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Old 18.10.2011, 13:59
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Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Hi,

I have just moved to a lovely chalet with a large, steep and almost completely wild garden. I'm keen to tame by turning it into a nice alpine garden - but as I've never done any gardening before I'm not sure where to start.

Has anyone else faced a similar challenge or got any tips that might help me get started?

Cheers!
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:03
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

I was talking to a friend of mine who's a landscape gardener about this recently and she said it's tricky. Perhaps listen in to her show on WRS - Dig It! - or send her a mail. She's very open.
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:09
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Go and visit the Alpine botanical gardens at Rochers de Naye, Pont du Nant above Villars dur Ollon, and Champex above Orsières near Martigny for inspiration and talk to some of the staff.
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:23
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

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I have just moved to a lovely chalet with a large, steep and almost completely wild garden. I'm keen to tame by turning it into a nice alpine garden - but as I've never done any gardening before I'm not sure where to start.
Personally I like "wild" so I'd start by seeing what plants are already there, and just paring out unwanted plants/weeds. Then go for a walk around the area and see what's growing naturally in similar conditions and see if you can't acquire some of them. The variety of both floral and foliage plants is mind-blowing, so with just a little imagination it should be possible to create something for a good year-round display.

That way you'll end up with something that can display the best of what's normally found around you, and will end up needing much lower levels of maintenance.
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:27
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Totally agree- it is essential to wait at least one year to see what is there already rather than bulldozing the lot. There might be some treasures there already.
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:34
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

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Totally agree- it is essential to wait at least one year to see what is there already rather than bulldozing the lot. There might be some treasures there already.
It would be nice to think so, but the garden really is just overgrown grass. We've been here for three months and I've yet to see even a glimpse of colour. It was previously a holiday chalet so I don't think they put anything in that might need looking after. It has some interesting contours however, which made me think that an alpine style garden could be interesting. I'll check out the gardens suggested for some inspiration.
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Old 18.10.2011, 14:46
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Be prepared for 12mths of weeding, cutting back, defining borders and working bloody hard.

We had a fantastic garden of bind-weed and stinging nettles - and only now 15mths after we moved in can we say that the majority of plants are now where we want them - and not where they land and seed!
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Old 18.10.2011, 15:07
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

I faced a similar challenge albeit not on a harsh slope. I love alpine gardens and would highly recommend it. A few lessons I learnt (and am still learning) along the way.

I did use a landscape Gardner for clearing and the hard landscaping. Had Allot of weeds and to be honest despite the added expense went for a felt underlay which really does work and has ensured that almost no weeds have come back. I have also used wood chips in my back garden which has also worked very well for keeping weeds down, albeit I have learnt that not all plants like the bark chips so have had to replant some areas.

Don't rush into just putting any old stones down. Switzerland is full of grey granite which is fine :-) but again even if it does cost more try and get a mixture of stones also size of stone. I now always look out for interesting stones when out walking , river side walks are excellent for this, and continually add to the garden.

Add plants that will establish and a basic structure first then add other plants as the garden establishes itself and you in turn meditate what works well and gives you pleasure each time you look at it. It has taken a year for mine to establish. I have taken (legal) cuttings of true alpine flowers when out walking but they take time to establish so have a mixture of flowers.

I also added nice pieces of wood just to add interest.

I am no expert, have been gardening now for just over a year, have listened very carefully to my mum who is an avid gardener (never too old to listen to one's mum ;-). ). And get really joy watching it grow, making mistakes and changing as I get more confident..

My advice would be look at some other local gardens and ask the locals for a local Gardner,or if you do the work yourself I hope some of my experiences are of some use.

I hope it goes well and would be happy to swap gardening tips and mistakes! With anyone else out there :-)
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Old 18.10.2011, 15:11
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

I'm an enthusiastic gardener - albeit with far more enthusiasm than talent. But mistakes are an opportunity to try something new.

While mine is not an alpine garden per se, I have a 'alpine-ish' sloped area that after initial experimenting I've more or less left to naturalize, trying to keep it relatively care-free. Some of the plants that have proven successful over the years:

Following the advice of watching what naturally grows well in my area, I've fallen in love with perennial cranesbill. (Storchschnabel, true geranium - note that this is not the window-box flower commonly called geranium, which is actually Pelargonium.)

Cranesbill comes in a variety of colors, heights, leaf textures, and bloom times. Some of the varieties are quite prolific self-sowers (bordering on invasive, but when you are trying to work with a slope, this can be a good thing). My favorite varieties are mounding in habit, sending out runners - which makes it a natural for a sloping area. Makes for waves of color early-mid summer.

Best of all - slugs won't touch it.

Wild strawberries (Waldbeeren) are another favorite. These too are very prolific, setting out runners galore. The flower is small, white, a tad non-descript, but the folliage is lush. And the fruit heavenly. Wild strawberries are also great for rock gardens.

And in the spring: wild primula. These are much smaller blooms than the cultivated variety but to my mind much prettier. Such cheery flowers, popping up early in the spring.

I also make use of Habichtskraut, an pretty orange wildflower (weed, my neighbors tell me ) that pops up here and there. Self-sows readily - also slug-resistant.

I've thrown in a few small shrubs, creeping evergreens, and stones (found while digging up other things) for structure (and to keep the thundering herd from racing up and down too much), and put in a bit of vinca here and there. I found I needed some well-rooted groundcover to keep erosion down. (Again, the thundering herd...) I'm now having to re-think some of the shrubs, as they are getting a bit too big. Project for next year.

As I let everything naturalize I never know what will pop up where - but that's half the fun.

According to my mother, who truly is a master gardener, the key to a natural garden is to define your shape/structure - and within that structure, leave Mother Nature free to do what she does best.

Good luck!
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Old 18.10.2011, 15:17
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

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According to my mother, who truly is a master gardener, the key to a natural garden is to define your shape/structure - and within that structure, leave Mother Nature free to do what she does best.

Good luck!
Wild needs structure - something I have been struggling to communicate to my wife. We have finally got it nailed though. The rambling roses have a new, bigger arch to grow over - and the wall has wire on to encourage it to develop on that side. 2012 will see us attempt to re-train the pear tree.

And stuff we butchered has sprouted back - 0 some of it is VERY VERY hardy.

If you want to plant developed plants now is the time - some garden centres are selling off this years plants for bargain prices (we got a load of 1chf and 10chf each) - and it is now the right time to plant.
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Old 18.10.2011, 15:25
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

here is what my rock garden looks like after one full year, there is more colour than the photo shows, including a most wonderful rose called "Bloomingfield Abundance" which has now kept on blooming and still growing strong right into October.

Would love to see other pictures and tips on good plants.
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Old 18.10.2011, 15:42
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Made a mistake (I did say I made them!) the rose I would recommend is Bloomfield Abundance which is a David Austin rose, my father is my rose expert and it was on his instructions that I planted it, it has a lovely light wild structure and with frequent pruning of dead buds just keeps on giving.

Another little idea that worked really well was sinking some old buckets and pots into the earth within the stones. I then planted tulip bulbs and other annuals which of course do die back but add splashes of colour in spring and as they are in sunken buckets are protected from weeds too. When they die back I simply cover with small gravel stones so that there are no bare patches, and now simply have to wait for the flowers to come through in spring as I have forgotten where some are ( I know another lesson, take note of re I plant things next time)
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Old 18.10.2011, 16:20
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Thanks for all the tips, now I really can't wait to get started! I think I'll start with a small patch first and build from there once I've learned lots from all my mistakes
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Old 18.10.2011, 16:37
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

I just love mistakes - and am very tolerant of self seeded plants that many would call weeds. The self sown borage this year has added wonderful colour, and so have aqueligias. The deep deep almost black alpine aqualegia (columbine) which grows wild in the alps is great for a wildish bank.

Last edited by Odile; 18.10.2011 at 21:31.
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Old 18.10.2011, 18:31
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Quote:
I just love mistakes - and am very tolerant of self seeded plants that many would call weeds. The self sown borage this year has added wonderful colour, and so have aqueligias. The deed deed almost black alpine aqualegia (columbine) which grows wild in the alps is great for a wildish bank.
We have a 10m self seeded Ash, and a 10m high self seeded fir tree - and pretty much everything is self-seeded that we didn't plant!! I'll try and get some before and after photos up tonight.
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Old 18.10.2011, 21:06
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Ooh, yes please, pictures would be great!
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Old 18.10.2011, 21:09
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?



This is part of our Alpine garden in the month of May.
This took me about 5 years to get to get things growing to my vision.
The biggest problem is the height (we are at 900 mtr), the slope and the lack of water in the summer.
The type of soil is also a thing to think about.
We have some wild plants and others not so wild.
The tulips are there to give a little colour in the early spring (we have snow sometimes until mid April). The tulip bulbs I leave in the ground the whole year.
Lavender is a great plant to start with, but you must find the sort which passes to your garden (we have 6 different types).
Below is from June, with poppies in flower.
I am a great fan of large Poppies, the dark red ones I saw growing at 1600mtr in the Engadin. So I cut a flower of and took it home. After letting it dry for a few months, I was able to collect the seed.
These wild gardens are not easy to grow; you will always have plants which do not make it over the winter. But it is always a joy in the spring to see the ones which have survived the snow.
Salut Zämma

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Old 18.10.2011, 21:24
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Wow - that's stunning, Big Mara. Love the mix of colors and textures. Big (green) thumbs up!

Here in the Heart Of Darkness, I have the opposite problem - we have sooooooo much rain - my biggest challenge is drainage. Hence my love of slope gardening.



By the bye - Is that a pizza oven built into your wall? (I want, I want, I want...)
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Old 18.10.2011, 21:32
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Lovely Big Mara - would should meet up in the Spring for a plant exchange perhaps.
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Old 18.10.2011, 21:34
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Re: Anyone created an Alpine Garden from scratch?

Wow Zämma, that is really gorgeous! I think your hard work has really paid off.

Last edited by Melitta; 18.10.2011 at 21:34. Reason: spelling error
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