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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary
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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 16 July 2009 by Diane Clement

Midland Diary No 15 - Round the garden in Mid July

Our garden is not at its best in the summer but a quick look round the garden reveals a few favourites in flower at the moment  (several of these grown from seed, of course):

Veronica spicata

Penstemon pinifolius

Lychnis coronaria in a neon pink form

Stachys byzantina

Gentiana lutea grown from seed, it took six years to get to flowering size which it achieved last year for the first time.  This year it has made three flowering spikes and it is looking vigorous.  I am not quite convinced of its worth as a border plant as it soon seems to look tatty.  Perhaps it's one of those plants that looks better in the wild, however after seven years waiting, I shall give it the benefit of the doubt for another year.

Self sown seedlings
Sometimes, odd plants come up in an unexpected place.  I have no idea where this Gladiolus tristis came from, but I am very happy to leave it as it one of my favourite plants for scent. 

Self sown seedlings

More of a nuisance is this little Sisyrinchium Pole Star.  It is pretty in flower, but it sets lots of seed which then gives rise to lots of offspring in a couple of years.  I find that the best solution is to try and remove as many seed pods as I can before they are cast over the rockery

Developing crevice garden

I have now made two crevice gardens, this is the most recent and was started just over a year ago.  It was previously a raised bed with pieces of sandstone as the sides.  I turned the sandstone on its end to make a crevice garden.  This method of alpine gardening has recently been made popular by Czech gardeners, who believe that the cool root run afforded by the crevices between the stones is beneficial to plants.  If the gaps between the stones are quite narrow, it forces the plants to send their roots deep where they can find moisture and the rocks keep them cool. 

The first picture was taken in March last year. 

Developing crevice garden

By May this year, the crevice garden looked like this

And now,  Dryas octopetala is looking healthy although it only made one flower, 

and Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineus' is looking good, although it may be too vigorous for this situation in a year or so.    

Dealing with pests in unorthodox ways (1)

In the autumn I bought a few miniature cyclamen persicum cultivars for planting out in the garden for some late colour.  A couple of them were kept as house plants on a north facing window sill and there they flowered non stop until about Aprll when they had a rest.  A couple of weeks ago they started budding up again and promised a good show.  Unfortunately, I found them to be infected by red spider mite.  The leaves were grey and damaged, and the mites could be just seen under the leaves.  The rational decision would have been to throw them away, but instead I have cut off all the leaves, dipped the tubers in neem oil and and put them in a cool shady spot.  I'm not sure if this will work, but it seemed worth a try.    

Dealing with pests

Dealing with pests in unorthodox ways (2)

I have grown various codonopsis species from seed many times, and had a lot of success flowering them in pots, but they are quite difficult to manage under glass because of their habit of climbing and twisting their tendrils round anything they touch.  I would really like to grow them in the garden, but they have always attracted a massive number of slugs who seem to regard them as a gourmet speciality and much their way through all green shoots.  Every time I have tried them outside, the slugs have prevented the plants from getting to flowering size.  Last year at one of the gardening shows, I was tempted to buy a product made from sheep’s wool which is supposed to deter slugs.  I had some success with it last year, round hostas, so I thought I would try it this year with the codonopsis. 


The codonopsis plants are in deep 1 litre pots and had reached about 30cm high.  The product comes in pellets.  They are placed round the plant and then watered which makes them expand and form a rough surface.  The slugs are supposed to be deterred, whether by the rough surface or the slightly odd smell of sheep, I am not entirely sure. 

I have now half buried these pots in a bed against a wall with wire for them to climb up. 

Time will tell.

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