A few hints on its construction--Aspect and soil--A list of
Alpines--Other suitable plants.
A well-constructed rockery filled with a good selection of Alpine plants
is a =never-failing delight= to anyone fond of a garden. Yet how rare a
it is! most of the erections one sees are mere apologies for the
real thing. The truth is not one gardener in a hundred knows how to make a
rockery, though he does not like to say so! =An artistic mind is needed=
to construct one that will be pleasing to the eye, besides a knowledge of
draining, water-supply, and so forth. An educated person is not actually
necessary, but one with common sense, who would not dream of making it
merely another back-ground for gorgeous bedding-plants which are all very
well in their right place, but absolutely =unsuited to a rockery=.
=As regards aspect=, one that is built on each side of a narrow path
running north and south, does very well, but as this may be impossible in
a small garden, =a corner rockery= built high in the form of a triangle
and facing south-east, can be made extremely pretty, as I know from
experience. Where the rockery is in the shade, no overhanging trees must
be near, if choice Alpines are expected to live there.
=The material= may be either slabs of grey stone as at Kew, or the more
easily obtained "clinkers." =Clinkers= are really bricks spoiled in the
baking, having all sorts of excrescences on them which unfit them for
ordinary building purposes; they should always be ordered from a strictly
local contractor, as carriage adds considerably to the cost.
=The soil= should be a mixture of peat, sand, and loam; no manure should
be incorporated, the ="pockets"= for special favourites and plants that
have individual wants can be filled in at the time of planting. =One
advantage= pertaining to a rockery is that many plants which quite refuse
to thrive in a border will grow and flourish there, and the attention they
need is less troublesome to give; in fact, it is =a delightful form of
gardening=, especially for a lady, as there is no fear of the feet getting
dirty or wet, and a trowel, not a spade, is the chief implement used. A
small piece of turf, just a few feet wide, at the bottom of the corner
style of rockery, is =a great set-off=, and a vast improvement on a gravel
=SUITABLE PLANTS FOR A ROCKERY.= The following are some of the best
flowers for a rockery. The aubrietias are very pretty little plants,
having creeping rosettes of greyish-green leaves, and a perfect sheet of
mauve or lilac bloom about April. The effect is greatly enhanced when
=planted so as to fall over a stone= or brick; indeed, it is for those
things which are so easily lost sight of in a border that a rockery comes
in; they can be closely inspected there without much stooping.
The arabis is a pretty plant, somewhat like the aubrietia in habit and
time of flowering; hence, where only a small selection can be made, it
might be left out, as it is =a trifle coarse=. Such a term could never be
applied to the androsaces, which may be numbered among =the= elite =of
rock plants=; they are evergreens, and do not exceed six inches in height;
they bear tiny but very bright flowers, varying from rose in some species
to lavender in others.
=APENNINE GEMS.= Some of the alpine anemones are lovely, notably A.
appennina, which has sky-blue flowers that open out flat on very short
stalks, surrounded by pale green denticulated foliage. A. blanda is much
the same, save that it flowers a month or so earlier; they are
spring-blooming plants, and like moisture and shade, and will not do at
all if subjected to much hot sun. These and many similar plants can often
be planted on a =rockery facing south-east= (which aspect suits so many
sun-loving plants), by arranging bricks, stones, or small shrubs, so as to
shelter them from its hottest rays. Aquilegias, mentioned in the list of
border plants, look quite as well on a rockery, if moisture can be given
them, as their flowers are so delicate, and the leaves so fragile and
prettily coloured, especially in the early spring. The blue and white A.
caerulea, from the Rocky Mountains, is =a gem=, and the scarlet kinds are
=For forming close green carpets=, arenaria balearica is most useful; it
creeps over rocks and stones, covering them completely with its moss-like
growth, and hiding any hard, unlovely surfaces. The campanula family is
=a host in itself=, many of the smaller varieties looking better on a
rockery than anywhere else. Some of these tiny bell-flowers have, however,
the very longest of names! C. portenschlagiana, for instance, is only
four inches high, and =a charming little plant= it is, and flowers for
months, beginning about July. The blossoms are purple-blue in colour, and
continue right into November, unless very hard frosts come to stop it. C.
cespetosa is another variety well suited to rock-work, as it is even
smaller than the last.
=The alpine wall-flower=, cheiranthus alpinus, is a very choice little
plant; it has creamy-yellow flowers, borne on stalks a few inches high,
and, though each individual plant is biennial, they seed so freely that
they are practically perennial. A light, dry soil and a sunny situation
suits them; they will even grow on old walls, and very picturesque they
look perched up on some mossy old ruin.
=An attractive rock plant=, though rarely seen, is chrysogonum
virginianum; its flowers are creamy-yellow, and grow in a very quaint
manner; this plant =blooms the whole season through=. Plants of this
character should be noted carefully, as they help to give a rockery =a
well-furnished appearance=, so that one always has something to show
For warm, dry, sunny nooks =rock-roses= are the very thing; where other
plants would be burnt up, the cistus flourishes, for it requires no
particular depth of soil. C. florentinus (white) and C. crispus (dark
crimson), are two of the best.
=One of the most exquisite and interesting rock-plants= I have ever seen
is clematis davidiana, a plant only introduced of recent years, but
noticeable wherever seen; it is not a climber, as its name might lead one
to suppose, for =it only grows two feet high=, and generally trails along
the ground; the flowers are curious in shape, and of a metallic blue-grey
colour; the foliage is very neat and pretty; it blooms about July, and
should be planted so that it can be examined closely.
=The fumitories= are elegant plants, and nearly always in flower; the
blossoms are small, yellow, sometimes white, and borne in profusion
amongst the finely-cut foliage, which, =the whole summer through=, is a
bright clear green. With one plant of corydalis lutea a stock can soon
be obtained, as this variety seeds freely. All the fumitories prefer a
light soil and a sunny position.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs greatly improve the appearance of the rockery in
late autumn and winter, especially when they add berries to their
attractions. The cotoneasters are evergreen, and when about a foot high
are very suitable for such a position. C. horizontalis and C.
micicrophylla bear scarlet berries, and are altogether very choice; they
must not be allowed to get too large, but taken up when little over a foot
high, and others substituted for them.
=Various bulbs=, which we generally plant in the border, find a prettier
background in the rockery; here each bulb is made the most of, and, where
very small, is seen to greater advantage; even if ever so insignificant,
it cannot get buried away under a spadeful of soil, nor get splashed with
mud. You must often have noticed how crocuses get blown over and spoilt by
the wind, but in a cosy nook of the rock-work, planted fairly close
together, and in a "pocket" surrounded by bricks, they find a happy home,
and can be inspected without any difficulty. Personally, I do not care for
=crocuses in a line=; one cannot see their pure transparency, and only get
an idea of a broad band of colour; close at hand, their dewy chalices,
exquisitely veined and streaked, seem far more beautiful, particularly
where the finer sorts are selected. =All crocuses do not flower in
spring=; some of the prettiest species bloom in autumn, though many
people, seeing them at that time, imagine they are colchicums; the
latter, though certainly very decorative when in flower, are followed by
such coarse leaves that the crocus is decidedly preferable.
The =hardy cyclamen= are very suitable for a rockery, as, being beauties
in miniature, they are apt to get lost in a mixed border. C.
neapolitanum has marbled foliage and pretty pink flowers, and C.
europeum (maroonish crimson) is also well worth growing; they must be
placed in a shady part, yet where the drainage is perfect; stagnant
moisture kills them.
The =hardy orchids= should be tried too, especially the cypripedium; it
is not generally known how handsome some of them are; they like shade and
moisture; indeed, through the summer the peat they are growing in should
be a regular swamp, or they will fail to produce fine flowers.
Another plant that likes peat is the little daphne eneorum. This is =an
evergreen=, and produces its pink fragrant flowers every spring; it will
not do in very smoky places, but, like the heath, must have a fairly pure
=The alpine pinks are treasures for the rockery=, and do well in town
gardens; they flower nearly all the summer, and are not particular as to
soil and position, though they prefer plenty of sun.
=The gentians= look very well on rockwork, but like a stronger soil than
most alpines, loam suiting them best. Water should be generously given
during spring and summer. G. acaulis is the best for amateurs.
The red shades found in the =geum tribe= are very uncommon, being neither
crimson, scarlet, nor orange, but a mixture of all three, with a dash of
brown thrown in. They =flower continuously=, and have dull green woolly
foliage, which sets the flowers off well. They need a light, well-drained
soil. Geum chilense, or coccineum plenum, is a good kind, and so is
G. miniatum; both are about two feet high, but require no staking
whatever. Of course, it will be understood that sticks, except of the
lightest kind, are =quite inadmissible= on a rockery.
=Helianthemums=, or =rock roses=, are charming little evergreen plants,
with wiry prostrate stems, and small flowers, which are freely produced
all the summer. They may be had in white, yellow, pink, scarlet, and
crimson, and either double or single; the variety named Mrs. C. W. Earle
is a very effective double scarlet, and quite a novelty.
=Iris reticulata= is =a very fascinating little bulbous plant=, well
adapted for a rockery; it blooms in the early spring, and very beautiful
the flowers are, being rich violet-purple, with gold blotches on each
petal; they are scented, too; when in blossom, the stems reach to about
nine inches in height.
One of the most lovely plants that can be imagined for a rockery is
=lithospermum prostratum=, and yet how rarely one sees it; the glossy
green leaves always look cheerful, and the flowers are exquisite, they
are a bright full blue, and each petal is slightly veined with red, it is
not difficult to grow, a dry, sunny position being all it requires; it is
of trailing habit and an ever-green. Everyone knows =the creeping jenny=,
but it is not to be despised for rock-work, especially for filling up odd
corners where other things will not thrive. It blooms best where there is
a certain amount of sun.
=St. Dabeoc's Heath= is a pretty little shrub, very neat and of good
habit; its flowers are the true pink, shading off to white, and of the
well-known heath shape. Somewhat slow-growing, it prefers peat.
=Plants that flower the whole season through= are most valuable on the
rockery. =OEnotheras= may be depended on to present a pleasing appearance
for several weeks, especially if all dead flowers are picked off. The
dwarf kinds are the most suitable, such as Oenothera marginata,
missouriensis, linearis, and taraxacifolia. The last-named, however,
is only a biennial, but has the advantage of =opening in the morning=,
while most of the evening primroses do not seem to think it worth while to
make themselves attractive till calling-hours.
=The most fairy-like little plant= for filling up narrow crevices in sunny
quarters is the dear old =wood-sorrel=. It has tiny leaves like a shamrock
in shape, but of a warm red-brown colour, and the sweetest little yellow
flowers imaginable; they are borne on very short stalks, and only come out
when the sunshine encourages them; the whole plant does not exceed three
inches in height; it spreads rapidly, seeds freely, and thrives best in a
very light soil; it will also do well on walls.
The =alpine poppies= are so delicate and graceful that they seem made for
the rockery. They only grow six inches high, and continue in flower at
least four months; they may be had in a great range of colours, and are
easily brought up from seed. Nice bushy plants can be had of these
poppies for about four shillings a dozen, and it is needless to say they
require plenty of sunshine. The word phlox conveys to many people the
idea of a tall autumn-flowering plant, with large umbels of flowers,
individually about the size of a shilling. But these are not the only
species; the alpine varieties are just as beautiful in a different way,
though some are not more than a few inches high, and each flower no bigger
than a ladies' glove-button. In spring and early summer they become
=perfect sheets of bloom=, so that the foliage is completely hidden; when
out of flower, they are soft green cushions of plants, and serve to cover
bare bricks well.
The =alpine potentillas= are pretty, and keep in flower for a long time.
P. nepalensis is a good one, but the merits of p. fruticosa are much
exaggerated, its dirty-looking yellow flowers are by no means
=No rockery is complete= without several specimens of the family of
saxifrages. One cannot do better than make a beginning with them, as
they are so fine in form and diverse in style. S. aizoon compactum is
one of the best rosette species, and S. hypnoides densa of the mossy
tribe; other kinds well worth growing are S. burseriana, which has
pretty white flowers on red hairy stems in early March; S. cunifolia,
with charming fresh pink blossoms, and of course S. umbrosa, the sweet
old-fashioned =London pride=. A dry sunny situation suits the saxifrages
The =House leeks= are somewhat similar in appearance, but like drier
situations than the last-named plants. The sempervivums delight to creep
along a piece of bare rock, and one marvels how they can derive enough
sustenance from the small amount of poor soil in which they are often seen
growing. The =cobweb species=, called arachnoideum, is most interesting,
and invariably admired by visitors; it has greyish-green rosettes, each
one of which is covered with a downy thread in the form of a spider's
web. A kind more often seen is sempervivum montanum, and certainly it is
a =very handsome species=, with curious flowers supported on firm
succulent red stems. It is to be seen in broad clumps at Kew, and very
well it looks.
There are no better carpetters than the =dwarf sedums=, or =stone crops=.
S. glaucum has blue-grey foliage, and spreads rapidly; S. lydium is
the variety most in use, and can be had very cheaply. The tall, old
variety, sedum spectabile, has been improved upon, and the novelty is
called S. s. rosea. Another novelty is shortia galacifolia; it is a
native of North America, and has white, bell-shaped flowers supported on
elegant, hairy stems, the leaves are heart shaped, and turn almost scarlet
in autumn; thus, the plant has =two seasons of beauty=, as it blooms in
the spring. A peaty soil, with a little sand added, suits it well, if the
drainage is good; and it likes a half-shady position.
=Plants that are sadly neglected= are the airy-fairy Sea-lavenders or
Statices, with their filmy heads like purple foam; S. gmelini and S.
limonium are two of the best. When cut, they last a long time, and are
very useful for giving a graceful appearance to =stiff bouquets=.
The dwarf thalictrums are =good rockery plants=; they are =grown for
their foliage=, which bears a striking resemblance to the maidenhair fern.
T. adiantifolium and T. minus are very pretty; their flower-heads
should always be cut off, so as to promote the production of their fine
fronds, which have the property of lasting well when cut.
The =aromatic scent of thyme= is very pleasant on a rockery; not only
should the silver and golden varieties be grown, but also those bright
kinds which give us sheets of purple, pink, and white blossom during
summer; to thrive they must be exposed to full sunshine, when =they will
attract innumerable bees=. The new kind, T. serpyllum roseus, is
splendid, the tiny flowers coming in such profusion as to completely hide
the foliage. All are low-growing, having the cushion habit of growth.
Veronicas are not often seen, yet they are exceedingly pretty, and
continuous bloomers. =Amateurs should not begin with the shrub tribe=, as
these are somewhat tender, but if V. incana, V. longifolia-subsessilis,
and V. prostrata are obtained, they will be sure to please. The first
and last are low-growing, but the other is two feet high, and has long
racenes like soft blue tassels, which hang down in the most charming way.
=A few words on some more bulbs= that look well on rockeries, besides the
crocus and dwarf iris before-mentioned, may not be amiss: the =winter
aconites= are most appropriate so placed, and show to greater advantage
than in the level border. Their golden flowers, each surrounded by a frill
of green, come forth as early as January, if the weather be propitious.
The chionodoxa, called also =glory of the snow=, is very fresh and
pretty, with its bright blue flowers having a conspicuous white eye. If
left undisturbed they will spread rapidly, and come up year after year
without any further trouble; they are =very cheap=, and will do in any
=Snowdrops= are charming on rock-work, and may be placed close to the
chionodoxa, as they bloom almost together.
The =grape-hyacinths= have very quaint little flowers of a bright
dark-blue colour, on stalks about five or six inches high; they flower for
some weeks, and must be massed together to get a good effect.
=The early-flowering scillas= resemble the chionodoxas, but last much
longer in bloom. They are very =easy to manage=, and rarely fail to make a
good show. S. siberica is the best-known variety, and can be obtained
=The miniature narcissus= is the sweetest thing imaginable; N. minus, is
only a few inches high, and when in the open border is apt to get
splashed, but amongst stones in a sheltered position on the rockery they
are charming. All these dwarf bulbs look so well in such positions,
because =their purity remains unsullied=.
Here I will leave the rockery, merely intimating that =early autumn is the
best time for planting=, and that if pains are taken to construct it
properly at first, a great amount of trouble will be saved in the end.
Most of these plants and bulbs may be had of Messrs. Barr & Sons, 12, King
Street, Covent Garden. Their daffodil nurseries at Long Ditton, near
Surbiton, Surrey, are famous all the world over, but they also go in a
great deal for hardy perennials and rock plants, of which they have a
splendid stock; their prices are very reasonable, too, when you take into
consideration that everything they send out is absolutely true to name.
Their interesting catalogues will be sent post free on application.
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