My Journal

Creating an alpine scree garden

Katie Rushworth image of Alpine stones

If you’ve been with me for a while, you won’t have failed to notice what a fan I am of alpine plants. I love to use them in garden design as they’re very low maintenance and look lovely for most of the year. Alpines look great in a range of settings and containers, and I’ve got an easy-to-follow video on creating an alpine trough I made with Tong Garden Centre here.

Image by <a href="">_Alicja_</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay

If you’re wanting to do something a bit larger-scale in your garden, the start of spring is a great time to get started on it. The greenery and foliage is still sparse, allowing you to see the structure of your garden more freely. A great DIY project that’s quick, relatively simple and allows you to make the most of your lovely alpine plants is a scree garden. This takes its name from where pieces of rock break up and roll down a mountainside, piling up at the bottom and creating a scree. A scree garden can be small or large, and any shape you fancy to fit with your garden.

If you have well drained ground, or if your garden’s on a bit of a slope, you’re off to a flying start. Rock gardens like this look great when they’re allowed to retain as much of a ‘natural’ shape as possible following the undulating curves of a contoured garden. Otherwise, you might have a raised bed or large container to fill, or alternatively you can create a scree garden by building up the surface and using gravel to create artificial drainage – drainage really is key, as alpines really dislike having wet feet. It’s also important to choose an area that gets plenty of sunshine to nourish those gorgeous blooms.

Once you’ve chosen your location:

  1. Clear the ground, and mark out the rough shape you’d like your garden to be. You can line the shape with mini walls of brick or timber if you’re wanting a more raised finish.
  2. Dig the shape to about six inches deep (as much as double this at the lower end if you’re creating a slope).

    Saxifrage. Image by <a href="">Edward Connolly</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

    Image by Edward Connolly from Pixabay

  3. Fill roughly the first 5cm with coarse gravel, and then fill the hole to the top with a mixture of soil, leaf mould and gravel. Now you’re ready to start designing how your screen garden will look, so select any larger rocks and decorations you’d like to include with the plants.
  4. Knock the rock plants you’re using out of their pots and plant them out so that the rootballs are sticking out about 5cm from the surface of the soil. Mulch around them with some pea shingle or granite chippings, and whatever decorations you have chosen.
  5. … Voila! Your own scree garden. Keep the area well weeded, as seedlings thrive in gravelly soil.
Cerastium. Image by Nightowl from Pixabay Image by <a href="">nightowl</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

Image by nightowl from Pixabay

See? It’s simple. Alpine plants you might want to consider using in your scree garden include Lewisia cotyledon, Iris reticulata, Primula auricula, Saxifrages, Sedums, Anemones and Festuca glauca. You might even choose some lovely succulents to plant out too. My good pal David Domoney has rounded up his favourite plant choices here, so give his article a read. If you give this DIY project a try in your garden, I’d love to see! Share with me your design and plant choices over on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy DIYing! Katie x

Katie's expertise is transforming clients' gardens with their video calls and garden visits...