Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 22 Rock Gardening
In the dead, dull days of winter it’s time to take a look at house plants, and think about decoration in. Many plants, indoors and out, can be increased by , and now’s a good time to learn about that. Our ice plant, for the base of the flowering crab, dies back in winter, which is when the painted stones come into their own, bringing colour to the garden when otherwise there might be none. We also give you tips on a rockery that will look great.
Needs list: 3 aubretia plants.
Time budget: 3 hours in 2 weeks
Grey leaden skies and earth hard as iron typify February, but the warmth of the sun when it does come through hints at spring to come. With longer days to tempt one outside, a good time to make a start on the rockery, and to take a look at house plants and to learn to take cuttings.
Flower of the Fortnight
Bulbs in bowls always fascinate. You can have them in flower in bowls weeks before they’d be in flower in the garden.danfordiae, , , scillas can all be forced. Pot up the September/October in bulb fibre that is just damp – not wet.
In undrained bowls put some charcoal in the bottom. Put the bowl somewhere cool, damp and dark, cellar, crawl-space or outdoors under a pile of cinders in shade.
On 1 December move the bulbs into a little light and a slightly warmer place. Gradually increase light and warmth. Once leaves are up and green and the buds are showing, give full light and more warmth. Keep bulb fibre damp. After flowering, discard bulbs.
Rockery/: if the rocks you collect are heavy and cumbersome, sling them into position by using a pair of straps to suspend the rock from a pole. It takes two of you to move it. Allow the natural gravity of the rock to determine the way it lies. On the inner face of the rockery small stones can be used as wedges to give greater stability to wobbly rocks. The construction of a solid-looking rock face can be extended as the supply of materials and time allows. Completed face can be planted up.
Try to imitate a natural rock outcrop: A heap of rocks chucked on a pile of earth does not make a rockery/rock garden. Mix coarse grit with a soil-based growing mix for your rock plants to ensure perfect. Cover the surface of the rockery with coarse grit: looks good, forms a natural to keep weeds down and keep the growing mix moist while the heads of the plants are in sun, which is what most rock plants like. Time now to start looking out for honesty seedlings. Don’t transplant these until the spring.
Project work: easy house plants; cuttings
If you’re going to grow house plants start with some easy ones. Tradescantia and zebrina are similar; both have a loose, trailing way of growing; the latter can be distinguished by its glistening leaves. The spider plant looks rather like grass, broad green and white variegated leaves, growing in a tuft. Sends up long wands, tiny white flowers on the ends which droop and sprout new plants. Layer plantlets into fresh pots, hold firm with a hairpin.
Learn about cuttings. Many, like ivies, busy Lizzies, fuchsias will root easily in water or soilless seed mix with extra sand; take 6 in. cuttings from tips of branches in high summer. Dip cut end in hormone rooting powder: tap off surplus: plant. Keep moist. Make yourself a bottle garden – the ideal way to grow plants indoors: put ½ in. charcoal over bottom, 1 in. coarse grit, 2 in. soilless growing mix. Landscape with rocks. Plant ferns, tradescantias, African violets. Use your ingenuity to create unexpected garden features; plant a chimney stack with ivies, trailing pelargoniums or similar. Landscape a stone sink with rocks, plant up with dwarf, heathers, bulbs etc. Or buy a broken storm drain (round or square) from a builder’s merchant and plant up similarly.
Get that rockery/rock garden moving: a long-term project, don’t try to do it all in an afternoon. Try to copy a natural rock outcrop. The ground floor level of the rocks should slope back into the ground: half bury the back-end rocks if necessary. Pack soil between rocks; you’ll need it for planting into later. Meanwhile, plant your ice plants: the best place is under your tree.
Once ice plants are in, surround them with sea-washed or river-rounded pebbles. Keep your eyes and ears open for other ideas to bring a touch of the unexpected to your garden. A garden should create a sense of wonder, surprise.