Showing posts with label tufa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tufa. Show all posts

April 7, 2008

Saxifraga in Tufa Rock

High alpine saxifrage growing in Tufa rock

I have a long history with Saxifraga, or saxifrages. 30 years ago, while in high school, my first summer job was not scooping ice cream at Cape Cod, or cutting lawns, nor flipping burgers; rather, it was kneeling on burlap for what seemed like the entire summer, extracting grass and weed seedlings with tweezers and fingertips, from an extensive collection of "silver saxifrages" at a well known local estate designed by Fletcher Steele, that of a philantropist, Helen Stoddard.

After three years of maintaining Mrs. Stoddards amazing collection of these alpine plants, I expected that I might have had my fill of these alpine plants, but rather, the opposite has happened. Now in my 40's, I continue to collect these alpine treasures, but it has only been recently, I admit, that I have been able to actually keep them alive! Not the easiest plants to please, these alpione plants, native to the highest peaks of the alps and European mountain ranges, require somewhat specific conditions to thrive, mainly, boyant cool air, fast draining soil which retains moisture at the same time ( not the easiest condition to achive) and bright light, if not sun, without burning.

Attempting to grow these Saxifrages in normal garden conditions will result it unsatifactory results. They grow best in Tufa rock, but this is a material which is practically impossible to find ( tufa is a porous, limestone rock, perfect for so many alpines which love to grow in it), or you could try them in pots and containers, troughs, if you will, which contains a fast draining potting soil.

Thanks to Wrightman Alpines, the plants can now be purchased already growing in Tufa rock, which has redefined how my collection looks. I urge anyone in the Northern USA to try these, and elsewhere, search for these tiny buns at online and local nurseries and try taking cuttings, to plant in Tufa rock ( drill tiny holes, fill with Tufa rock powder, in June, and sit back and wait). Here are some photos of the denser growing forms of Saxifraga, a genus with 430 species of all sizes, with the higher alpine forms such as the kabischia types most suited for Tufa rock growing. Tufa rock keeps these lime lovers dense, tight and hard, which shows off their lime encrusted foliage, as well as seems to give them the hard growing conditions which seems to stimulate blossoming.

Kabischia Saxifrages surviving a New England winter in Tufa rock