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Book Review: The Kew Gardener's Guide to Grow Alpines


I’ve been a fan of alpines for decades, ever since I discovered how they made it possible to have a wide range of interesting plants in even the smallest plot.

One of the first places I planted them was in an old chimney pot, using succulents that trailed over the sides, but I moved on to the driveway that ran alongside the house and consisted of two lines of paving slabs with gravel on each side and down the middle. I put alpines in all the gravel areas, but learnt the hard way that you need to take into account not just the height of the plant, but also the flowers. In summer, the pretty saxifrage came up to flower, only to get covered with oil from the sump of my Mini.
Now, we have alpines all over the place, particularly in two walls that are planted with a mix of alpines and low-growing herbs to give flowers and colour in different seasons. There is an alpine for almost every situation and pollinators are not worried about size! As long as there is nectar on offer, they will visit.

Strictly speaking, an alpine is a plant that originates in a mountainous region, such as the Alps. More broadly, the term is used to describe most low-growing or ground-hugging plants. Visit any good garden centre and you will find a mouth-watering array of these tempting little treats. The trick is to get the right one.

That’s where this book comes into its own. It is a complete guide to getting going and keeping your plants thriving. For the keen gardener, there is a fascinating introduction that goes into the ways in which alpine plants adapted to growing in what are, sometimes, quite challenging conditions. For the novice alpine wrangler, there are complete project ideas to get you going with advice on how to succeed.
Planting, watering and feeding are all covered, along with troubleshooting in case there is a problem. There are tips on propagation so you can increase your own plants or maybe swap some with friends. The main section of the book lists a wide range of plants to choose from, giving details of how and where to grow them plus their size, flowering time and hardiness. This is valuable information when it comes to selecting the right plant for your garden and will be a great reference for years to come as your collection expands.

As gardens shrink in size and, for many, a patio or balcony becomes the only growing area, a book like this proves it is possible to have a beautiful collection of plants in even the smallest area. Many alpines grow happily in pots for years as long as you care for them and remember to give them the water and food they need.

Priced at £14.99, this book is great value and is absolutely packed with information. The author is clearly someone with a love of alpine plants and he imparts the information clearly in an informative, but never overwhelming, way.
The book would be a lovely gift for someone - or a treat for yourself.

If the bug really bites, you may wish to join the Alpine Garden Society (www.alpinegardensociety.net) and attend one of their local groups or shows, where you can meet specialist growers and pick up some really interesting plants.

Author: Matthew Jeffery
Publisher: Frances Lincoln / Quarto Group
ISBN: 9780711290440
Number of pages: 144
Price: £14.99

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This story was published on: 05/07/2024

Image attribution: Publisher: Frances Lincoln / Quarto Group

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