain a natural effect.

Apply several coats, allowing time to dry, before repeating.

You are not after a smooth covering – it really needs to look a bit rugged – and by this time next year it will have weathered and look like real stone. Honestly.

Now put a layer of broken clay flowerpots into the place where the plughole is in the bottom of the sink.

Then fill the container with John Innes No1 compost. If 20 per cent extra sharp sand is added, this will be the perfect medium 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, commonly known as the Hinoki cypress.

This is a really good miniature and you should plant it on one side of the sink with a nice piece of rock alongside.

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

You will only need five alpine plants to cover the sink’s surface. Take a look around your garden centre to find out what will provide colour or interest all year.

Miniature saxifraga are lovely throughout the year and their flowers last for three to four weeks in spring.

Gentians are a sheer delight and snowdrops are also a great favourite.

Try not to use rock garden plants which are already in the garden as they might be too tall.

Choose some little gems to give yourself a cultural treat.

After planting, sit back and enjoy the results of your labour.

The sink garden will need watering. Rain water would be ideal but make sure you feel the compost before watering. With those crocks for drainage in the base, it should never become waterlogged.

Finally, during the autumn and 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 will form the following spring.

This week’s top tip

Keep a gardening diary in 2020. You needn’t buy a new one, simply use an old one and make important notes such as when the first snowdrops appear and when the first crocus opens. Now you’ll be able to see what happened when.