Blue Scilla flowers

Container Gardening: Alpine Trough Gardens

Alpine trough gardens are a wonderful way to brighten up your patio, terrace, balcony, or deck, providing splashes of bright colors in pinks, purples, yellow, and white along with various shades of silvery and dark green foliage. Perhaps you've never tried trough gardening-a form of container gardening. If not, you're in for a treat.

History of Trough Gardens
Trough gardens planted with alpine flora (native to cool northern climates) were popular in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. The troughs they used for their alpine trough gardens were actually old stone watering troughs used by cattle and other livestock.

As farmers began to modernize, they got rid of these old stone troughs and replaced them with new ones. Gardening enthusiasts coveted them for their aesthetic and practical uses. However, these troughs were a finite resource and soon they became scarce created a need for a new material. Tufa, a natural limestone material was the natural substitute, but was difficult to obtain and expensive.

So, the search was on for another material. Thus, hypertufa was born. Hypertufa is made from peat moss, perlite, and cement and used to imitate old stone-perfect for gardeners who want an "antique" look for the planters they use in container gardening. See How to Make Faux Stone Garden Planters

Alpine Plants
Alpine gardens are designed with plants that mimic the alpine landscape. These miniature cultivars remain small and are slow growing--perfect for trough planters. Alpine plants do well in full sun to partial shade. Water your trough garden when the soil is dry but do not allow the soil to remain saturated.

The most important things to remember when planting an alpine trough garden is to plant in bunches of odd numbers (3 is a good number for a small trough planter). Another important consideration is to keep plants in proportion to the size of the container. In other words do not plant a "collection" of one of each plant species and don't use plants that are too big or will rapidly outgrow the planter.

Use a single plant for an accent. For example plant a single baby's breath behind a group of pink phlox mixed with pale blue miniature campanulas (bellflowers) and dwarf columbines in pale pink or pale yellow. In front of this plant a cluster of three to five primroses in shades of pink, purple or white (or a mix of colors) along with some tiny blue forget-me-nots. In the back corner perhaps plant a dwarf mountain laurel as a specimen plant with moss as a groundcover. And, don't forget to plant some spring bulbs such as scilla 'spring beauty' or snowdrops-perfect additions to your alpine trough garden!

Related Articles:
Ideas for Window Box Planters
Planting a Window Box

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