The Mountains display opened in the Alpine House in early 2009. It distinguishes between horticultural alpines (small plants with particular cultivation requirements) and ‘true’ alpines, highly specialised plants that have evolved to survive life in the severe climates of high mountains. Looking utterly spectacular at the moment is the display of saxifrages from our National Collection of European Saxifraga - follow the link left for more.
The new layout allows easier access and movement for visitors whilst also providing a variety of growing niches for alpines in conditions that mimic those found in nature. Along the sides of the House run raised beds with a traditional sand plunge. This allows us to bring in seasonal interest plants, such as tulip species, fritillaries and saxifrages (three of our national collections), snowdrops, Narcissus, Crocus, Cyclamen and many more, when they are at their peak, ensuring that there is always something beautiful to discover.
Reclaimed Cambridge brick has been used for a central, lozenge-shaped bed to raise small plants closer to eye level. It is covered in mounds of tufa, a soft, porous, water-deposited rock easily penetrated by roots seeking anchorage and moisture.
In the southern part of the Mountains display, we have created a naturalistic limestone landscape. It has vertical and horizontal planting pockets, crevices and slopes. A solar panel powers a pump so that water seeps and trickles through the rocks (when the sun shines!). To approximate the growing conditions found on mountains as closely as we can, we have used a compost mix of sterilised loam, composted bark, grit, sand, a treated wood fibre, and extra minerals. There are two more structural elements: a fan to keep the air circulating, and shading to keep the house cool. We are grateful to the Alpine Garden Society for a recent grant to support extending the cedar shading.
The design provides a diversity of micro-climates with differing degrees of shelter and exposure into which we have grouped plantings to show the principal alpine forms - cushions, mats, tufts, bulbs, dwarf trees and shrubs.