May 2, 2006

May Day Alpine Wall

This May is the anniversary of the raised stone alpine wall along the west foundation of the greenhouse. Alpine walls are basically, rock retaining walls, filled with a special fast-draining soil mix and rocks, with added drainage pipes, used to grow fussier alpine plants which require such conditions. As this bed reaches three years old, the plantings are finally maturing, and it is fu to see seedling appear, even of tulip species, since bulbs love the fast drainage and more protected environment.

A raised alpine garden with planted rock wall

This wall is planted with alpine plants and bulbs, that are found throughout the world. Some rock gardeners focus on specific areas, like Turkey, or the alps. but I prefer to mix it all up, based on the sunny aspect of the location. Alpine gardens generally peak in bloom around May and June, which happens to be the peak alpine bloom period in the wild, so plants can grow quicly and reproduce int he short alpine summer, enjoying the spring run-off.

Tulipa whittalii

Native to Turkey, Tulipa whittallii is an easy species. If you haven't tried species tulip, you will find them more prolific than regular tulips, more like daffofils. Species tulips are by far the most effective tulips to grow. I suppose there is a place for hybrid tulips, but as everyone knows, they don't last long. Species forms of tulips should be planted en masse, with a hundred or so in an area. They can also be had at most garden centers and home stores, as well as most good catalogs. They never seem like anything interesting, but they always get comments once in the garden. And they come up every year.

Viola pedata - Alpine Birds Foot Violet
Last year I planted many pots of viola species seed, including this jewel, Viola pedata, the birds foot violet. Theya re very easy from seed, requiring a brief chilling to stratefy in the spring, and then the flats are kept out doors until fall, when they can be planted in the garden. These violets are also hard to find at garden centers, and can only really be found at alpine nurseries via mail and online. When I bring these plants to a plant sale, they always get left behind, unless I show one in bloom, and then they are gone in a snap. It's the violet thing. It scares people. But this genus, Viola, is broad, and many are not invansive at all. Remember, Pansy's are Viola's too. These alpine and woodland gems are extremely floriferous and have a hue that is unmatched in the spring garden. I am currently looking for Viola pedata biflora, which has a bi colored flower.


  1. I adore viola and primulas. Love that container you have the primulas in:)

  2. Thanks Sandy!

    Actually, teh container isn't all that fancy, I bought it at Lowes Home Center. But I liked it too.

    Enjoy the blog!



Oh yes, do leave me a comment!