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Hyde Heath, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
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Alpine planting schemes and beds are a great way of creating a low maintenance feature within the garden.
Alpine plants are some of the most hardy and resilient of all plant species. Originating from cold, rocky environments, these plants have dense, growing habits and attractive flowers.
Alpine beds with gravels and various sized rocks can look amazing at the edge of a patio or lawn. Raised alpine beds can form enclosure and bring exciting visual textures to eye level.
In this article I will explain how to make a raised alpine bed step by step. I will include step by step pictures of a simple raised alpine bed I build recently with sleepers.
What are Alpines?
Alpines are a type of plant specially adapted for living in harsh, mountainous and exposed conditions.
In their natural habitat they are found at elevation above the line of where forests will grow. This means they are extremely hardy and can thrive within shallow soil and exposed locations.
Due to their natural habitats they are very drought tolerant and generally low maintenance. As Alpine plants are naturally dispersed within expansive landscapes they normally have large and attractive flowers.
This is to attract the attention of flying pollinators over a long distance. Their floral beauty, low maintenance and hardiness make them extremely popular amongst gardeners.
Are alpines hardy?
Due to adaptions within their native ranges and habitats alpine plants are extremely hardy. Alpines can thrive in sub zero temperatures, take prolonged sun and wind exposure as well as being drought tolerant.
Do alpines need a special soil?
Alpines need well drained and gritty soil that does not hold onto moisture. This mimics their natural and native environments where the underlying geology is mountain gravels and rock. Alpines roots do not like sitting in damp conditions especially during winter.
What depth of soil do alpines need?
Alpines do not necessarily need deep soil to grow, this is because they are used to colonising cracks in rocks and shallow rocky ground. However, if you are growing them in a garden the soil must drain well. This actually favours deeper volumes of well drained soil such as a raised bed.
How to make an Alpine garden look natural?
The best way to make an alpine bed look natural is to use the same materials throughout. If you have slate rocks use slate chippings for the flatter planting areas.
Try to have different sized rocks and gravels graded down to smaller gravel particles. This will provide a much more natural looking setting for the alpine plants.
Space your plants out in pots first before you plant them in. Keep moving them about until they look natural.
How to make a raised Alpine garden bed step by step
Mark out the position of where you wish your raised alpine garden to be situated.
If you’re building a raised bed with bricks and masonry you will need to install a level concrete foundation. This can be done by excavating out a trench and filling with wet concrete and tamping level.
Even if you are building with timber sleepers a shallow concrete foundation can be a worthwhile base. A level concrete base will allow you to fix your sleepers together square and level easily. Alternatively you can wedge sleeper’s level and fix them together like in the image below.
Fix your sleepers together for your base course; once this is in place, building up should be easy. As you build higher make sure your sleeper joins overlap for added strength.
Make sure you cut your sleepers as squarely as possible so they fit together tightly. Very much like a brick wall you want your corners to be plumb and your top to be level.
Fix your sleepers together at the corners with 200mm long timber lock screws. Sand down any rough timber or sharp edges.
Fill up your raised alpine bed with a free draining soil with plenty of grit and free draining gravels.
Lay a weed suppressant membrane to the top of the soil and peg into place.
Supply and spread a decorate gravel or aggregate of your choice. In the example alpine garden below we use slate chippings.
Supply and position rockery rocks in a naturalistic way to compliment your gravel. To match the slate chippings we positioned used blue slate rocks.
Supply and plant your new alpine plants through the plastic and backfill the gravel back around them.
You have now completed your raised alpine garden! Get ready to enjoy seasonal flowers and the joy of watching it establish.
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Hyde Heath, Amersham, Buckinghamshire