Halloween Display and Tony Goode on “Alpines for the time-challenged”… This months meeting opened with a wonderful display of pumpkins, gourds and squashes, all grown by the members plus some vases of Autumn flowers, a witch and a couple of spiders, all ready for Halloween.
Tony’s journey with Alpines started when Tony moved into a new bungalow and he wanted to grow alpines. So he developed a plot for them and started showing them at different times of the year. He found that generally they are very easy to grow and many seed themselves around without becoming thugs One example of this is the Pulsitilla which has proved a mainstay and makes a lovely show.
He likes to raise all his plants from seed and showed us a slide of hundreds of pots in one of his greenhouses with his seed raised plants, then to get them in the soil as soon as possible as they do much better than being kept in a pot.
Tony showed us slides of the many alpines he grows including a beautiful trumpet gentian which must have sun to start flowering. He encourages wild life into the garden and has frogs, toads and newts even though he no longer has a pond as ponds and children don’t go together. He has the National collection of species crocus and showed us a slide of the lovely autumn crocus, Sternbergia Augustfolia. He has also found that Cyclamen coum has proved to be very hardy and even flowers in the snow.
All the troughs he has he made himself, using cardboard boxes as a form, and cement and coir for the mixture, which looks more natural than plain cement, and has proved to be tough and resilient. He has also used roofing slate very effectively to grow the plants in between. John Innes and sand is used for the seedlings as it is very loose and easily falls off the rooted cuttings and seedlings which are then watered directly into the ground.
When taking cuttings, he waters from the bottom and uses pumice for the top, thus keeping the cuttings dry on top. Cyclamen seeds like it dark and damp, but are more successful if planted out.
Regarding pests and diseases: apart from winter wet, thrips can be a problem, but Otherwise Alpines are very easy and rewarding plants to grow and I am sure many of us were inspired to give them a go.