Let's face it, growing alpines is a bit daunting. These are plants that come from exotic locations, growing in extreme conditions, needing years of experience to get results, right? Well, no, not necessarily. Of course there are many hard-to-grow alpines, but many - maybe even most - are not. This page aims to give you the basic information you need to get started.
It's a work in progress - keep coming back to see what has been added.
Gavin Moore wrote this in 2014 to encourage members to start growing some easy plants and bulbs, with a view to exhibiting them at either of our shows. I went to Murphy and Woods (the garden centre mentioned) in September 2016 and most of the bulbs were available then too.
Two dozen plants suitable for showing in Section C
SectionC is the beginners section for showing plants in the annual AGS Show. George Sevastopulo put this together in 2013 to help those who would like to get into showing plants.
Starting With Bulbs
We often hear that people think showing alpines is a bit daunting. There is no logical reason for this. There is unlimited help and advice for new exhibitors, and the Show Day is one of the most enjoyable days of the gardening year. Part of the problem could be that getting a plant to show condition at the exact right time for the show can be tricky, especially if the plant is slow growing or shy to flower. Luckily, there is a simple way to get started: growing bulbs is the easiest way to get a plant to the show bench. Bulbs that you buy now are guaranteed to flower in the spring, and they couldn’t be simpler to grow, leaving the only difficulty being the timing.
All the garden centres now have their spring bulbs in stock and though many varieties are suitable for showing, many are not. So below is a list of suitable bulbs that I’ve seen available, however there are many more in other garden centres or online. If you are not sure if a bulb is suitable, just ask one of the many experienced exhibitors. Another good indicator is the height of the flower. Anything over 25cm is likely to be less suitable, but that’s just an indicator. Suitability is an important factor as if the judges deem the plant not to be suitable, it will be marked down as such.
Bringing bulbs to flowering in the spring couldn’t be simpler. Use a standard alpine compost mix of equal parts John Innes, grit and Perlite. Good drainage is essential. The bulbs need to be buried at a depth 2-3 times their height and can be grown reasonably densely in the pot. Top up the compost, and put on a good top dressing of grit that will be used on show day. Water the pot, put it outside, and ignore it completely until the spring when the leaves appear. At that stage, the only additional care needed is to protect the plant from wind or any weather that could physically damage it. That’s it. It’s so simple a 10-year-old could do it. To prove that statement, my 10-year-old daughter Alice is going to grow some bulbs this year, and hopefully will have them on a show bench in April.
- Fritillaria meleagris
- Fritillaria meleagris ‘Alba’
- Erythronium ‘Pagoda’
- Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’
- Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’
- Erythronium californicum ‘White Beauty’
- Narcissus jonquilla ‘Baby Moon’
- Narcissus tazetta canaliculatus
- Tulipa saxatilis
- Tulia clusiana
- Tulia clusiana chrysantha
- Tulipa tarda