Why I love the world of alpines

Cyrtanthus epiphyticus
Cyrtanthus epiphyticus

I had an enjoyable, although warm, day today at the local national Alpine Garden Society show.  Long term readers will know that I have a growing fascination with alpines and have started showing myself in the Novice section.  Today I added a first, two seconds and three thirds to my tally; however I have a way together before I can exhibit the quality of plants I am going to share in this post.  I thought I would show you why I love the world of alpine showing.

Androcymbium striatum
Androcymbium striatum

Whilst there are the cushion plants that many of us associate with the term alpines and plants such as the many campanulas and hardy succulents it is the other categories that draw my attention.  Firstly I have a passion for bulbs.  I think this is  progression of my enjoyment of growing plants from seed.  I get excited to see plants germinated and I get the same thrill when a bulb first appears above the soil.  Also I think bulbs are more suited to my lifestyle as I can store them away in their dormant period and this makes life more manageable for me.  But to be honest it is the beauty and exotic nature of the flowers that really appeal – who couldn’t resist the amazing orange of the Cyrtanthus epiphyticus above.

Allium kurtzianum
Allium kurtzianum

Take this amazing pot of Allium kurtzianum – the flowers remind me of some mad fluorescent ’70s outfit.  I do like the small Alliums and won a first today with Allium sikkimense which has vibrant blue flowers. I am now on a quest to source the Allium kurtzianum.

Ledebouria ovatifolia
Ledebouria ovatifolia

Another bulb I have never heard of and how pretty is this.  I love the broad leaves with the flowers nestling in them.  Yet another one for the very long list.

Pinus mugo 'Sea Urchin'
Pinus mugo ‘Sea Urchin’

Moving on from my first love bulbs we have the conifers which are creeping into my affections and interest.  My friend Brenda and I were particularly taken with this Pinus mugo ‘Sea urchin’ which we felt really lived up to its name.  I bought some dwarf shrubs today as this is the second group of plants I want to focus on.  They are very slow growing and tend to look after themselves most of the year so again should work well for me.

Cheilanthes tomentosa
Cheilanthes tomentosa

My third group to focus on should come as no surprise – ferns.  The more I look at ferns the more I am amazed at the variety not just of leaf form, colour but also growing environment.  I have bought so many this year that I made a conscious effort not to buy any more today.  However, I have identified some of this year’s purchases which might do well in pots and be acceptable for showing.

Saxifraga longifolia
Saxifraga longifolia

Finally Brenda’s Saxifraga with which she won her first First in the Open section (that’s as the top class).  Like me she has been exhibiting in the novice section but today has earned enough firsts to move up.  However, there is nothing stopping any one entering a plant into any of the categories or levels if they think it is good enough and her gamble paid off.  She was beaming all afternoon, even more so when she won a lovely shiny trophy for the most points in the Novice section.

So this is why I love the world of alpines – there is so much variety, exquisite plants you will probably struggle to find outside of the alpine showing world and great passionate people who are only too happy to pass on tips and encourage you to have a go.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. sueturner31 says:

    Stunning …..I’m nearly speechless…..well done to you ….. 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi sue
      Those aren’t my plants just so you aren’t misled!

    2. sueturner31 says:

      I know, but I am always speechless at seeing alpines…I would dream of such beauties but …….!!!???

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love these plants and have been searching for a source here in the States ………. i think I’ve found some, but they’re always sold out!

  3. rusty duck says:

    They are all gems. If I had the right conditions to keep them I would definitely grow more. Presumably under cover, to protect them from wet if not cold? Congrats on your awards too! Brilliant job.

  4. Diana Studer says:

    the Ledebouria is one of ours, but unfamiliar to me as it’s from the summer rainfall eastern side of South Africa. But I too love potted bulbs. Now revelling in a glut of Lachenalia rubida.

  5. Mary Yee says:

    A very enjoyable post–I like seeing and reading about plants new to me. I grow one Ledebouria but the one you feature is a stunner. One comment about the dwarf pine; if it is named ‘Sea Urchin, it is probably Pinus strobus. I believe it originated with Dr. Waxman of the University of Connecticut; he introduced many fine conifers into cultivation.

  6. alison says:

    Well done to both you and your friend! The plants certainly are exquisite and so very different to all the usual perennials and garden plants etc. You’ve whetted my appetite to learn more…

  7. Anna says:

    Oh I can understand the attraction Helen 🙂 I like the look of the androcymbium and have already fallen for alliums and ferns. Congratulations on being placed in the classes you entered and wishing you more successes in the future.

  8. I’m with you on the love of alpines. I have a very small collection of alpines and it’s an area I hope to develop further in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy your posts. I love that Ledebouria ovatifolia, the contrast of the leaves and flowers sitting snugly within them is very beautiful. Well done on your achievements to date.

  9. bittster says:

    Congratulations on your showing, and thanks for the photos. I too love the allium, and the cyrtanthus is so exotic looking. I wouldn’t know where to start at such a show.
    Frank

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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