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Advice Advice Advice

Advice

We are always happy to offer advice at the nursery, or by email. All we ask is that you be patient in waiting for a reply in our busy season as we’re always multi-tasking 24/7. 

Reading matter  For beginners and the more experienced alike, our book ‘Alpines – An Essential Guide’ provides a good starting point as it contains a wealth of easily-accessible information based on Michael’s 30 years’ running an alpine nursery. For more details see the ‘Our Book’ tab above.

New to growing alpines? A few things to remember: (a) alpines are not difficult to grow, (b) they prefer a loam based soil incorporating plenty of grit or sharp sand to provide good drainage and (c) definitely avoid so called ‘multi-purpose composts’. 

When do they flower? Unfortunately nothing flowers all year round, but you can have colour or foliage interest for 12 months of the year with the right selection. We’re more than happy to offer advice before you order, or simply select one of our Collections.

What compost do I use? Never use multi-purpose compost for alpines as the peat element acts like a soggy sponge in winter, and then dries out frequently in summer – both extremes which alpines do not like. Best to use John Innes number 1 or 2, mixed 2 parts JI with 1 part grit, which will give a lovely free-draining mix, or good garden soil mixed 50:50 with grit. Do not be tempted to add extra fertilizer as alpines don’t need it.

Do they need winter protection? Some of the smaller cushion plants usually benefit from some winter protection in areas of heavy rainfall so it is advisable to make a little glass or perspex cloche to cover them for the winter months – always leave the sides open (see photo above).

When can I plant them? Outside while the soil is warm so usually from April to the end of September. If they are going to be growing in an alpine house then you can plant at any time of the year but ideally between February and November.

Do I need to water them? Of course like any other plant, alpines need water. Usually normal rainfall provides enough moisture in most of the UK (except perhaps the south east). Pay particular attention to alpines grown in containers during warm dry spells. 

Do they need feeding? Alpines have low nutrient requirements generally, so they really only need feeding if they start to look tired or stop flowering. In these cases, try a tomato feed, half strength, applied every 2-3 weeks during the growing season until they perk up. Do not overdo it or they will probably begin to grow out of character. Do not apply feed after mid-September.

What is eating them? Generally alpines fare quite well for avoiding pest damage as there is usually something larger and more tasty in the garden. However any damage is usually birds, mice/voles or slugs/snails. Sometimes deer or rabbits if you are unlucky (try hanging old CD’s on string to deter deer – they don’t like the glittery shine). Birds sometimes pull plants around a bit when they look for grubs in the soil (especially Sempervivums) so maybe try some chicken wire to deter them. Mice and voles do most damage over winter when there is snow and food supplies are short. We’ve lost a few large plants in the garden to mice but often they resprout and are chubbier as a result. Slugs and snails... well a boot or sharp trowel does the job if you don’t want to put pellets down.