Plants for Rock Garden And Pool


The two main planting periods are spring and autumn. There are certain advantages in early autumn planting if it can be done while the soil is still warm. The plants can make growth and become well established, thus ensuring a reasonable display in the first spring and summer after planting. If it cannot be done before the soil becomes wet and cold it is as well to delay until the spring.

Alpine plants supplied by nurseries are always pot-grown and, if necessary, planting can continue during the summer months, although it will be necessary to water them and even shade them from the fiercest sunshine until they begin to take root and are able to seek their own moisture.

When alpines are knocked out of the pots or other containers for planting they will be found to have a firm rootball, If this is hard it should be gently pressed and loosened, without breaking it to pieces, before it is planted. Plant very firmly. Ideally the soil in which to plant should be just moist but not really wet. Do not plant in dust-dry compost, or in any which is saturated. After planting give the plants a really thorough soaking, using a finerosed can. This settles the soil nicely around them and provides them with moisture until the roots begin to seek for it further afield. Watering Once plants in the open are firmly established watering should never be done unless it is absolutely necessary but, if, in a prolonged drought it has to be done, then do it very thoroughly; preferably in the evening.

Plants for Rock Garden

Top dressing

When areas have been completely planted, and especially those occupied by the smaller, possibly cushion-forming plants, it is a good plan to top dress the whole area with small stone chippings, ensuring that the chippings are inserted beneath the foliage and close against the collar of the plants. This top dressing retains moisture in the soil, discourages the ravaging slugs ar d imparts a nicely finished appearance to the rock garden.

Cutting back

Plants such as the cushion phloxes, helianthemums, aubrietas, arabis, alyssums, dianthus, veronicas, hypericums, iberis and geraniums benefit from being cut back quite severely after they finish flowering. This encourages new growth and often results in a further flush of late season blossom. It also maintains a tidy habit and prolongs the life of the plants.


Normal maintenance and cultivation consists of controlling weeds, slugs and snails, and limiting the growth of the more vigorous plants which may tend to swamp smaller neighbours.

Winter care

The average alpine plants with which a collection is started need no special winter care if they have been planted in suitable conditions as described above. If, during periods of excessive rainfall any which have very soft and hairy leaves seem to be suffering, they may be protected by a sheet of glass placed over them and held in position by easily contrived wire clips, but this is seldom necessary. The enemy of alpine plants is not cold, but wet. Most of them are accustomed to spend their resting period beneath a covering of snow.


  • Alpine plants can be increased by various methods. The usual means of propagation are seeds or cuttings but old plants may often be divided, usually in early spring or early autumn, and a few plants may be increased by root cuttings.
  • The seeds of alpine plants germinate more readily if they are sown as soon as convenient after ripening. If they cannot be sown at once they should be cleaned and dried and stored in a cool, dry place until sowing can take place.
  • Sow the seeds in pans, pots or boxes, on a surface of finely sieved, rather gritty soil. Just cover the seeds with similar compost, stand the containers in a cold frame or greenhouse, or in a box out of doors and cover them with paper over which a sheet of glass is placed. As soon as they germinate they must be brought into the light.
  • The seedlings are ready for pricking-off separately as soon as they make the first true leaves which differ from the first, or cotyledon leaves. John Innes seed compost is suitable, especially if a little extra fine grit is added.
  • Cuttings of most alpine plants are made from soft tips of young growth which do not contain flower buds. They should be from 4-14 in. long. Trim off the lower leaves and, with a very sharp knife sever the cutting immediately below a node (leaf joint) and insert into pure gritty sand in pots or pans. Keep shaded and moist until the cuttings root, when they can be separately potted and grown on until well enough rooted to be planted out.
  • Divisions should be potted and treated in the same way as potted cuttings. Make sure that all portions have some root. It is often possible to detach rooted pieces of old plants without digging up the entire plant.

Three Hundred Rock Plants Described

Acaena (Rosaceae) (New Zealand burr) Carpeting plants native, mostly, to New Zealand, these are invasive but ornamental and are useful for crevices of paving and to clothe areas of poor soil where little else will flourish. All are sun-lovers. Their small flowers are carried in dense heads on very short stems and are often accompanied by brightly coloured spines. They also make good ground-cover for dwarf bulbs. A. bttchananh has pea-green leaves and yellow-brown flower heads; A. glauca has silky, blue-grey foliage; A. microphylla has bronze leaves and innumerable scarlet burr-like flower heads.

Achillea (Compositae) (yarrow) Many of these sun-loving plants are suitable for the rock garden. They flower in spring and early summer and possess beauty both of leaf and flower. They are easily grown in any well-drained soil. The following are unlikely to exceed 6 in. when in flower. A. argentea has intensely silver leaves and white flowers; A. chrysocoma has grey leaves and yellow flowers; A. ‘King Edward’ has soft grey-green leaves and lemon yellow flowers, and A. tomentosa green leaves and bright yellow flowers. Aethionema (Cruciferae)(stonecress) Valuable dwarf, shrubby plants for places in full sun and any good garden soil, these flower from early summer onward. Propagate by seed or cuttings. A. grandiflorum makes a 9 in. bush of grey-green small leaves and has large heads of rose-pink flowers; A. pulchellum, similar but not so tall, has flowers the colour of pink coconut-ice. A. Warley Rose’ is a lovely, daphne-like shrub 6 in. tall with innumerable heads of rich rose-red flowers. As it is a sterile hybrid it has to be propagated by soft tip cuttings.

Alliurn (Lihaceae) This genus contains several fine rock garden plants; they mostly relish full sun and have no special soil requirements. A. karataviense, 9 in., has huge, handsome grey-green leaves and large ‘drum-stick’ heads of grey-white flowers in spring; A. moly, 9 in., is invasive but lovely. It has large heads of bright yellow flowers in spring; A. narcissiflorum has large, nodding wine-red flowers on 4-in. stems in spring. Alyssum (Cruciftrae) These easy-going, sun and lime-loving plants are very decorative in the early spring. They benefit from being cut back after flowering and can be increased from seeds and cuttings. They are splendid wall plants, especially when associated with arabis and aubrieta. They are mostly forms of A. saxatile, which has grey-green leaves and many heads of yellow flowers on 9-12 in. stems; `Compactum’ is dwarfer and more compact; `Citrinum’ has sulphur-yellow flowers, and ‘Dudley Neville’ orange-buff flowers.

A. spinosum (Ptilotrichum spinosum) though not strictly an alyssum is usually included in the family. It is a 9 in. tall spiny bush smothered with white or soft pink flowers in summer.

Anacyclus (Compositae) (Mount Atlas daisy) A. depressus makes prostrate mats of grey, ferny leaves and radiating stems carrying large daisy-shaped flowers, crimson on the back of the petals and white in front. It is a plant for full sun and very well-drained soil. Propagate from seeds.

Androsace (Primulaceae) (rock jasmine) This large genus contains some of the most desirable rock garden and alpine house plants. They are all sun-lovers and, as most of them have densely hairy leaves they may appreciate some protection against winter wet. Propagate by seeds or by detaching rooted rosettes or by cuttings. All are spring and early summer flowering. A. lanuginosa should be planted in crevices from which it can hang its trailing stems, which end in heads of pale pink, crimson-eyed flowers; A. primuloides (sarmentosa) `Chumbyi’, `Watkinsii’ and ‘Salmon’s Variety’ have neat, rounded, hairy-leaved rosettes and heads of deep pink flowers on 6-in. stems.

Anemone (Ranunculaceae) (windflower) Several species are admirable rock garden plants. They like well-drained, gritty soil, rich in humus and are increased by division or by seeds. All are sun lovers except where otherwise stated. A. ‘Lessen’, a sterile hybrid has glowing rose-red flowers on z ft. stems in spring; A. magellanica has creamy flowers in loose heads on 6-in, stems in spring and early summer; A. nemorosa, the wood anemone, likes partial shade and cool soil. The species has white flowers; the cultivars `Allenii’ and `Robinsoniana’ are blue. There is also a form with pretty, double white flowers; A. vernalis is one of the most beautiful of all alpines. It has huge opalescent flowers on 6-in. stems. It needs very gritty soil and sun.

Antennaria (Compositae) These easy little carpeting plants for sunny positions in any soil are invaluable for planting in crevices between paving stones. Propagate by division or seed. A. dioica has tiny grey leaves and fluffy heads of pink flowers on 3-in. stems in spring.

Aquilegia (Ranunculaceae) (columbine) Some of these are good rock garden plants. Few of them come entirely true from seed. They like sun and well-drained soil and flower in spring and early summer. A. ecalcarata has flights of elegant red-purple, spurless flowers on stems 9 in. tall. It comes true from seed; in A. flabellata, 9-12 in. tall, the large flowers may be blue or ivory-white; A. glandulosa has large blue and white flowers on 15-in. stems.

Arabis (Cruciferae) (rock cress) These sun and lime-loving spring flowering plants are easily grown in ordinary soil. Propagate by cuttings or seeds. Cut hard back after flowering. A. albida `Coccinea’ is the double white arabis, a valuable and showy spring flower; ‘Snowflake’ has large single, snow-white flowers; A. blepharophylla is very early flowering. It has pink blossoms on 6-in. stems.

Arenaria (Caryophyllaceae) (sandwort) These spring-flowering plants are easily grown. A. bakarica loves shade. It has a mere film of tiny leaves and clouds of dainty, tiny white flowers on 1-in. stems; A. montana is a spreading, sun-loving plant about 9 in. high, with innumerable large pure white flowers. Armeria (Plumbaginaceae) (thrift) These decorative sun lovers will grow in any soil. All flower in spring. Propagate by division or cuttings. A. caespitosa has tight tufts of closely packed deep green leaves and almost stemless heads of rich pink flowers; of A. maritima the best forms are ‘Vindictive’ deep red, `Laucheana’, crimson, and ‘Alba’, white. Asperula (Rubiaceae) These flower in spring and have clustered heads of pink or white flowers. Propagate by division, seeds and cuttings. A. gussonsi makes mats of dark green foliage and pink flowers. It will grow in any good soil; A. odorata, the woodruff, likes shade and cool soil. It has leafy 9-in. stems and heads of small white fragrant flowers; A. suberosa is an especially beautiful plant, but it needs gritty soil and a warm, sunny position. It produces soft carpets of grey leaves and clusters of tubular pink flowers. In wet areas it will appreciate shelter from winter rain.

Aster (Compositae) Those species suitable for rock gardens do well in open, sunny positions and in any good, well-drained soil. They may be increased by seeds or by division of old plants. Most flower in mid to late summer. A. alpinus has large blue and gold aster flowers on 9-in. stems. There is a nice white form and `Beechwood’ has large, more richly coloured flowers but is a little less ‘alpine’ in appearance; A. natalensis has flowers of gentian-blue on 6-in. stems. Astilbe (Saxiftagaceae) There are a few dwarf astilbes for cool, semi-shaded positions. Propagate by division of old plants. A. chinensis `Pumila’, 9-12 in., has stiff, dense spires of flowers the colour of crushed raspberries, in August and September; A. glaberrima `Saxosa’ has dainty spikes of pink flowers on very short stems in late summer.

Aubrieta (Cruciftrae)(rock cress) Aubrietas can be raised from seed and provide a mixture of colours. The best kinds are named and are propagated by cuttings or division. They are sun and lime-lovers and need to be heavily trimmed immediately after flowering to maintain their tidy habit and increase the length of their life. They flower in early spring. Any alpine plant catalogue will provide a list of names and colours, but the following may be regarded as a selection of the best kinds:

‘Bressingham Pink’, very large double flowers of rich pink; ‘Bressingham Red’, large flowers, deep glowing red; ‘Dream’, light mauve-blue; ‘Dr Mules’, one of the oldest and still a good one. Violet blue; `Godstone’, vivid violet-purple; `Gurgedyke’, deep rich purple; `Joan Allen’, double, deep red; ‘Mrs Rodewald’, very large bright red flowers; ‘Vanegata’, silver and green variegated foliage. Very compacrand neat.

Calamintha (Labiatae) These are pretty plants with aromatic foliage and worthwhile flowers, easily grown in any good soil and full sun. All flower in summer. Propagate from seeds or by cuttings. C. alpina bears violet, white-tipped tubular flowers on 4-in. stems; C. grandiflora is a slightly larger plant with border pink flowers. Ca in pan u la (Campanulaceae) (bellflower) Many campanulars are invaluable for the rock garden. Most flower in summer and late summer and are easily grown in good, well-drained soil and sunny positions. Those mentioned may be regarded as the essential nucleus of a collection. Propagate by seeds,. division or cuttings. C. carpatica has large, saucer-shaped flowers on 9-12 in. stems, its forms vary in colour from white to blue and rich purple; C. cochlearifolia (pusilla) is a tiny gem with blue or white bells on 3-in. stems; C. garganica is a splendid crevice and wall plant. The spreading stems cling closely to the stones and carry multitudes of blue, white-centred starry flowers; C. portenschlagiana (murahs), 6-9 in., is one of the very best. It has sheets of rich purple flowers in dense masses and will grow and flower in light shade; C. poscharskyana is semi-prostrate, invasive but very handsome and flowers for a long period. It has star-shaped blue flowers on long stems.

Cerastium (Caryophyllaceae) The common snow-in-summer, C. tomentosum is too invasive to be permitted in any rock garden although it is a decorative plant for wild places. There is at least one well-behaved, easily grown species however. This is C. alpinum `Lanatum’, which has dense pads of woolly grey leaves and small white flowers in summer. Grow in poor, gritty soil. Propagate by seed, division or cuttings.

Cheiranthus (Cruciferae) (wallflower) Wallflowers suitable for the rock garden like dry conditions, lime in the soil and a sunny place. Propagate by cuttings. C. cheiri `Harpur Crewe’ is the old double yellow Scotch wallflower with fragrant flowers in short spikes on stiff is-in. Bushes; C. ‘Moonlight’ is a deliciously fragrant dwarf plant with soft yellow flowers.

Chiastophyllum (Crassulaceae) In C. oppits:Whim (Cotyledon simphcifolia) the gol(len (lowers hang in slender chains from short leafy stems in spring. It likes a cool spot or light shade.

Chrysogonurn (Compositae) C. virgintanum is an easy plant for a not too hot place. It flowers the summer through. It has leafy stems and star-shaped yellow flowers. Propagate by division.

Cortusa (Primulaceae) C. matthiohi likes a cool position with moist soil. It has rounded lobed, softly hairy leaves and heads of pendent pink tubular flowers on 9-in. stems in summer. Propagate by seeds.

Cotula (Compositae) These are invasive but useful for paving and poor, stony soil. The flowers are inconspicuous but the foliage is pretty. They are invaluable ground-coverers. C. potentillina has deeply divided bronze-green leaves in dense prostrate mats; C. squalida has green, almost fern-like tiny leaves in close mats.

Crepis (Compositae) These showy easy plants for sunny positions in any good soil flower in summer. Propagate by seeds. C. aurea has leaves like those of a dandelion and copper-red flowers on 4-6 in. stems; in C. incana, 9 in., the leaves are ash-grey and it has showers of soft pink flowers.

Cyclamen (Primulaceae) The hardy cyclamen are invaluable tuberous-rooted plants for cool positions in the rock garden. Of the many cultivated species the three described are of outstanding virtue. They love lime but do not demand it. Plant them as growing tubers, not stored and dried ones which take a long time to grow. Plant 3-4 in. deep in soil rich in humus. Propagate by seeds. C. europaeum has marbled rounded leaves and pink fragrant flowers in summer; C. neapolitanum has beautifully shaped and marked leaves and deep pink-sometimes white-flowers in the autumn; C. repandum bears long-petalled rose-pink flowers in early spring. The dark green leaves are marbled with white.

Daphne(Thymeliaceae) This genus contains some of the most beautiful dwarf rock garden shrubs. They like sunny places but not dry conditions. The soil should be gritty and rich in peat or leafsoil. They are sometimes slow to establish but are long-lived. Propagate by cuttings and seeds. D. cneorum is a low bush smothered in summer with heads of rich pink, intensely fragrant flowers. If the stems become bare, fill up the plant with leafy soil; D. collina has red-purple fragrant flowers in spring and often again in late summer, on rounded r 5-in. Bushes; D. retusa makes a stiff, upright a-ft., bush with sweetly scented purple flowers followed by large red berries.

Dianthus (Caryophyllaceae) (pink) This is a large and valuable genus of easily grown, lime and sun-loving plants. Their colourful, often sweetly scented flowers are borne in summer. Propagate by division, cuttings, and seeds of those which are not hybrids. Many are fertile hybrids; seedlings of these will not come true but may produce some worth-while plants. D. alpinus makes low pads of dark green leaves and huge, almost stemless, rich pink flowers; D. arvernensis consists of ash-grey hummocks of leaves and 4-in. stems carrying rounded pink flowers. There is also a lovely white form; D. caesius, the Cheddar pink, has narrow grey leaves and large pink flowers on 6-9 in. stems; D. deltoides, the maiden pink, 9 in., makes sheets of flowers varying from light to dark pink; there is also a white form; D. ‘Pike’s Pink’ is very dwarf with large pink flowers over flat cushions of grey-green leaves; D. subacaulis forms green mats and has slender 4-in. stems carrying neat rose-red flowers.

Dodecatheon (Primulaceae) D. meadta likes a moist position or cool shade. It has pink and white, cyclamen-shaped flowers on 9-12 stems in spring.

Draba (Cruciferae) These spring-flowering plants are easily grown in sun and any good soil. Propagate by seeds. D. aizoides forms tufts of deep green pointed leaves and many yellow flowers in small clusters, on 3-in. stems; D. dedeana has grey-green leaves in huddled rosettes, and white flowers on r-in. stems.

Dryas (Rosaceae) D. octopetala is a woody plant with trailing stems and tiny dark green leaves. The large white flowers are abundantly produced in summer on short stems. Plant in full sun. Propagate by division or by cuttings.

Epilobiurn (Onagraceae) E. glabellum is a sun-loving plant which flowers from May until autumn. It has showers of large white flowers on branching, slightly arching 1 ft. high stems and bronze-green foliage. Propagate by cuttings.

Erigeron (Compositae) There are a few dwarf erigerons suitable for the rock garden. They are easily grown and like open, sunny positions. They flower in spring and summer. Propagate by seed or division. E. aurantiacus has rich orange flowers on 12 in. stems; E. compositus, 3 in. has tiny tufts of greyish leaves and soft lavender flowers; E.mucronatus (Vitadenis triloba) bears profusions of white, pale and deep pink flowers from spring until winter, on 9 in. stems. It likes dry, poor soil. Erinus (Scrophulariaceae) E. alpinus, 3 in., is an easy plant for sun or light shade, flowering in spring and delightful in rocky chinks. Propagate by sheds. It has soft pink flowers. There is a nice white form and several named forms of which ‘Dr Hanelle’, deep red, and ‘Mrs Charles Boyle’, rich pink, are the best. All naturalize freely but never objectionably.

Erodium (Geraniaceae) (heron’s bill) These important rock garden plants flower over a long summer period, are long-lived and easily grown in sunny positions, and any soil. Propagate by seeds or cuttings. E. chamaedrioides makes prostrate mats of dark green leaves studded with short-stemmed white, pink-veined flowers. The cultivar `Roseum’ has rich pink blossoms; E. chrysanthum has tufts of ferny, silver-grey leaves and sprays of sulphur-yellow flowers on 9-in. stems; E. corsicum has grey, hairy leaves in neat 4 in. high tufts and rich pink flowers. It loves a sunny crevice.

Euryops (Compositae) E. acraeus is a good dwarf silver-leaved bush of about 15 in., studded in summer with multitudes of golden, daisy-shaped flowers. It needs a hot, dry place. Propagate by cuttings.

Festuca (Gramineae) A few small alpine grasses are invaluable for filling chinks and crannies in the rock garden. Those described make neat, dwarf tufts, will grow in sun or shade and are propagated by division. F. glacialis, 3-4 in., has fine, grey-green leaves; F. glauca, 9 in., has ornamental silver-grey foliage; F. viridis, 4 in., has bright emerald-green leaves.

Frankenia (Frankeniaceae) F. laevis our native sea heath, is worthy of cultivation, but F. thymifolia, a better garden plant, forms prostrate mats of grey-green leaves and sheets of bright pink flowers in summer. It needs a sunny, but not dry position. Propagate by division or cuttings.

Genista (Leguminosae) (broom) These dwarf shrubs are essential in any rock garden. They relish open, sunny positions and dry soil. Propagate by seeds or cuttings. G. hispanica `Compacta’ is a spiky 1 ft. high bush covered in summer with golden flowers; G. lydia rather large for the rock garden, at 2 ft. high and 3 ft. in diameter, provides a sheet of rich yellow flowers; G. pilosa has prostrate woody stems covered with golden flowers in summer; G. sagittalis has curiously ‘winged’ stems which make low mats concealed in summer by yellow flowers.

Gentiana (Gentianaceae) (gentian) This is one of the most important genera of rock garden plants. They are too numerous to describe in detail and only a representative list of the most useful can be given. Their needs vary considerably and are suggested in the descriptions. Most of them are increased from seeds. G. acaulis is the ever-popular spring and summer flowering blue trumpet gentian. Plant very firmly in good loamy soil and sun; G. asclepiadea, the willow gentian, likes a cool position. Its 3-ft. Stems carry many pendent, tubular blue flowers in mid to late summer; G. septemfida, the ‘everyman’s’ gentian, will grow in almost any soil and open, sunny places. Sheets of blue flowers are borne in clustered heads on 9-in, stems in mid-summer; G. sino-ornata demands lime-free soil and a cool spot. It makes sheets of azure flowers from late August until winter; G. verna has clear blue star-shaped flowers on 3-in. stems in early spring. Grow in gritty soil, rich in humus, and full sun. Raise fresh seedlings every two or three years.

Geranium (Geraniaceae) (crane’s bill) Of this large genus several are admirable for the rock garden, in any good, well-drained soil and sunny positions. Propagate by division, seeds and cuttings. G. ‘Ballerina’, 6 in., has sprays of rounded pink flowers, veined with deeper colour the summer through; G. dalmaticum, has erect 4 in. stems which carry shapely pink flowers in summer. The foliage assumes rich autumn tints; Grenardii, 10 in., has lovely lobed leaves and pastel-lavender flowers; G. sanguineum `Lancastriense’ makes prostrate mats of deep green studded with large, saucer-shaped salmon-pink flowers; G. subcaulescens, 6 in., bears carmine, dark-eyed flowers all summer.

Geum (Rosaceae) (avens) At least one geum is an easily grown and showy alpine species, for full sun and any soil. Propagate by division or seed. G. montanum has large lobed leaves and huge golden, rounded flowers on 6-in, stems in summer.

Globularia (Globulariaceae) (globe daisy) These are sun-loving woody plants. Propagate by division, seeds and cuttings. G. cordifolia, a prostrate plant has tiny leathery dark green leaves and blue powder-puff heads of flowers on very short stems; G. trichosantha is larger in all its parts. It has quite large heads of blue flowers on 9-in. stems. Both flower in summer.

Gypsophila (Caryophyllaceae) (chalk plant) These easy and very showy plants trail effectively from walls and ledges. They are spring and early summer flowering. Propagate by cuttings. G. dubia has showers of clear pink flowers; G. fratensis bears rosy flowers in profusion; G. repens is best in the variety ‘Letchworth Rose’ which provides a mist of rich pink flowers on ft. high stems. Haberlea (Gesneriaceae) H. rhodopensis, 4 in., is a plant for cool, shady or north facing crevices. It has rosettes of deep green leaves and tubular lavender, gold-flecked flowers in spring.

Hebe (Scrophulariaceae) (veronica) This is the correct name for most of the evergreen shrubby plants often known as veronicas. It is a large genus and contains a number of valuable summer-flowering rock garden shrublets. They are easily grown in any good soil and sun, but some are slightly frost tender and should be placed in warm positions sheltered from early morning sun. Propagate by cuttings. H. ‘Carl Teschner’ is a 9-in, tall bush sheeted with purple-blue

flowers; H. macrantha, 18 in. tall is covered with very large pure white flowers. H. pinguifilia, 6 in., has grey leaves and myriads of small white flowers.

Heliantheminn (Cistaceae) (sun rose) For a summer-long display of brilliant flowers the sun roses are unequalled. They appreciate full sun and sharply drained soil and it is essential to trim them quite severely as soon as the flowers are finished. This not only keeps them in good and tidy health but usually provokes a second display of blossom in the late summer. Propagate by cuttings. There is a multitude of named varieties of H. nummularium: H. ‘Amy Baring’, 6 in. with orange-bronze flowers, is the dwarf of the race. Others range in height from 6 to 12 in.; H. ‘Ben Hope’, carmine flowers with an orange centre; H. ‘Broughty Beacon’, large flame-red flowers; H. `Croftianum’, silver foliage and apricot flowers; H. ‘Golden Queen’, rich yellow blossoms; H. `Henfield Brilliant’, glistening brick-red flowers, splendid new variety; H. ‘Jubilee’, double yellow flowers; H. ‘Mrs Earle’, double red flowers; H. ‘Red Orient’, glowing deep red flowers; H. ‘Snowball’, double .white flowers; H. Wisley Pink’, large soft clear pink flowers.

Helichrysum (Compositae)(everlasting, Immortelle) These are sun-loving plants, some shrubby, others compact tufts. They have attractive grey or silver foliage and showy flowers. Propagate by division, seeds or cuttings H. bellidioides forms grey mats of foliage and has white flowers in summer; H. frigidum has tiny silver tufts and daisy-shaped, golden-eyed white flowers in summer; H. milfordae has mats of glistening silver leaves and white, scarlet-backed flowers in spring and summer.

Hepatica (Ranunculaceae) These delightful early spring flowering plants do best in cool positions and light shade. They like soil rich in humus and can be increased by seeds or division of old plants, although old plants should only be lifted when really necessary as they resent disturbance. H. nobilis (triloba), 4 in., has dainty clear blue flowers; H. transsylvanica (angulosa) has larger leaves and larger flowers of equally vivid blue. Both are sometimes included in the genus Anemone. Hieracetun (Compositae) (hawkweed) This genus contains a few good rock garden plants. They are invasive and should be planted with this in mind. They do best in poor soil and full sun. Propagate by division or seeds. H. a urantiacum, 1 ft., has handsome heads of brilliant orange flowers in spring and summer; H. villosum, 1 ft., has lovely silver hairy leaves and yellow flowers from June to August.

Hippocrepis (Leguminosae) H. comosus ‘ER. Janes’ is a delightful creeping, sun-loving plant which covers its carpets of green leaves with countless lemon-yellow flowers in spring and early summer. Increase by division or cuttings. It flowers more freely in well-drained poor soil.

Houstonia (Rubiaceae) (bluetts) H. caerulea has myriads of small clear blue flowers on 3-in. stems in spring. It loves cool shade and moist soil and should be divided and replanted every two or three years.

Hutchinsia (Cruciferae) H. alpina is a pretty little plant for a position where it is shielded from full sun. Tufts of dark green leaves are enlivened by clouds of snow-white flowers on 3-in. stems in spring. Propagate by seeds.

Hypericum (Cuttiftrae) (St John’s Wort) These are semi-shrubby, summer-flowering, sun-loving plants. They flourish in any good well-drained soil. Their flowers provide brilliant colour and they are long-lived, especially if trimmed fairly severely after flowering. H. olympicum has brilliant golden flowers on 9-in. Bushes. There is a delightful form with lemon-yellow flowers; H. polyphyllum is a neat, 6-in, bush with bright green leaves covered beneath multitudes of rich yellow flowers; H. reptans is completely prostrate with trailing, leafy stems set with orange-yellow flowers; H. rhodopaeum, 9 in., has softly hairy grey-green leaves and soft yellow flowers.

Hypsela (Campanulaceae) H. longiflora is a prostrate plant, excellent for crannies between paving stones. It bears small lilac and white flowers in summer, likes a cool position and soil which does not parch. Increase by division.

Iberis (Cruciferae) (candytuft) These sun-loving, spring and summer flowering plants are easy to grow in any good soil. I. Gibraltarica has flat heads of white, lilac-tinted flowers on 9-in. stems; I. Jucunda, 6 in., bears large heads of white flowers turning to soft lilac as they age. It will flower until autumn – I. sempervirens ‘Snowflake’ is a spreading evergreen 9-in. Bushlet, smothered with snow-white flowers. It makes a magnificent display.

Iris (Iridaceae) There are various dwarf species and varieties which are invaluable rock garden plants for various positions. They are best increased by division after flowering. Unless otherwise stated all those described are sun lovers and do best in a lime-rich soil. I. Chamaeiris `Campbellii’ has large indigo-blue flowers on 4-in. stems in May-June; I. Innominata, 9 in. has stiff, narrow leaves in dense tufts and, in summer, flowers which may be golden, pencilled with chocolate, or a variety of pastel shades; I. pumila is grown in a variety of named forms, all usually less than 9 in. tall. The flower colour varies from white to all shades of blue and purple. It flowers in early summer; I. gracillipes likes shade and lime-free soil. It has dainty lilac and gold flowers on hi anching 6-in. stems; I. Cristata has lavender and gold flowers on 4-in. stems in late spring. It prefers a cool position.

Jasione (Campanulaceae) J. perennis is a pretty, blue-flowered plant but even better is Jjankae, which has large heads of clear blue flowers on 1-ft. Stems from mid to late summer. It is an easy plant for any soil or situation. Increase by seed or division of old plants.

Leontopodiurn (Compositae) L. alpinum 6-9 in., is the famous edelweiss. It will succeed in any good and well-drained soil and a sunny place. The tufts of narrow grey leaves are surmounted in summer by the characteristic heads of flowers which look as if they have been cut out of grey flannel. Propagation is by seeds.

Leucanthemurn (Composittie) L. osmarense, 9-12 in., is an alpine chrysanthemum of great merit. It requires a warm, sunny position in gritty but good soil, where it will make foaming masses of silver filigree foliage and carry innumerable large, white, golden-eyed daisy flowers throughout the summer. Increase by cuttings or seeds.

Lewisia (Portulacaceae) These are splendid spring and summer flowering rock garden plants. They prefer lime-free soil but will grow in alkaline soil if it is enriched with peat. They like sun and prefer to grow in crevices or on slopes rather than on the flat. Propagate by seeds and cuttings of side-rosettes. Keep plants dry after they finish flowering. They all have fleshy-leaved rosettes and when in flower vary from 9 to 15 in. in height. L. ‘Birch Hybrids’ range in colour from pink to deep salmon and crimson; in L. columblana `Rosea’ the wiry stems carry flights of red-purple flowers in abundance; L. ‘George Henley’ is a hybrid of great merit. It flowers from May until October with short, branching stems bedecked with brick-red blossoms; L. ‘Rose Splendour’ is another hybrid strain with very large flowers in which pale and deep pink predominate; L. tweedy,’ is perhaps the most splendid of the genus. It has lax rosettes of fleshy leaves and many large opalescent pink and salmon flowers carried singly on short stems.

Linnaea (Caprifoliaceae) L. borealis is the famous twin flower of the botanist (Carolus Linnaeus) whose name it commemorates. It is a woodland plant and creeps at sail level with wiry stems clad in tiny leathery leaves. The exquisite flowers, borne in spring, are clear pink bells carried two to each 1-in, high stem. It needs lime-free soil and shade or a north aspect. Increase by cuttings.

Linum (Linaceae) (flax) This genus contains dwarf shrubby plants and elegant perennials with tall stems and blue, yellow or white flowers. They all flower in summer and need sunny positions in good, perfectly drained soil. Propagate by cuttings or seeds. L. flavum is a stiff, 9-12 in. tall bush, with clouds of rich golden flowers; L. monogynum, 12-15 in., has large pure white flowers; L. narbonense bears huge funnel-shaped lovely flowers of gentian-blue on slender, arching 8-in. stems. L. salsaloides Nanum’ makes prostrate mats of tiny leaves on woody stems and large white flowers on very short stems.

Lithospermurn (Boraginaceae) The most widely grown and popular is L. diffusum and its forms. They are all lovers of hot, dry positions in full sun. They are propagated by cuttings. ‘Grace Ward’ has sprawling stems which carry myriads of vividly blue flowers throughout the summer. It makes a wide, semi-prostrate mat and must be given lime-free soil. With age the stems become bare, and then the plant should be liberally top-dressed with leafy soil.

Lotus (Leguminosae) L. corniculatus is our pretty native wildflower, lady-buckle-myshoe, which is too rampant a weed to be planted on the rock garden. The double form ‘Plena’, a desirable plant, makes a wide, flat mat, covered with golden flowers in the. Spring. It likes sun and sharp drainage and may be increased by cuttings.

Lychnis (Caryophyllaceae) (catchfly) Several species are excellent plants for the rock garden, easily grown in any good soil and sunny positions. Propagation is by division or seed. L. alpina is a tiny tuft of glossy leaves above which are carried, on 3-in. stems, clusters of small pink flowers early in the year. It is not long-lived and seeds should be sown every two or three years; L.flosjovis place. It makes 6-in, spiky bushes of sharp twigs and tiny grey leaves and carries many small pink flowers in summer. Propagate by seed or cuttings.

Maianthemuni (Lihaceae) M. bifolium is a shade-lover and grows best in lime-free soil. It is a pretty plant, 3-4 in. tall, a rare native, delightful in a cool corner of the rock garden. It creeps by underground stems and erupts into dense clusters of heart-shaped green leaves and fluffy heads of tiny white flowers in spring.

Margyricarpus (Rosaceae) M. setosus is a semi-prostrate shrub, 12-15 in. tall, its stems densely covered by small, pointed dark green leaves. The inconspicuous flowers are followed by myriads of round, translucent white berries. It grows in any good soil and sun, but should not have a parched position. Propagate by seeds or cuttings.

Mazus (Scrophulariaceae) These dwarf carpeting plants do best in cool rather than hot positions. They flower in mid to late summer and grow in ordinary garden soil. Propagate by division. M. pumilio makes green carpets studded with stemless blue and white flowers. It should be lifted, divided and replanted in fresh soil every so often; M. reptans has bronze-green leaves and flowers of mauve, white and gold. It is rampant and must be given room to spread.

Mimulus (Scrophulariaceae) (musk) These easily grown and showy plants like moist or cool position shaded from full sunlight. Several are invaluable for places by the sides of pools or streams. They flower in early summer and are increased by seeds, cuttings or division. Most are fairly short-lived and should be re-propagated every two or three years. M. burneth has red-brown, mottled flowers on 9-in. stems; cut down after flowering to produce a second blossoming the same year; in M. cupreus Whitecroft Scarlet’ the brilliant flowers are carried in abundance on 6-in. stems. Cut back after flowering; M. primuloides is a choice, tiny plant for a cool but not boggy position in the rock garden. It has gay yellow flowers on 2-in. stems. Divide and replant frequently; M. radicans likes a cool but not boggy position. It makes flat carpets of bronze leaves studded with stemless white and violet flowers all summer.

Minuartia (Caryophyllaceae) M. verna makes a delightfully neat little tuft of emerald green with gleaming white flowers on threadlike stems in spring.

Mentha (Labiatae) (mint) There are a few panion for Genttana verna, which dislikes mints which find a place among the alpines. Living in solitude. Grow it in full sun, in They flower in summer and are increased by gritty soil and propagate by seeds ,division or cutting. M. reguienii, the Corsican Nierembergia (Solanaceae) N. repens (makes a mere film of soft green which vularis) is entirely herbaceous and disappears spreads over the ground in moist or cool below ground in the winter. Its underground places and displays countless tiny, stemless creeping stems erupt in summer into bright lavender flowers. The whole plant is in- green leaves amidst which nestle large, white tensely peppermint-scented, stemless funnel-shaped flowers; it likes poor

Micromeria (Labiatae) All the plants in gritty soil and will flourish in a gravel path. His genus give forth a pungent but pleasant Propagate by division in spring.

Oenothera (Onagraceae) (evening primrose) M. coma likes a really hot, dry and sunny Several species are suitable for the rock has grey hairy leaves and large carmine-red flowers on 1-ft. Stems; They are all sun-lovers with no special soil preferences as long as it is well drained. They have a long flowering season from late spring onward and, although the flowers of many last for one day only, there is a constant succession to continue the display Propagate by seeds and cuttings. O. acaulis forms tufts of jagged-edged bright green leaves and has stemless clusters of white flowers which become pink as they age; A. fremontii, 9 in., has slender grey-green leaves and large bright yellow flowers; O. missouriensis, 9-12 in., a sprawling plant, provides an endless succession of enormous deep yellow flowers; O. pumila (perennis), makes small tufts of shining green leaves and bears neat, cup-shaped yellow flowers in profusion on 6-in, stems over a period of many weeks.

Omphalodes (Boraginaceae) These are very early flowering plants for light shade or a cool north aspect. They are not fussy about soil. Propagation is by division. O. cappadocica has fresh green leaves and showers of clear blue forget-me-not flowers on 9-in. stems in March-April; O. verna flowers earlier, is not quite so tall and the flowers are of a paler blue. There is a delightful white-flowered form.

Oxalis (Oxandaceae) Most of the species suitable for the rock garden are lovers of sun and warmth and good, well-drained soils. Propagation is by seeds or division. O. acetosella, the native wood sorrel, is one of the species which prefers a cool positron. The cultivated form aosea’ rambles about in light shade and woodland soil, producing many rich pink flowers on very short stems in spring and summer; O. adenophylla, 4 in., has deeply -cut silver leaves and countless funnel-shaped pink flowers in spring; O. enneaphylla produces grey leaves and large pink, Or sometimes white, cup-shaped flowers in spring. O. mops, 4 in., can be a weed, but it is a lovely one and should be spared a space where an invader is welcome. The

large beautiful rose-red flowers are produced abundantly in summer; O. lobata sends up, from tiny, hairy bulbs, in early spring, clusters of emerald-green leaves. These soon die down, to reappear in the autumn, accompanied by delicious golden flowers on 3-in. stems. It needs a warm corner and light soil; O. magellanica is a delightful plant for a cool position. Its minute dark green leaves make close mats and are studded with flat, pearl-white flowers in summer.

Papaver (Papaveraceae) (poppy) P. alpinum, the charming alpine poppy, is a short-lived plant but it perpetuates itself by means of self-sown seedlings in sunny places and light, gritty soil. The leaves appear in tiny tufts, surmounted throughout the summer by miniature poppy flowers which may be white, yellow, cream or shades of pink and red, on 4-in. stems.

Parochetus (Leguminosae) P. communisis a particularly lovely creeping plant which is hardy in a warm, moist position. The leaves are clover-like and the plant spreads by trailing stems and carries, during late summer and autumn, and often on into the winter, pea-shaped flowers of gentian-blue. Propagate by division or rooted runners.

Penstemon (Scrophulariaceae) These dwarf shrubs like warm positions and protection from east winds. A lime-free soil is preferable but not essential They flower from spring until mid-summer, Propagation is by cuttings of soft tips taken early in the year. P. davidsonn (rupicola), 4 in. has leathery grey-green leaves and ruby-red flowers; P. heterophyllus, 1-1 ½ ft., has spires of blue flowers; P. menziesii, 1 ft. has small, thick and fleshy, toothed leaves and violet-purple flowers; P. pinifolius 9-12 in., bears scarlet flowers in profusion; P. pukhellus is quite prostrate and bears blue flowers on 3-in. stems; P. roezhi; 9 in., makes a stiff bush covered with red flowers; P. ‘Weald Beacon’ is a lovely hybrid with glowing crimson flowers.

Phlox (Polemoniaceae) In this large genus there are many important rock garden plants. The species, selections and hybrids, loosely grouped as ‘cushion phloxes’ provide invaluable colour early in the year, are of neat habit, easily grown in any good, well-drained soil and benefit from being closely trimmed after they have flowered. Propagate by cuttings or division of old plants in spring or autumn. The most popular are the forms of P. subulata. All are sun-lovers and, although they will grow in light shade, they do not as a rule flower freely unless given full light. P. adsurgens is an exception in that it prefers a slightly shaded position. Its 3-4 in. mats are decorated by large, salmon-pink flowers – P. amoena has 6-in, stems which carry heads of purple flowers. There is a form with pretty, variegated foliage; P. divaricata is of rather loose, untidy habit but the large lilac flowers are carried in loose heads on 12-15-in. stems; the forms of P. douglasii are of close, cushion-forming habit and carry carpets of almost stemless flowers. Among the best are `Boothman’s Variety’, with clear mauve flowers, `Rosea’, rich pink, and ‘Snow Queen’, pure white; P. stoloniftra ‘Blue Ridge’, 12 in. is a lovely phlox with heads of clear blue flowers; P. subulata has several forms and it should be plentifully represented on every rock garden. They are also excellent plants for growing in walls, crazy paving, or for tumbling over a path-edge. They all make wide, low cushions covered with flowers: `Appleblossom’, soft pink; ‘Fairy’, small, neat flowers of lavender with deeper colour marking the base of the petals; ‘G. F. Wilson’, one of the oldest and still one of the best with mauve flowers; ‘Model’, rose-coloured flowers; ‘Pink Chintz’, clear soft pink blossoms; are excellent varieties. Phyteuma (Campanulaceae) Several species are worth growing in the rock garden in any good soil and an open position. Propagate by seeds. They flower in mid-summer. P. hemisphaericum has grassy leaves and heads of clear blue flowers on 6-in. stems; in P. nigrum the intense dark violet flowers are borne on 12-in. stems; P. scheuchzeri has rounded heads of deep purple-blue flowers on 12-in. stems.

Pimelia (Myrtaceae) P. coarctata is a completely prostrate woody shrub whose ground-hugging stems are clothed in tiny grey leaves. The plant is sheeted with small white flowers followed by translucent white berries. Propagate by cuttings or seeds. It needs very gritty soil and full sun.

Platycodon (Campanulaceae) (balloon bellflower) This handsome plant, valuable for mid-summer flowering, needs only full sun and any good soil. Propagate by seeds. P. grandiflorum `Mariesii’ is the most usually planted form. On 12-15-in. stems it carries huge, inflated buds which expand into rich-purple saucer-shaped flowers. The variety `Apoyana’, 6 in., is suitable for the small rock garden. There are also forms with white or soft pink flowers.

Polygala (Polygalaceae) (milkwort). P. calcarea loves chalky soil and sunny places. It has tiny tufts of slender stems and 3-in. Spikes of deep blue flowers in the spring; P. chamaebuxus likes a cool north aspect. It is a 6-in, evergreen shrub with clusters of cream and yellow tipped purple, fragrant flowers. Propagate by division in spring.

Polygonurn (Polygonaceae) (knotweed ) Two species at least are desirable: P. tenuicaule flowers in the very early spring, with short spikes of white flowers on 3-in. stems. Propagate by division; P. vaccinifelium is at its best from August until October. It forms dense mats of bronze-tinted green leaves on woody stems and has short spikes of heather-pink flowers. Propagate by cuttings.

Potentilla (Rosaceae) (cinquefoil) Some of these showy, easily grown sun-lovers should be on any well-planned rock garden. All flowers in spring and summer. Increase by seeds or division. P. alba is a sprawling plant, good for ground cover, with white flowers; P. aurea has sheets of golden flowers on prostrate mats of foliage. There is also a good form with double flowers; P. megalantha makes bold clumps of large, velvety leaves and huge golden flowers on 6-in. stems; P. nitida makes carpets of silvery foliage over which are set on very short stems pretty pink flowers. It needs very gritty soil; P. verna ‘Nana’, a prostrate plant continues to produce its golden flowers throughout the summer and well into the autumn.

Primula (Primulaceae) These are mostly spring and early summer flowering. Propagate by seeds or division. The latter operation yields the best results if carried out soon after flowering. Seeds should be sown soon after ripening. P. acaulis is the primrose, of which there are many double flowered and coloured forms, all good rock garden plants. They all like a cool position and deep, rich soil; P. auricula, 4 in., the alpine auricula, loves a sunny crevice from which to display its charming yellow, fragrant flowers; P. denticulata is a plant for a moist place. It has great heads of purple, crimson or white flowers on 1-ft stems; P. frondosa makes tufts of soft, meal-covered leaves and has rounded heads of pink flowers on 4-in. stems; P. minima, one of the smallest, has tufts of glossy leaves and large pink flowers on r-in. stems. It needs gritty soil; P. marginata, 6 in., is a fine crevice plant with white powdered leaves and heads of lavender flowers; P. rosea loves a really wet position such as a bog garden or by the edge of a stream. In early March it produces vivid carmine-red flowers on 6-9 in. stems.

Pulsatilla (Ranunculaceae) (pasque flower) The spring flowering P. vulgaris (syn. Anemone pulsatilla) loves full sun and chalky soil. There are many desirable forms, varying in colour from white through shades of purple to pink and deep red. The finely divided leaves make a handsome foil to the large flowers carried boldly on r-ft. Stems. Propagate by seed, sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer, in light soil in an unheated frame. Ramonda (Cesneriaceae) R. myconii demands a tight crevice between rocks with a cool, preferably north aspect. It has flat rosettes of leathery, wrinkled leaves and deep lavender, golden centred, flowers on 4-in. stems. Propagate by seeds or by very careful division.

Ranunculus (Ranunculaceae) (buttercup) Many species are valuable for the rock garden. They flower in spring and summer, thrive in sunny places and, in general are not at all fussy about the soil in which they grow as long as it is well drained. Propagate by seeds or division. P. amplexicaulis has large, flat-faced white flowers on 9-in. stems; R. ficaria, the lesser celandine is a pernicious weed but there are some good trustworthy cultivated forms, notably Aurantiacus’ which has coppery-orange flowers on 4-in. stems; R. gouanii has huge, saucer-shaped golden flowers on short stems; R. gramineus has narrow, grassy leaves and elegant, branching tz-in. stems carrying golden buttercups; R. montanus ‘Molten Gold’, a gem of a plant, very easily grown, makes low mounds of large golden flowers on very short stems, seldom more than 3-in. High.

Raoulia (Compositae) These are completely prostrate plants with minute leaves. They make good ground cover for tiny bulbs or for carpeting the soil beneath pygmy columnar conifers. Plant them in full sun. Increase by division. R. australis forms mats of intense silver leaves and has stemless golden flowers in the early summer; R. glabra makes green mats and has cream flower heads; R. lutescens is the tiniest of all, a mere film of grey-green which becomes golden with massed tiny flowers in early summer.

Salix (Salicaceae) (willow) Several delightful pygmy willows make entrancing little shrubs for the rock garden. They do not mind full sun, but like cool root conditions and will grow in light shade if necessary. They have fascinating gnarled woody stems and many of them bear pretty silver catkins in the spring. Propagate by cuttings. R. arbuscula a prostrate plant, has tangled woody stems and dark green foliage. It will spread over a considerable area; S. reticulata, another prostrate species, has lovely rounded leaves netted with conspicuous veins, and silver-grey catkins.

Saponaria (Caryophyllaceae) (soapwort) S. ocymoides is a useful and decorative plant to trail down from a high ledge or crevice. The long leafy stems carry, in spring, sheets of bright pink flowers. It is easily grown in sun or light shade and any soil. Propagate by cuttings.

Saxifraga (Saxifragaceae) (saxifrage) This is one of the largest and most important genera of rock garden plants. The number of species, hybrids and forms is legion and there are kinds for many different soils and situations. They vary from 1 in. to 1 ft. or more in height. Unless otherwise stated they like open, sunny positions and sharply gritty soil. According to their kind they can be increased by seeds, division and cuttings; each will suggest by its habit and appearance the appropriate method. Most of them flower in spring and early summer. Space permits mention of only a representative few of each of the many groups. S. aizoon is a large complex of slightly varying plants; the two most desirable varieties are `Lutea’ with soft yellow flowers and `Rosea’, soft pink. Both are about 6 in. tall; S. apiculata makes flat green cushions and has yellow flowers on 6-in. stems. There is also a good white form; S. burseriana is a choice plant of which there are many varieties. One of the best is ‘Gloria’ which has red stems and large white flowers on 3-in. stems over spiny cushions of grey leaves; S. cochlearis makes hard, humped cushions of congested grey rosettes and 9-in. Pink stems carrying white flowers in summer; S. fortunei has large lobed leaves, red on the reverse, and 18-in. stems carrying flights of white flowers in autumn; S. granulata ‘Plena’ is the double meadow saxifrage. It dies down in winter but bears massed double white flowers in spring on 9-in. stems; S. irvingii makes hummocks of minute grey-green rosettes and stemless pink flowers in great profusion; S. longifolia forms magnificent rosettes of symmetrical grey leaves and very long spikes of innumerable white flowers; S. oppositifalia flowers in very early spring. It makes prostrate carpets of dark foliage and bears stemless red flowers; S. urbium (umbrosa), London pride, is an old garden plant, still a deservedly popular favourite. It also has some attractive miniature forms.

The so-called ‘mossy’ saxifrages are a separate group. They like a little shade or a cool aspect. They all make compact mats and vary in height when in flower from 3-6 in. Such kinds as `Sanguinea Superba’, deep red; ‘Peter Pan’, pink; ‘Pearly King’, cream-white; ‘Winston Churchill’, deep pink and ‘Four Winds’ rich red, are all excellent. Sedum (Crassulaceae) (stone crop) Many of these easy, sun-loving plants are extremely decorative plants for the rock garden. Some species, of which S. acre and S. album are examples, are handsome but so weedy that they should be excluded from all but the wildest places. The few named below may be regarded as a nucleus of the best kinds. Propagate by division or cuttings. All are spring and early summer flowering unless otherwise stated. S. album ‘Coral Carpet’ makes flat mats of fleshy coral-pink leaves and soft pink flowers; S. cauticolum produces large heads of crimson red flowers on 6-in, trailing stems in late summer. S. lydium has tufts of small fleshy leaves, red in summer, green in winter. It bears white flowers in profusion, on 3-in. stems; S. spathulifolium has several good varieties of which the most decorative is Turpureum’, with purple fleshy leaves and golden flowers on 3-in. stems. In `Cappa Blanca’ the leaves are densely covered with white ‘meal’.

Sempervivum (Crassulaceae) (houseleek) These sun-lovers are best grown in poor, gritty soil. Very decorative and trouble-free, they carry quite good flowers but are valued most highly for the rosettes of fleshy leaves, often brightly coloured. Propagation is by division; few of them breed true from seed. One hundred or more species, forms and hybrids are available. S. arachnoideum is the cobweb houseleek – the green and red rosettes are spangled with tangled white ‘spiders-webs’ of fine threads; S. ‘Commander Hay’ has large deep red-purple leaf rosettes; S. tectorum, the common houseleek, is often seen in great clumps on cottage roofs. It is very variable and various forms are available. The species has green, purple-tipped leaves. Silene (Caryophyllaceae) (catchfly) These are easy plants for sunny positions, variable in colour of flower and ranging from high alpine cushion plants to tall border plants. Propagate by seeds or division. They flower in spring and summer. S. acaulis makes hard humps of tightly packed tiny rosettes and stemless pink flowers. It needs very gritty soil; S. schafta produces sheets of pink flowers on 6-in. stems.

Sisyrinchium (Iridaceae) These sun loving, summer flowering, plants have tufts of narrow, grass-like leaves. They are increased by seeds or division. S. brachypus, 6 in. has bright yellow flowers; S. angustifolium bears bright blue flowers on 6-in. stems.

Soldanella (Primulaceae) These lovely, typical alpine plants like cool positions and gritty soil, rich in humus. They flower in earliest spring. Propagate by seeds or by very careful division. Guard from slugs. S. alpina has tiny rounded, leathery, dark green leaves and fringed lavender bells on 3-in. stems; S. montana has larger leaves and wider flowers of purple-blue, on 4-6-in. stems.

Thymus (Labiatae) (thyme) These summer-flowering aromatic plants present no cultural problems in sun and well-drained Nod. T. citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’, a variety of the lemon thyme, makes an upright, 6-in. Bush of green and silver leaves; T. herbabarona is prostrate, its leaves strongly scented of caraway. It has pink flowers. T. drucei (serpyllum) has many named forms, all invaluable carpeters. Flower colour varies from white to deep crimson.

Tiarella (Saxifragaceae) T. cordifolia is a dainty, shade-loving spring and early summer flowering plant. It has elegant soft green leaves in neat tufts and fluffy spikes of white flowers on 9-in. stems. Increase by division. Veronica (Scrophulariaceae) This is a large genus varying from dwarf kinds for the rock garden to tall plants best suited to flower borders. They all love full sun and grow well in any good garden soil. Propagate by seeds, division or cuttings. All flower in spring and early summer. V. cinerea, 1 ft., has grey leaves and long spikes of blue flowers; V. prostrata, a low-growing plant, has several named forms providing low mounds of white, pink or blue flowers according to kind; V. teucrium ‘Royal Blue’ has deep blue flowers on t-ft. Tall stems. Viola (Violaceae) V. cornuta, the horned violet, bears graceful long-spurred lavender-mauve flowers on 6-in. stems. Grow from cuttings or seed. It grows in any good soil and sunny place; V. cucullata, 4 in. loves shade and carries large white, lilac-veined ‘violet’ flowers in spring. Increase by division every two or three years.

Zauschneria (Onagraceae) (Californian fuchsia) Z. califirnica, 9-12 in., is a plant for the hottest, driest available position, where it produces a riot of intense scarlet flowers over grey leaves in late summer and autumn. Increase by cuttings of soft tips.

Setting Up A Rock Garden

Traditionally, a rock garden is a place in which to grow alpine plants. Way back in Victorian days and before, such a place was usually referred to as a ‘rockery’, a word which, in these more enlightened times is very much out of favour with devotees of alpine gardening, who even eschew the word ‘rock’ and more often than not describe it as an alpine garden.

Even the word ‘alpine’ is suspect in this context, since many of the plants most fitted to be grown on a rock garden are far from having alpine origins. One must, however, have a brief collective description for plants which serve a specific purpose and it is convenient, and sufficiently accurate, to refer to all plants which one would associate with rocks and stones in the open air, as alpines.

There are more amateur gardeners today than there have ever been and the general interest in gardening is very evidently increasing, but it is gardening on a different scale from that to which our fathers and grandfathers were accustomed. It is much more a ‘do-it-yourself’ affair and this is good as it encourages a closer and more personal interest in plants.

Gardens are small and labour either unobtainable or too expensive. On the other hand, alpine plants are yearly increasing in popularity. So many of them can be grown in a limited space, and they respond so eagerly to individual attention that they offer an ideal form of gardening to those who come to love their jewel-like beauty and wish to grow as many of them as possible in surroundings which are often very restricted indeed.Setting Up A Rock Garden

That alpines are temperamental and difficult plants, needing very special care and attention is a myth going back to the bad old days, when ‘rockeries’ were made of ugly piles of stone heaped in unsuitable places-under the drip of overhanging trees, or in shaded and draughty corners. These were death traps for most plants and it is small wonder that alpines died in them and created the illusion that they were difficult to grow.

A select minority of alpine plants, mostly the true ‘alpines’ which come from great elevations and dwell in the rarified air and austere conditions of high mountains, demand skilled and knowledgeable care. It is to the cultivation of these that the novice progresses in gradual stages.

Although it is tempting to the beginner to attempt such plants as the delicious and exciting domes of alpine androsaces, or to ‘have a go’ at the exasperating but supremely beautiful Eritrichium nanum, wisdom should prevail and these delights postponed until the necessary skill has been acquired after experience with the many easy and lovely plants which are available.

One of the reasons for the avoidance of alpine plants by a few gardeners may well be the result of starting at the wrong end and trying to grow the rare and difficult minority. Failure with these will lead to discouragement and a disinclination to take further steps along what can be one of the most delightful paths into specialized gardening.

Those who are new to alpine gardening should start by growing the easier plants; those which will provide colour and interest over as long a period as possible. Another criticism which has been aimed at rock gardens is that they are supremely beautiful and colourful in the spring and early summer, but deadly dull thereafter.

This is untrue; by choosing carefully from the immense variety of plants available a rock garden can be colourful from earliest spring until winter. There is, and always has been, a tendency to plant too many aubrietas, alyssums and arabis. These all blossom in the spring and are invaluable for providing masses of colour, but if they are too generously used, there are wide blank spaces for the rest of the year.

Any such vigorous and space devouring plants must be employed in moderation and ample space left for later flowering specimens. The beginner would do well to seek among such genera as Dianthus, Campanula, Phlox, Gentiana, Primula, Helianthemum, Achillea, Saxifraga, Geranium, Iris, Lewisia, Ranunculus, Polygonum, Sedum and Sempervivum in order to secure a succession of flowers throughout the summer and autumn.

A few really dwarf evergreen shrubs should also be grown. For this purpose none is better than the genuinely pygmy conifers. There is a trap here for the unwary however. Too often conifers are sold as dwarfs which will ultimately grow much too large for any rock garden.

It is fatally easy to be misled by the dainty and miniature appearance of such conifers as Chamaecyparis lamsontanafletchers when seen as young, immature plants and only guaranteed dwarfs should be planted. Ideal examples are the little Noah’s Ark juniper, juniperus communis `C…ompressa’, any of the several pygmy forms of Chamaecyparis obtusa, and some of the tight, cushion-forming varieties of Picea abies.

One of the functions of the tiny trees is to create a sense of scale and proportion in the miniature mountainscape. The shape of the trees should be borne in mind when they are placed. Those of upright, columnar habit, such as the little juniper quoted above, should never be planted on high points. Place them lower down, against a small ‘cliff’ and reserve the prostrate kinds for the heights.

Plants for Special Purposes

The Alpine House Yet another aspect of alpine gardening is the cultivation of plants in an alpine house. There is a general impression that only the rarest and most tricky plants may be grown in such a structure. It is true that skilled growers keep their choicest specimens in such a house, but there is no reason why an alpine house, or a cold greenhouse, should not form a valuable adjunct to the rock garden.

There are many weeks during the year when gardening out of doors is far from being a pleasurable occupation and a select collection of plants grown in an alpine house can provide pleasure and interest at a time when other gardening activities are impossible and plants can be admired and cared for in comparative comfort.

There are specially designed alpine houses which differ from conventional greenhouses in having a lower pitched roof, and more ventilators. This is the ideal but is not essential. An ordinary house can easily be adapted and the only major modification likely to be needed is the provision of extra ventilation. No artificial heating is necessary, or even desirable and this is an economy.

By growing a number of alpine plants in pots and pans a constant succession of interest can be obtained. When not in flower the containers can be stood out of doors, preferably plunged to the rims in ashes or sand. Very early flowering alpine bulbs make a splendid beginning to the year and for this one would choose from the tiny narcissi, crocuses, snowdrops, snowflakes, winter aconites (eranthis), fritillaries, erythroniums etc.

After these come the early flowering saxifragas, particularly such kinds as S. irvingii, S. kellereri, S. apiculata, S. `Cranbourne’ and S. burseriana. Then come all the spring-flowering alpines of dwarf, compact habit, with campanulas and dianthus to follow on and some of the choicer sedums and late-flowering gentians.

The staging on which the pots and pans stand is best made of a solid base, not spaced wooden slats. If a layer of sharp shingle or ashes is spread over the staging this will help to keep the soil in the containers moist and cool and avoid the constant drying out to which the plants object.

In the summer, with some pots and pans outside those in the house can be spaced more widely. In the winter the entire population can be brought inside and stood more closely together. Autumn potted bulbs can be stored on the floor beneath the staging until they begin to grow.

Pond and waterside plants

The addition of water, and especially moving water, to a rock garden has several advantages. Not only does it widen the variety of plants which can be grown, but it adds life to the scene. There are now available several inexpensive types of submersible pump which can be used to circulate water from a pond at the lowest level to another higher up, from which it can be made to flow in a small stream, or a succession of small pools, back to its origin.

Pools and streams can be constructed with modern fibre-glass materials and with plastic sheeting, or they can be made more conventionallv with concrete. Anyone with moderate abilities as a handyman can construct streams and pools without difficulty and at little expense.

By arranging for small overflows here and there moist areas can be contrived by the pool or streamside in which to accommodate some of the plants which relish having their roots in wet soil. Do not ever imagine that, without making deliberate moist areas, the plants which enjoy them can be made happy by merely planting them at the waterside. The very edge of a stream or pond creates the illusion of dampness but can be very dry.

Appropriate plants for such damp situations would be all kinds of mimulus, moisture-loving primulus, for example P. rosea, P. denticulata, P. frondosa and, of course, all the candelabra primulas such as P. japonica. The double kingcup, Caltha palustris ‘Plena’ hangs its golden flowers attractively over the water and such plants as tiarella, astilbe, Saxiliaga aizoides and the double ladies smock, Cardamine pratensis ‘Plena’ would help to create a pretty scene.

The Site

Whatever one does in a garden it is well to have an ideal at which to aim. It is not always possible to achieve perfection, but the very act of striving to attain it is rewarding and is certain to provide better results than aimless attempts.

The ideal site for a rock garden would be a gentle slope, on well-drained soil, falling to the south or west. Not many gardens will be able to provide such a perfect position, but there is no need to despair; many alternative situations will be quite satisfactory. Avoid if at all possible a due east aspect.

A sloping position is better than a flat one, but a rock garden built on the flat can be perfectly successful. The absolutely essential thing is good drainage. It is quite useless to construct a rock garden on soil which is likely to be flooded and waterlogged in the winter.

Alpine plants on the whole are extremely tolerant of widely varying conditions of soil, aspect and climate but they will not, under any circumstances, endure having their roots surrounded by sodden soil. Water they love, and need, and it does not matter how much there is, as long as it flows readily through and past their roots. The positions in which many of them grow naturally may appear to be dry, but water from melting snows flows constantly below the surface.

If the natural drainage is adequate little more preparation is necessary than deeply digging the area and removing all perennial weeds. It is a good idea to leave the area alone for a few weeks after it has been cleared and dug to allow weed seeds to germinate. These can then be destroyed by applying a post-emergence weedkiller. This will save a lot of later laborious weeding. Weedkillers which leave a residue in the soil and prohibit planting for some weeks or even months after application, should be avoided.

Site the rock garden right out in the open and never, if it can possibly be avoided beneath overhanging trees, or in narrow alleyways between adjacent buildings. The first will ensure a detested dripping of water from branches above and the latter will be draughty, and all plants hate draughts. Positions for plants which relish some shade can always be contrived in the construction of the rock garden. An outcrop of rocks running east and west will provide a warm south face and a cool north aspect on the other side.


A detailed, stone-by-stone description of the making of a rock garden is almost impossible to write and quite impossible to follow in practice. So much depends upon each individual rock, the site, and what sort of scene it is desirable to create. One can really only set down some basic rules, which amount to a series of `do’s’ and ‘clones’.

Do not set the stones in isolation over a mound of soil, This only creates a Victorian ‘rockery’ and there will be constant erosion of soil from higher to lower levels. Do not set stones up on edge so that they erupt from the soil like fangs. Instead lay them on their longest edge and make sure that they join in pleasant complexes or outcrops much as they would in nature on a hillside.

The sort of compost to use is described below in the section devoted to cultivation, but make sure before you begin to build that you have available enough mixed soil. It always takes more than you expect and nothing is more annoying than to run out of compost halfway through the construction. Very roughly, you may estimate that, on a flat site, one cubic yard of soil will be needed for every ton of stone. A sloping site may need rather less as you can cut into the hillside to help fill the pockets.

If, after reading the above you feel that there is no possible position for a rock garden on your property, and if you still wish to grow rock plants, do not throw up your hands in despair and abandon the project. It may be a heretical statement, but it must be said that the great majority of rock plants can be grown very successfully without the aid of a rock garden; a rock garden is the ideal setting for them, but it is not essential.

Possible situations for alpine plants are between the cracks of paving stones. In fact, such a position provides everything that they like, such as a cool root ‘run which does not dry out, their heads in the light and their collars protected from too much wet by the closely adjacent paving stones.

Retaining or free-standing walls provide excellent homes for alpines. Here too, they find perfect conditions. If all else fails, you have only to dig out a depth of soil in an open, sunny position, ensure good drainage and fill in with suitable compost and you have a bed which will grow a wide variety of them to perfection.

Many of the smaller plants will do well in old stone troughs and sinks. These little gardens are invaluable where space is really limited and it is astonishing how many different plants can be gathered into a small sink.

Finally, some people resort to a specially constructed raised bed. The sides can be built up in brick, stone or even planks or old railway sleepers, to a convenient height. Many who find the ground getting a long way away as the years advance discover in such raised beds a delightfully easy form of gardening. A good height to aim at is from 2z ft. Fill the bottom half with good roughage for drainage and top up with compost and a perfect home is provided for alpine plants. Cultivation There are two main divisions in the requirements of alpine plants. There are those which either like or will tolerate a soil containing chalk or lime and there is another, smaller but quite intolerant section, which cannot abide lime in any form.

The lime lovers will grow in limefree soil, but the lime-haters will not put up with alkaline soil. If, therefore, the natural soil is chalky, you must either refrain from growing the lime-haters, or make special provision for them. Unless you particularly desire to grow the lime-haters, many of which are very lovely plants, you need not be too sorrowful, for most alpines are tolerant. It is only the minority whose idiosyncrasies must be pandered to.

If you insist upon growing the lime-haters in spite of the lime in your soil, then you must make a special part of the rock garden for them. This should be on one of the higher places, so that lime-impregnated water does not soak into the soil from above. Many of the lime-haters are also plants which appreciate some shade so try to organize their special situation so that it is protected from full sun.

Dig out the natural soil to a depth of at least 1 ft. and fill in with prepared lime-free soil. This can be a mixture of lime-free loam, leaf-mould or peat, and sharp sand in the proportions, by bulk, of 3-2-1. Make sure if leaf- mould is used that it is really lime-free. If made from the leaves of trees which have been growing on chalk it is likely to have a lime-content. Peat is safer, and it should be fine grade moss peat. If there is any doubt about the lime-content of any ingredient test it with one of the inexpensive soil-testing outfits which are available.

Plants likely to demand this treatment are most heathers (except the lime-loving, winter-flowering forms of Erica carnea), cassiopes, andromedas, pultherias, pernettyas, autumn-flowering gentians such as G. sinoornata and its allies, and most members of the family Ericaceae (which includes all rhododendrons). Most good catalogues quote the family to which plants belong and this can be a guide to their needs.


The first and most important basic need of alpine plants is perfect drainage and no time or trouble expended,in ensuring this is wasted. Once you are certain that water will pass rapidly through the soil and will not linger around the plant roots you are more than halfway to success. On a naturally gravelly or sharply draining soil, little preparation will be necessary, but if you have to contend with a heavy, sticky clay, then some preliminary work is essential to provide the necessary drainage.

If the site on which the rock garden is to stand, or indeed, any position where alpines are to be grown, is flat, and if the soil is clay, or has a hard pan beneath, causing water to stand in puddles instead of draining away, then a deep sump must be excavated in the centre of the site and filled with old clinker, rough stones, ashes, gravel, or any good draining material. The sump cannot be too deep and a minimum depth of 5 or 6 ft. should be the objective. Its width will depend to some extent upon the area of the site. A large area may demand two or even three sumps, but a small space, say 200 squire feet, would be sufficiently served by one such excavation approximately 2 ft. in width. If it is decided to manage with only one sump on a larger site, it should be twice that width.

On a sloping site drainage is more simply provided. If necessary surplus water can be led away down the slope by a series of narrow trenches, in which land-drains can be laid, or the trenches filled with clinker or other rough material.

Soil mixtures

Simplicity should be the aim of the beginner. Experts who delight in accepting the challenge offered by really rare and difficult plants will have ‘cookery-books’ of complicated soil recipes with which to pander to the tastes of individual plants, but yo per cent of alpine plants (excluding the line-haters) can be successfully grown in one basic soil mixture.

The three main ingredients of a desirable compost are loam, a good organic material and sharp sand or grit. Loam is either rotted turves or good top-spit soil containing an appreciable amount of fibre. Good, friable, well-nourished garden soil will serve very well.

The organic material will consist of either moss peat, leafsoil or well-decayed compost: peat should be of the finer grade, and sedge peat should be avoided; leafsoil should be nicely rotted and broken down into a dark, friable material.

Sand is an important ingredient; its primary purpose is to ensure an open, freely draining compost. The soft yellow sand used for mixing mortar or cement is quite useless for alpines’. The sand must be sharp in texture. If such sand is not available locally it should be replaced with any form of fine but sharp grit.

Measuring by bulk, the proportions of the three ingredients should be 3 parts of loam, 2 parts of organic material and 1 parts of sand or grit. These must all be thoroughly mixed together, adding at the same time bonemeal in the proportion of 5 lb. to each cubic yard of compost.

Such a compost is ideal for the great majority of plants and no form of artificial fertilizer will be needed for at least the first two years. After that, a spring topdressing with similar compost is desirable and an additional light dressing of bonemeal in autumn and spring, scattered on the soil and gently forked into the top inch or so.

When filling the pockets and joints between the stones of the rock garden during its construction press the soil down firmly, using a blunt-ended wooden rammer to pack it well under and around the rocks. When building is completed leave the whole area unplanted for a week or two, to allow the soil to settle, which it will do after rain, or a thorough soaking. Some compost should be kept in reserve to top-up where necessary. It is better to do this first rather than have settlement after planting has been done.

Great care should be taken to ensure that all spaces and crevices between the rocks are well filled with soil. These are the crannies into which alpines delight in delving with their roots in search of the cool, moist conditions they need. Should they emerge into a soilless vacuum they may perish.

Feeding Roses

Roses need to be kept regularly fed, but like human beings and animals they do not want to be overfed, and certainly not with the wrong foods. What they like most of all is a well-planned diet given to them at the appropriate times of the season.

In addition roses are thirsty plants and need copious quantities of water. It is important to water whenever there is a dry spell, no matter how early in the season it might be, and not just during a heat wave, when their leaves are drooping, because by then it might be too late. Without a good supply of water roses are unable to manufacture their food, absorb the raw materials for this process from the soil and maintain the level of sap so that it can transport them to the places in the tissues, where they are converted.

Some gardeners think that organic or natural fertilizers are more beneficial to plants than inorganic or chemical ones. This is not completely true, because unlike animals, plants can only absorb plant food as simple chemical compounds. These are provided immediately by inorganic fertilizers, whereas the beneficial elements in organic fertilizers, which are complex substances cannot be taken up by the roots until they have been broken down into simple chemicals by the action of soil bacteria, which might take some weeks. Both types have their place in plant nutrition, because the organic fertilizers supply vital foods regularly over a long period and help to ensure their continuous presence in the soil, whereas the chemical fertilizers make supplies available to meet emergencies and special seasonal needs. Any nutritional advantages of organic fertilizers lie firstly in their soil-conditioning qualities as humus makers and the fact that they are sources of unspecified quantities of trace elements, required by plants in minute quantities. If inorganic fertilizers are used alone these have to be added.

Roses, like other plants, manufacture their own supplies of starches and sugar from carbon dioxide from the air and water from the earth through the agencies of the green colouring matter in the plants (chlorophyll) and sunlight. This is carried out in the vast majority of plants in the leaves. A good supply of moisture is necessary for this operation to be successful.

Apart from starch, however, roses need other vital substances if they are to flourish. Among these are proteins, chlorophyll, enzymes, nucleic acids and all sorts of other complicated compounds. These are all built up in the tissues from various elements that are obtained from the soil. This means that for good health, these must be continuously available in the earth. To be sure of this, it is necessary to feed.

Plant Foods

These are divided into two groups, the major nutrient elements, and the minor nutrient elements or trace elements:

  • Nitrogen is a constituent of many of the most vital substances used by a rose. It is, therefore, essential for the maintenance of good health, but too much is bad, because nitrogen encourages leaf-growth and if given lavishly, produces lush growth, which is often weak and falls an easy prey to disease and frost. Nitrogen compounds should not, therefore, be put down late in the season. In addition, excess nitrogen encourages roses to grow abundant foliage at the expense of flowers. Plants deficient in nitrogen usually look feeble and have yellowish leaves.
  • Phosphorus (Phosphate) is also a vital constituent of rose foods. It is beneficial by encouraging earlier growth, the ripening of the wood, hardening plants to resist winter conditions and improving the root systems. Its shortage is manifested by stunted growth and leaves that are tinged red.
  • Potassium (Potash) plays a leading part in plant growth. Without it, stems are brittle and roses are very vulnerable to disease and frost. Also parts of the plant, where winter food supplies are stored, such as roots and seeds, are poorly developed. Roses deficient in this element usually have leaves that are yellow at their tips and round their edges.
  • Calcium not only helps to condition soil and keep it from becoming excessively acid, but is also important to roses because it is essential to the efficient working of the tissue cells. It is not very frequently deficient, but when it is, it is signified by malformation of the young leaves as they appear.
  • Magnesium is an important component of chlorophyll, which is essential to the food manufacturing process of roses. A severe shortage can be noted by the yellowing of first the older leaves and then the young ones.

Plant Foods

Minor Nutrient or Trace Elements. Iron and Manganese are two of the most important trace elements because they are closely associated with the production of chlorophyll. Where they are deficient the younger leaves yellow, still leaving their veins green. (See Chlorosis.)

Other trace elements are copper, boron, molybdenum, and zinc.

A Feeding Programme

A programme for feeding roses begins late in the winter after supplies of nutriments have become diminished. The first thing to do, preferably in February, provided the snows have gone, is to lay down a foundation for the future by distributing an organic fertilizer, which will break down over the ensuing months into simple chemical compounds and ensure that there is a basic supply that can be steadily absorbed by the plant. If it can be obtained, the substance to distribute is meat and bone-meal at the rate of two handfuls per square yard. Good substitutes are equivalent quantities of sterilized bonemeal, fish meal and John Innes Base Fertilizer.

Fertilizer is next applied in the spring, not earlier than April. This time it is a chemical fertilizer, which supplements the elements provided by the organic fertilizer, particularly when heavy rain has washed abnormally large quantities of a particular element away, or rapid growth, due to favourable weather conditions, has suddenly increased demand and so on. Generally, it is more satisfactory to put down a proprietary, ready-mixed rose fertilizer, of which there are several on the market. It is important to use one that is blended for roses and not a general fertilizer intended for vegetables, because sometimes the latter contains muriate of potash which is deadly to roses. Such rose fertilizer is distributed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually these mixtures contain the trace elements that are needed by roses.

  • Although it is a lot more trouble, gardeners may mix their own fertilizer for roses. A recommended mixture is: Nitrate of potash 3 parts, Sulphate of ammonia II parts, Super-phosphate of lime 8 parts, Sulphate of potash 4 parts, Sulphate of magnesium I part, Sulphate of iron 4 part.
  • This is distributed at the rate of 2 oz. (about a handful) per sq. yd. Once in April and again in May. Twenty pounds of this mixture is sufficient for 200 roses during the season.
  • It is important that no chemical fertilizer is applied after the end of July, otherwise lush growth might be produced, which will not withstand the winter.

Foliar Feeding

This takes advantage of the fact that leaves absorb nutrients from liquids sprayed on them. It is not a substitute for the regular feeding programme, but something that can meet an emergency. There are several good foliar feeds on the market. They are best applied in the early morning or in the evening, but never in hot sun.

How To Plant Roses

Once roses are planted they are destined to give great pleasure for many years to come. It is well worthwhile, therefore, to take a lot of trouble at this stage to carry out this operation with care. Allow newly dug ground to settle for at least six weeks before planting.

Pre-planting Preparations

Usually when bare-root roses are delivered from a nursery they are ready to plant, but if they are not the following should be carried out:

(1) Cut away all damaged and broken roots and shorten unduly long ones.

(2) Remove all immature, dead and diseased shoots.

(3) Tear away at their point of origin any suckers.How To Plant Roses

(4) If the roses are dry, with shrivelling stems, they should be immersed in cold water for twenty-four hours, after which they will be plumped up.

(5) If the leaves are left on, remove them in order to minimize the loss of moisture while the roses are waiting to be planted.

(6) To reduce the risk of attack by fungus diseases all newly delivered roses should be dipped in a fungicide consisting of 8 oz. Of Bordeaux mixture mixed with 4 gals. Of water, before planting.

A planting mixture should be made, consisting of a large bucketful of moist peat, two handfuls of sterilized bonemeal and one of hoof and horn meal.

Roses must not be planted during a severe frost. They should be stored in a frost-proof place until it is warmer. If they are in a polythene bag, they will be all right for two to three weeks, but after this they should be unwrapped and kept covered with damp sacking to keep them moist. Roses packed in paper should be unwrapped immediately and treated similarly.

Roses should not be planted out in soggy ground. If it is very wet they should be placed in a trench in a sheltered spot, their roots well covered with soil and trodden in and allowed to remain there until it dries up.

Time of Planting

Bare-root roses can be planted at any time during the winter in open weather. Preferably it should be done, however, during October and November or from February onwards so as not to risk the possible deleterious effect of severe winter weather. Container and pre-packed roses can be planted at any time, but during a dry period, they should be copiously watered.

The distance apart roses are planted depends upon their vigour. Generally speaking, most bushes are satisfactory when placed 20 in. apart, but for more vigorous ones, including species and shrub roses, this distance might be safely increased to 30 in. upwards, according to their ultimate span.

Planting Procedure

Roses either have roots growing centrally distributed uniformly round the central stem, or growing to one side. The technique of planting differs in each case. For bush roses with centrally growing roots a hole is dug of such a diameter that it is possible to spread the roots out in all directions. Its depth should be an inch or so greater than the distance between the top of the union, i.e. the enlarged portion on the stem, where the scion has been budded to the rootstock and its crown, which is the point from which the roots radiate. Two good handfuls of the planting mixture are then mixed with the soil in the bottom of the hole and heaped into a hump in the centre of it.

The crown of the rose is positioned on this and the roots parted and spread out, being sure that none are crossing. They are then covered with more soil and planting mixture and the rose gently moved up and down to eliminate air pockets. The hole is then about one-third filled with soil. Next the tip of the rose is held between the finger and thumb to prevent the union being lowered and this soil is gently trodden in, starting at the circumference of the hole, working inwards. The balance of the soil is then added, left loose and levelled off. If the soil is heavy or is very wet, treading in should be done very lightly, although it is better to avoid planting under the latter conditions.

For bush roses with side-growing roots a wedge-shaped hole, which has about the same width as that for a rose with centrally growing roots, is dug. One side of it should have a slope of about the same angle as the roots are to the vertical stem. The planting mixture is mixed with the soil on this slope and the rose placed on it in such a position that the union is just about in the earth’s surface. The roots are then spread out without any of them crossing. A further quantity of planting mixture and soil is put on top of them. The hole is then about one-third filled with soil and trodden in. This time treading should begin above the tips of the roots and continue towards the stem. As before the top of the plant should be held to prevent it being lowered. The rest of the soil is then added, left loose and levelled.

Planting Climbing Roses

Climbing roses are planted in the manner described for bush roses. If the position is at the base of a wall, the soil is usually dry there. It is better, therefore, to plant about 15 in. from it and train the shoots back to it. In addition a better choice for this purpose is a climber with side-growing roots, because they can be placed so that their ends are some distance from the wall, where more water will be available.

Planting Standard Roses

The depth of planting a standard rose depends upon whether its root-stock is briar, which has large thorns, or R. rugosa, which is recognised by its many spines. If the root stock is briar, the depth is as for bush roses, but where it is rugosa, it must be quite shallow, i.e. about 3 or 4 in. down. Otherwise the procedure is exactly as for a bush rose.

As standards are liable to sway in the wind, they must be staked. A stake, which should be 1 ft. longer than the distance between the crown of the rose and the union, is driven in between the spread-out roots, when planting, so that they are not damaged by being cut through, to such a depth that its top is just below the union. The stem is tied to the stake, using a special rose tie or tarred string with sacking or other fabric wrapped round the bark to protect it, at points just below the union, just above the soil and midway between these two.

Siting and Preparing Rose Beds

Conditions that Roses Like

Fortunately roses are quite easy to accommodate. They have, however, several dislikes. These are poorly drained soil, deep shade, particularly when the roots of trees deprive them of nutriment, and very alkaline (chalky) soil.

Choosing a Site

The site should ideally be in an open position, sunny for most of the day, preferably with some shade during part of the time. There should be no overhanging trees, although smaller shrubs often give the correct amount of shade and help to keep their roots cool.

Preparing a rose bed

Good Drainage

The soil must be well drained, because, firstly, roses strongly object to having their roots continuously in water and, secondly, in well-drained soil, air is sucked through by the water and it aerates the soil in the vicinity of the roots and thus stimulates the activity of the beneficial soil bacteria.

The drainage can be tested by digging a hole, 1 ft. deep and 1 ft. in diameter, and filling it with water. If it does not empty away within a day, it is necessary to improve the drainage. This can often be done effectively by raising the bed with soil well above the level of the surrounding ground or by digging a 2 ½ ft. deep trench across the bed and filling it with stones up to 1 ft. from the top and then with top-soil.

Roots of Roses

Like other shrubs, the root system of a rose consists of two types of roots, viz., the tap-roots, which are long and strong so they penetrate well into the soil, giving good anchorage and a life line to more distant sources of water and nutriment, when they are needed; the surface roots, which emanate almost horizontally near the soil surface, collecting from the soil the rose’s main supplies of moisture and plant foods.

The Ideal Soil for Roses

Firstly, the topsoil must be friable so that the surface roots can pass freely through it, have a high fertilizer content, which is not easily washed away by rain and it must be able to retain adequate water to assist the absorption of the necessary plant foods. Secondly, there should be beneath it a porous sub-soil, which allows good drainage and which is sufficiently broken up to allow the tap-roots to penetrate without hindrance.

The above soil specification is that of a medium loam, but many gardeners have not got this and it becomes necessary for them to make whatever earth they have in their gardens as near to this as possible. Apart from chalky soil, which will be referred to later, they normally have either clay soil or various degrees of heaviness or sandy soil. The practical difference between these is that sandy soil is very porous and allows rain to flow through it very quickly and is consequently poor, because the plant nutrients are rapidly washed away. On the other hand, clay soil retains the moisture, and, in extreme cases, is likely to become water-logged, but it remains fertile because the plant foods are not flushed out quickly. Thus to bring sandy soil nearer to the ideal, it is necessary to help it to retain water better; and, ideally to make clay more porous and so improve its drainage. Both objects can be achieved by adding humus-making materials, such as garden compost, rotted farmyard manure, peat, etc., although the addition of carbonate of lime or gypsum to clay soil also helps. These materials also serve to improve the sub-soil.


It is by the process of digging that any soil can be conditioned. There are two main methods that are used in preparing rose beds – double digging and plain or simple digging. Which is employed depends upon the nature of the sub-soil If it is hard and compacted, it needs to be broken up and then double digging is carried out, but if it is stony or consists of gravel, it is readily penetrable and simple digging can be adopted.

The procedure to be followed for double digging is as under:

(1) Dig a trench about 18 in. wide and 1 ft. deep, across the width of the site. Transfer the excavated top-soil to the further end of the plot.

(2) Break up the exposed sub-soil with a fork to a depth of 10 in.

(3) Incorporate some humus-making materials in the upper layer of the sub-soil and place about 2 in. on its surface.

(4) Dig a second similar trench, adjacent to the first, using the excavated top-soil to fill the first.

(5) Break up the sub-soil and add humus-making materials as in (2) and (3).

(6) Proceed similarly with further trenches until the last is reached. This should be filled with the top-soil transferred from the first.

The procedure for plain or simple digging is as follows:

(1) Excavate a trench of similar dimensions as given above and transfer the soil to the further end of the site.

(2) Fill this trench with soil produced by digging an adjacent trench, incorporating humus-making material in it as the work proceeds. Leave the sub-soil untouched.

(3) Continue this procedure until the last trench is reached. Then fill this one with the soil removed from the first.

Where the soil is very chalky, incorporate copious quantities of humus-making material in the course of digging.

Renovating Old Rose Beds

Sometimes, when restoring an old, neglected garden, it is necessary to replace some very old, weakened or dead roses. The soil in which roses have grown for perhaps ten years or more, for some reason which is not clearly understood, will not sustain new roses, despite the fact that established ones continue to flourish in it. This soil condition is known as ‘rose sickness’. It is important, therefore, not to plant new roses in such beds, otherwise they will not thrive and after a year or so die.

There are two ways in which this situation can be dealt with. The soil in the old rose bed is removed to a depth of 18 in. and replaced by other soil in which roses have not been growing. The old excavated soil can be distributed anywhere in the garden provided it is not intended to grow roses in it, because other plants are unaffected.

If the bed can be set aside for up to two years, another method is to ‘green manure’ the soil by sowing a succession of crops of mustard. Each is trampled down on maturing, moistened, covered with sulphate of ammonia and dug in.

When making a new garden, it is a wise thing to anticipate this possibility, by cutting beds in the lawn in such a position that if, after some ten years or so, it is desired to change the roses, it is possible to cut new ones adjacent to the old and to turf the latter over.

Choosing and Buying Roses

The purpose for which roses are to be used is an important factor when making a choice. If possible, it is a good thing to make up one’s mind regarding the requirements early in the summer. This gives plenty of time to see what best suits the need.

It is better to avoid making a final choice from a rose grower’s catalogue, because, good though the illustrations often are, the colours are not always true; this also applies to roses exhibited at flower shows, such as Chelsea, which take place before the normal flowering season, because the roses are produced under glass. It should also be remembered that roses growing in a nurseryman’s fields are maidens and, therefore, do not always manifest their ultimate characteristics.

Buying Roses

Before making a decision, it is best to see roses growing under garden conditions in friends’ gardens, public parks, rose grower’s demonstration gardens or the display grounds of the Royal National Rose Society at St Albans. Always go to a reputable nurseryman, because he can be relied upon. Although bargains can sometimes be found, avoid cheap lines unless you are an expert. When buying you must see that the roses have several sturdy shoots emanating from at or near the union and at least three major roots and that they are free from pests, diseases and weeds. The British Standards Institution issue a specification (B.S. 3936 Nursery Stock: Part 2-Roses, obtainable from British Standards Institution, 2 Park Street, London, W.I.) which is an excellent guide. Even if it is not declared, reputable rose growers supply roses meeting this standard.

Container-grown and pre-packed roses can be bought. They are a little more expensive than bare root roses. Although the choice of varieties is rather restricted, they are valuable for out-of-season planting. Container-grown roses are particularly useful for replacing dead roses in an old rose-bed.

Types Of Roses

Ever since civilization began roses have given pleasure. They are referred to in Greek poetry and mythology, the Romans crowned their heroes with them and Shakespeare, Herrick, Keats and other poets sang their praises in their verses. However, roses as we know them now date from the end of the 18th century, when rosarians turned their hand to artificial hybridization. Since then the beautiful complex modern rose has been developed. Because of the many crossings and intercrossings of types and varieties, our roses have become so involved that leading rosarians have sought a new classification, not to suit the botanists, but the gardeners, based on their qualities, degrees of flowering and their present-day uses in modern gardens.

Changing living conditions that have made small gardens more popular have created a new approach to roses, which will be assisted by these new classifications. Repeat-flowering is becoming an important factor in selecting roses, because prolonged colour display is an essential in a restricted space. Whereas hitherto the choice has been largely confined to hybrid tea and floribunda roses, gardeners, particularly those with small gardens, should now look at the many other types that the vast rose family can offer and choose those that meet their needs. Gardeners should come to regard roses as flowering shrubs, which they are. Thus their use can be considered without inhibitions and their cultivation will be more easily appreciated.

Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses Floribunda Roses

These two types are the most commonly found in gardens. At one time, they were two very distinctly different sorts, with their own characteristics-the hybrid teas producing their flowers singly, or at most in threes, on each stem, and the floribundas, which were more usually single or semi-double, in clusters. However, rose breeders have, by crossing hybrid teas and floribundas, and further intercrossing, developed floribunda roses that have large clusters of perfectly formed hybrid tea-shaped flowers. These are classified as ‘Floribundas-hybrid tea type’. Also hybrid tea roses have been bred that produce their blooms in large clusters in much the same way as the floribundas. Excellent examples of these are ‘Pink Favourite’ and ‘Fragrant Cloud’.

These developments are of considerable value to modern gardeners who particularly wish to enjoy hybrid tea roses where their space is restricted. When gardens were larger, hybrid tea and, to some extent, floribunda roses were nearly always grown in formal beds, usually in part of the garden entirely devoted to them. It was an accepted rule that they could be grown only in formal surroundings, although floribundas were permitted to co-exist with other flowering shrubs and plants. Growing hybrid teas in formal beds is an excellent manner of displaying them if space allows. Nevertheless, there seems to be little justification for this restriction. In fact, if there is not sufficient space to do otherwise, and they are to be enjoyed, hybrid tea roses must be mixed with other plants in shrub borders, mixed beds and anywhere else where they can be fitted in. Moreover, if it is true that floribundas are suitable for informal positions, then our modern hybrid teas, with their similar clusters of blooms- ‘New Generation Roses’ as they have been styled-must be equally suitable.

There is another feature, particularly of present-day hybrid tea roses, which renders them less appropriate to formal bedding than those of former days. This is their great vigour, which most of them have inherited from that wonderful parent, ‘Peace’, that causes them to reach 44 ft. in height, making them too unwieldy for formal beds, though they can be satisfactorily inter-mixed with shrubs in small gardens. Some of the very tall ones, such as ‘Uncle Walter’, make excellent specimens in the lawn. Fortunately there are still some low-growing hybrid teas available for those who desire a formal rose garden.

Polyantha-Pompoms Polyantha-Pompoms

Where small areas are concerned, the almost forgotten, very hardy polyantha-pompoms, with their dainty clusters of colourful blooms, are valuable. They rarely grow more than 15 in. tall and can be usefully positioned in the foreground of mixed borders. Some varieties are subject to mildew, but ‘Eblouissant’, ‘Ellen Poulsen’, ‘Jean Mermoz’, and ‘The Fairy’ are far less susceptible.


Even more diminutive are the miniature roses, ranging in height from the deep crimson ‘Peon’ at 5 in. to the clear yellow ‘Bit o’ Sunshine’, which can reach 18 in. All have recurrent-flowering, minute blosoms, that are exact replicas of either hybrid tea or floribunda roses. They are excellent for forward positions in borders, edging, and planting in rock gardens and sink gardens. They are also available as standards and climbers.

Species and Shrub Roses

There are great opportunities for adorning modern gardens, with species and shrub roses. Many, such as Rosa moyesii, with its profusion of deep red blossoms, followed by large, bottle-shaped, red hips, and the R. spinosissima hybrid, ‘Fralingsgold’, which is smothered with yellow flowers in May, are too large for most gardens, but there are other more modest growers, that can be planted as specimens in the lawn or among shrubs, as can the very beautiful rugosa shrubs, clear rose-pink ‘Fraii Dagmar Hastrup’, deep crimson ‘Mrs Anthony Waterer’, and the velvety, dark crimson, almost black,gallica shrub, ‘Tuscany Superb’. There are also modern shrub roses that are repeat-flowering and not too large. These include the Kordes shrub roses, apricot-yellow ‘Grandmaster’, light crimson ‘Elmshorn’, and blood red ‘Kassel’, and the hybrid musk roses, ‘Cornelia’ and ‘Felicia’. More recently developed are 1 ne David Austin New English Roses’, which include among them the diminutive shrub type roses, crimson and purple ‘The Knight’ and warm pink ‘The Wife of Bath’, both under 2 ft. in height.

Rose Hedges

An excellent way of enjoying roses, particularly in a small garden, is to make a hedge of them. Suitable ones for this purpose are the white rugosa, ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ (about 4 ft.), the hybrid musk, Penelope’ (5 ft.), the floribunda – h.t. Type, pink-‘Queen Elizabeth’ (6-8 ft.) and the hybrid tea rose, ‘Peace’ (4 ft.).

Climbing Roses Climbing Roses

The old-fashioned ramblers, such as ‘Dorothy Perkins’ and ‘American Pillar’, were once much cherished, but, because they flower once only in the summer, admittedly with a glorious display, and are so vigorous that it is essential that they are pruned and tied in immediately after they have flowered, present-day gardeners have little time for them. Fortunately, since 1930, when the pale flesh-pink, once-flowering Dr W. van Fleet’, threw a sport, ‘New Dawn’, which was of the same colour, recurrent-flowering, but far less vigorous, there has been bred from it a range of modem climbing roses, which are very suitable for present-day conditions. In a small garden they can be most effectively used to clothe fences, walls, trellis, etc.

Among the roses that have stemmed from ‘New Dawn’ are ‘Bantry Bay’, ‘Parade’ and ‘Schoolgirl’. The German hybridist Wilhelm Kordes, has been responsible for raising another very attractive group of climbers, known as the Kordes climbers or pillar roses. They are all recurrent-flowering and modest growers. The best known are ‘Dortmund’, crimson with a white eye; crimson ‘Hamburger Phoenix’; pale yellow ‘Leverkusen’, and red Parkdirektor Riggers’. Other modern, charming climbing roses are vermilion ‘Dame du Feu’,•’Golden Showers’ and scarlet crimson ‘Soldier Boy’. All these are characterized by their modest vigour, variety of colour and repeat flowering and have among them every form of flower that is found in all other types of roses. Mainly because of their long period of flowering, they have largely usurped the climbing sports of the hybrid teas and floribundas.

There are various ways in which climbing roses can be used. One trained up a post can form a very attractive specimen or make a colourful high point in a border. They are invaluable for clothing fences and walls, hiding sheds and covering dead tree stumps. They can be trained over archways, pergolas and draped ropes. An excellent use in a small garden is to form a hedge, by making them cover a post and wire fence, which is most space-saving, and with it little nutriment is sapped away from the surrounding soil. Some climbers when left untied, will sprawl over the ground and can be pegged down to cover ugly objects, such as manhole covers and boles of dead trees. `Albertine’, `Excelsa’, ‘Max Graf’, and ‘Ritter von Barmstede’ are excellent for this purpose.

They can also be trained to clamber into trees, which brightens them up at a time when they might be rather drab after their spring flowering has finished. This is an effective way in which to have one of the more vigorous climbers in a small garden. The selection of such roses can be made from the following: For trees up to 18 ft. high: ‘Sander’s White Rambler’ and rosy-crimson `Excelsa’ ; trees up to 30 ft. high: creamy yellow, tinged salmon, Tykkefund’ and clear pink ‘Climbing Cecile Brunner’.

Standard Roses

These are usually hybrid tea or floribunda roses budded at the top of an upright stem about 4 ft. tall. Sometimes species or shrub roses are so treated, e.g. R. xanthina spontanea (Canary Bird). In addition, there are weeping standards, which are usually produced by budding ramblers, such as `Excelsa’. These are particularly beautiful if planted as specimens in lawns. Standard roses are useful for giving height to a formal garden, but perhaps their greatest value is for planting in restricted areas, such as paved court-yards, patios and the like, where they can not only give the pleasure of having roses, but also allow other lovely plants to thrive at their feet.

Growing Bulbs Outdoors

Although bulbs, corms and tubers carry their own food supply it is only good for one year at most and if you wish to have flowers year after year it is essential that they should be well fed. This is especially true of the highly-bred hyacinths, tulips and crocuses and some of the smaller irises. Always prepare the whole of the area to be planted in a bed, do not just dig out the holes, as these may act as drainage sumps in heavy ground, rotting the bulbs. Bonemeal and coarsely ground hoof and horn meal should be added to the soil, and also peat and sharp sand if the soil is very heavy. It is worth making up plenty of such a mixture for putting round the bulbs or corms wherever they are to go. When the ground has been prepared scatter the bulbs on the surface where they are to go and then dig out hole by hole with an ordinary trowel or a specially marked bulb trowel, planting and covering as you go. In this way you will not be digging where you have just planted. In formal planting mark out the distances along a trench. growing-bulbs-outdoors

If the bulbs are to go in turf this can be cut out with a special bulb planter after scattering the bulbs in drifts. If the bulbs are small and the turf close it is easier to lift the turf with a turfing iron or flat spade and place the little bulbs on the soil underneath, sprinkling the peat, sand and bonemeal mixture around them before replacing the turves carefully. Do not beat the turf down hard, but it can be watered to settle it.

Depth of planting Roughly speaking and if no special instructions are given the depth at which to plant a bulb is not more than twice its depth of soil above it and not less than its depth. Some bulbs make droppers (short stems) to take the new bulb to the optimum depth, others make contractile roots which pull the new bulb down. It may be possible to protect a half-hardy bulb outside from the effects of frost by planting it deeply, but some do not remain there but work their way to the surface.

Drawing Up A Garden Design Plan

Practical Considerations

At this stage it is as well to take a piece of tracing paper, place it over your survey and put down the basic facts about the way in which you use your garden in diagrammatic form. For instance there is an obvious desire line between the gate and the front door, back door, garage entrance. There is probably one sheltered place in which you like to sit in the sun (your designing can create any shade you may need). There may be other inescapable factors, such as the need to park a boat or caravan in a particular position, other desire lines from back door to back gate and so forth. Although some of these may be shifted slightly, you cannot ignore them and they will have an important bearing on the final solution. Obviously the garden should not only be attractive but convenient. Kitchen gardens are best near the kitchens they are to serve, so are clothes’ lines and small children’s play areas. Areas for entertaining and general outdoor living must have good access from the house and should preferably not be approached by steps which make the carrying of chairs, cushions and loaded trays a hazardous undertaking. The service yard not only needs good access to all parts of the garden (and remember if you have steps, that barrows and mowers will need an alternative ramped approach) but also easy access to the road so that peat, manure and other garden materials can be delivered without being carried through the rest of the garden. The tennis court must be on ‘a north/south axis to avoid problems from low lying evening sun, whereas the swimming pool needs to catch as much sun as possible but is better kept out of sight of the house because of its dreary aspect in the winter.

Garden Design Plan

Putting Thoughts on Paper

The practical needs and the site factors such as views, movement of sun and shadow etc., will form a framework almost as definite as the boundaries of the garden, and between these two sets of conditions you will have to prepare your design. Certain objects of fixed size, such as a tennis court, can be drawn to the same scale as the survey and cut out, so that they can be moved easily about the plan, but for the rest you must begin to sketch out your ideas on thin sheets of tracing paper stretched over the original survey. At this stage do not worry too much about keeping your lines precisely straight or every detail of the work neat; there is something inhibiting in working with exact precision when the most important thing is to get ideas to flow. Possibly you will already have a design in mind, and if this works out easily when put on paper all well and good. If it does not fit in properly, then do not try to force the issue. It is very easy to get obsessed with some particular idea and then make everything conform to it, but the result is seldom satisfactory and always looks forced and contrived (which indeed it is).

Do not be afraid of discarding partly finished sketches which do not seem to work, but do not throw them away altogether as some further development of your ideas may solve the problem which prevented one of them from satisfying you completely. If you are absolutely stuck it is better to leave the work altogether and return to it again. Sometimes it is even helpful to reverse all the decisions you have made—put the sitting area in the shade, the compost heap by the living room and so forth. Although naturally your finished plan will not really be like this, the total reversal of all preconceived ideas will often free your mind so that designing in exactly the opposite way to your first intentions can provide a key to some problem which will allow you to proceed as you wished.

All the time you are sketching things on paper, you must remember that the lines you are drawing represent real objects on the ground. It is important to visualize exactly how each element will look in that position. In your imagination you should be able to walk along the paths, mow the lawn, climb the steps, push a barrow round the corners and live at all times of day and all seasons of the year, in each projected design while you are drawing it.

If you can do this, you may well discover all kinds of faults and problems which are not immediately apparent. The path may not be wide enough to walk on with ease once the plants in the adjoining bed have grown to their full size, the curve of the lawn too tight for the turning circle of the mower, the corners too sharp for a fully loaded barrow, the steps steep and uncomfortable. This imaginative exercise is very important and can save making mistakes which would be difficult to remedy at a later stage.

Having satisfied yourself on paper that your scheme is a good one, you should draw it up neatly on tracing paper making sure that all the elements are exactly to scale, and that the shapes you are using are suitable for the materials you propose to use. For instance to design a 34 ft. wide path to be made with 2 ft. square slabs is obviously not practical. Any patterns you propose to make with different types of hard surface can also be worked out at this stage as can the positions of things such as water taps, outdoor electric points for use with lights or electrical equipment, heating systems for the greenhouse, the useful luxury of a telephone point in a summer house or changing pavilion far from the house, and similar items.

Never use your original plan out of doors. In most towns there is a drawing office, art shop or similar place where dyeline prints can be made quite cheaply from your tracing paper plan. In this way you can have several copies made as you are bound to want to write in notes, mark distances and so forth on one, use another on the job where it will get wet and muddy, and keep clean copies for reference.

Before starting work you should always work out your whole design on the ground using pegs or garden canes and balls of cheap string. The most thorough way of doing this is to draw a grid on the plan, mark out the same grid full size on the ground, and then measure each point where the lines of the design intersect those of the grid on plan and transfer those measurements to the grid on the ground. In fact, it is seldom necessary to do this, as a certain number of measurements from known points such as the corners of the house, and measured positions on the boundaries, will generally suffice. At this point your paper scheme may need a little adjustment. However pleasing shapes may appear on plan, when translated to the ground and seen in perspective they do not look the same. Curves particularly look more extreme and may well need easing out to achieve the shape you intend. A garden hose can be very useful in drawing curves on the ground as it is heavy and solid enough to push into shape and will give the effect of the line more easily than a string which needs to be held in place with pegs.

Once the shapes are clearly marked out, do not rush to turn them into reality. A garden is a long term investment which may even go on to give pleasure to your children and grandchildren. Leave the pegs and strings in place for a few days. Look at the layout from the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen as well as the living room. See how it strikes you as you arrive home at night and leave in the morning, what it looks like in sun and shadow, by day and night. A solution which perhaps looked clever and original when first drawn may seem more contrived than restful when you have seen it on the ground for a few days.

When construction is in progress, you can be thinking about the planting, deciding on the heights and general shapes needed for shrub masses, the exact position and outline needed for trees. Tall garden canes can be stuck in to represent tree trunks and looked at from every angle to ensure that when planting time comes no mistakes are made – nothing is more irritating to find, having dug a magnificent hole and put in a shrub or tree with infinite care, that it is not quite in the right place.

One should never think of the garden completely in isolation, because there is always an interaction to a greater or lesser extent between interior and exterior views. Some buildings-for instance ancient cottages with tiny crooked windows set comparatively high-exclude their gardens, creating a cosy, womb-like effect within their low-beamed rooms. But most other houses acknowledge their gardens to a greater or lesser extent and in the modern house with its wide windows, the garden becomes almost a part of the interior. When it comes to colour, texture and shape, therefore, every effort should be made to integrate the furnishing of the house and the planting of the garden to create a total picture.

Not only colour gives continuity, because different types of plant have very strong associations outside themselves. Laced pinks, auriculas, small moss roses, striped tulips and similar flowers with their air of Meissen bouquets belong to neat i8th century gardens with box edged beds and espalier fruit trees. Formal dark camellias, ferns, the roses ‘Madame Pierre Oger’ and ‘La Reine Victoria’, lilies-of-the-valley and certain other lilies are strongly Victorian in effect, while rhododendrons, hydrangeas, heavy headed paeonies and swags of rambler roses or climbing roses belong to different kinds of Edwardian gardens.

To sum up briefly then : decide exactly what kind of garden you need for your particular family and way of life, and consider how best this garden can be expressed in materials and shapes which will accord with your house and its surroundings. Make sure that everything down to the last plant and cushion has a definite part to play in the picture you are trying to create, and never think of any one element as an object in its own right. Remember the pleasure you can give to others who see your garden from the outside only, and do not be in too much of a hurry. Some of the things you build and plant will last a century or more.

Plants as Decoration

‘Isn’t it pretty, I simply must have one of those’ is a phrase which has rung the death knell of any number of gardens. Bought for some particular moment of flower or fruit, with no thought for the character or balance of the garden as a whole, any number of unrelated plants jostle in beds and borders, competing for our attention. The only effect they achieve is of discord and unease. If only those same people would first decide on a general theme, and then work within these limits, they could have satisfying, even spectacular results with no greater expenditure of time and effort.

Plant Form

colorful garden

Colour photography has a great deal to answer for, since it is quite easy to take a pretty picture if the colours are harmonious, without thinking about composition, whereas with black and white work form, texture, light and shade are all important. All plants, if well grown, have a distinct outline which can be reduced to abstract shapes so that you see them as pyramids or circles, verticals or horizontals, or some combination of these elements. Not only do they have form, they also have texture so that they can be seen as coarse or fine, light absorbent or light reflecting and so on. Before deciding on any individual plant it is much better to evolve a thoroughly satisfying planting scheme in purely abstract terms as an arrangement of sizes and shapes, forms and textures. Only when this composition is correct should you try to translate these elements into plants, but even then it is better to think of those plants as though they were black and white photographs, so that you can appreciate their formal structure, the shadow patterns which they cast, the way they hold their leaves or flowers, and whatever other qualities they may possess, without being confused by the separate problem of colour. And you must think of them at all times of year, the bare pattern of winter twigs as well as the heavy foliage of high summer, the hanging clusters of autumn fruit as well as the delicate wreaths of spring flowers, so that your picture is properly balanced. Once you have got this far you must choose from among plants of suitable shape and habit, those which will grow in your particular conditions.

The Fourth Dimension

In all garden work, time is a fourth dimension. No planting scheme is static and the effect next year, in five, ten, twenty-five, fifty years will all be different but must all be considered from the outset. Fortunately some plants mature quickly ; others are very slow to reach maturity. So unless your outlook is very short term -and even then we should not think only of ourselves, but of those who follow-the slow growing shrubs and trees must be put in first, spaced at the proper distances, while the large areas between will contain shrubs and plants of moderate growth. Between these can grow annuals, herbaceous plants, bulbs and shrubs such as brooms and tree lupins which mature quickly and are equally short lived. Before making a final choice, always try to see the plants you are proposing to use, growing in some park or garden at various seasons of the year. Some may have very off periods which may make them unsuitable for your purpose. Never choose a plant, however apparently attractive from the sole evidence of a cut spray exhibited at a flower show as this can be very deceptive.


The vexed question of colour, usually uppermost in people’s minds, has been left deliberately until the last. To begin with, it is as well to remember that green is also a colour, and that one could make very satisfying compositions in that colour alone. Then there is the difference between the transient colour of flowers and the longer lasting colour of foliage, especially where conifers and evergreens are concerned, as they provide some of the brightest and most permanent colour effects. Do not neglect, either, the colour of tree trunks and young shoots which can do so much to cheer the winter landscape.

The easiest way to handle colour, particularly in a small area, is to have a single theme and to stick to one colour at a time. For instance, a small garden, or part of a large one, planted in shades of yellow and gold only, in a general setting of grey foliage can be most exciting, and is comparatively simple to achieve. If this single colour device is found too constricting, then it is best to keep firmly to one range of colour. Flower and foliage colours are generally based on blue or yellow. In the blue range, beside blue and purple are all the purplish reds, crimsons, bluish pinks and whites which have no hint of yellow in them. In the yellow range are scarlet, orange, flame, yellow pinks such as salmon and apricot, creams and whites inclined to yellow. If you work within one range of colour, setting it against a background of complementary foliage colours, the end result will still be very harmonious. Of course people with an eye for colour can achieve exciting contrasts between the two ranges but unless you are in that class it is wiser to play safe. With care, you can have quite different colour effects at different times of year, provided that the background planting is suitably neutral.

The great thing to avoid is dotting little patches of unrelated colour about the place, each one taking away from the impact of its neighbours rather than building up into a total effect. Bedding plants or bulbs in boxes of mixed colours should never be used unless a particular patchwork effect is required against a very plain setting. A single variety or perhaps two or three shades of one colour are so much more useful. The colour of the atmosphere in this country is always blue, sometimes strongly so, and the blue quality of the light has an important influence on flower colour as it brings out and intensifies the colour of pale flowers giving them a life and character they could never have in a clearer less misty atmosphere. In the same way the blue light makes many of the bright colour contrasts which appear so stimulating in the strong yellow light of other parts of the world appear merely tawdry and vulgar. Bright colours should always be seen in sunlight, pale colours and white flowers gain added quality in the shade or against a shadowy background. If the garden is going to be used at night, the ability of some pale flowers to glow in the dark can be used to create a new pattern quite different to the familiar daytime scene.