Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Arenaria Montana – Mountain Sandwort

Arenaria Montana is a classic little alpine or rock garden plant. The plant has narrow, glossy green leaves that form prostrate mats of foliage that are evergreen. In mid-spring, Mountain Sandwort is blanketed by relatively large, white flowers.  Whilst it does best in full sun to partial shade, it is considered to be drought-tolerant. It is not fussy as to soil type or pH and is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Plants will grow to be only 2″ tall at maturity. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense to the ground and is slow growing. Their ground-hugging habit means that this useful plant can be used at the front of the border or, it can be used as a lawn substitute for low foot traffic areas. They are at their loveliest spilling over edges of walls and will quickly fill in spaces between stepping stones or trail down the sides of walls. RHS award 1993.

Sow in spring or in autumn. Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost; moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it.  Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the covering once the first seedlings appear. Germination can take up to 30 days. If seeds do not germinate by 4 weeks remove pots/tray to a cool shaded area. Seedlings are usually large enough to handle after 4 weeks. Transplant the seedlings into 3½” pots. Two seedlings can be planted to one pot. Place the pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to grow on.  Before transplanting outdoors, harden off gradually. They do best in moist but well draining soils.

Arenaria Montana has a shallow root system and can dry out very quickly. Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September. It should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers.

Arenaria Montana is native to mountainous regions of south-western Europe from the Pyrenees of France to Portugal.

The genus name Arenaria is taken from the Latin arena meaning sand referring to the sandy habitats of many species. The species name Montana means simply ‘of the mountains’. Arenaria Montana is a member of the Caryophyllaceous family, a cousin of the popular Dianthus genus.

Today, 6th February, I sowed all twenty seeds received from Seekay at a cost of £1.22, I put them two to a module. Now I must wait for thirty days for germination. From past experience I know that Alpines aren’t easy to grow. We are planning on rebuilding the area around our old pond this year and these were  something I thought would be good there. Update 16th Feb – three green shoots showing after ten days.

Perennials – Thompson & Morgan Bargain 2016

I had just about decided to stop gardening today and have a rest when the postman delivered 72 tiny perennial plants I had ordered from T&M. On opening them I could see that they were good healthy seedlings and well worth the £2.99 that I had paid for them. They were, however, in need of potting on. They are now all in new pots. The plants were sold as “lucky dip” so discovering what was in there was exciting. There were six each of Cone Flower, Sea Holly, Dianthus, Thrift, Geum, Foxglove, Aquilegia, Delphinium, and more.

Update on Saturday 22nd October. I have lost one of these seedlings and feel quite concerned about getting them through the winter safely. I wondered whether to plant a few out but on doing a search online I think I will keep them protected until the spring. I don’t have a greenhouse or a cold frame so they will have to live on the window ledge until then.

Saxifrage White Pixie

Today I planted two white Saxifrage at the back of the pond. I bought the plants from Mick Market, one of the plot holders at the allotment. They are alongside the purple Aubrieta, also from Mick, and should spread well and help to hold back to soil to keep the pond water clean. 3rd Feb 2017. It seems that both of these rockery plants have been lost over the years that I was caring for Adam. We are planning to overhaul the pond area this year so I would like to replace them exactly as the chap I bought them from also passed away during that time. I will grow them both in memory of Mick. I don’t know what his surname was as we all called him Mick Market because he ran a fruit, flowers and veg stall on our local market.

Hybrid Saxifrage – The fine bright green leaves of White Pixie saxifrage are complemented  in mid  spring with white flowers on wiry stems. A tight, clump-forming, usually evergreen perennial, this hybrid resembles a sedum when not in flower. The clumps of foliage are a collection of tight rosettes of flat sprays of leaves. Will grow in partial sun in a moist, well-drained, gritty soil. If given full sun, moisture must be constant. Cut off spent flower stems and divide the clumps before summer heat arrives.

Aubretia Variegata

Now the ducks have moved home we have reclaimed the pond and have both spent time cleaning it up. Rob managed to get all the mud out and I have made the beds surrounding it ready for planting. Yesterday I bought two Aubretia plants from Mick Market at the allotment and they are now sited at the back of the pond with the hope that they will spread and hold back the soil and stop it from dirtying the water. Tip – Cut back quite hard by shearing after flowering has finished to maintain a neat, compact growth habit and to encourage a second flush of blooms. Incorporate ericaceous compost into the planting hole for best results.