“I know a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very very good but when she was bad, she was horrid!”
So went the old rhyme and so it is with rock gardens- those that are well constructed and well planted are a joy to behold but we so often see the opposite and they are indeed a blot on the landscape, an irritant to the retina, little more than a pile of stone, a plum pudding design of randomly placed rocks and it would have been time well spent for the gardener to read a little, to take some advice and to admire and imitate successful projects before beginning on the road.
Crevice gardening is the very latest, cutting edge approach to rock gardening, that long-practiced effort to reproduce an environment in the garden which imitates those mountaineous environs where the precious plants alpine garden enthusiasts love so much grow majestically and beautifully. They are challenging plants which require the most open of situations – hardly as surprise as they come from the mountaintops – full exposure to sunshine but with a cool run for their roots and, for some, that often quoted and apparently contradictory requirement for moist conditions and perfect drainage. I only appreciated this advice when I saw a fabulous population of Soldanella alpina (a hearbreak of a plant to grow!) thriving in the Swiss Alps on a bare rockface (perfect drainage!) with a constant flow of water from melting snow running over it (the moisture!).
The Crevice Garden by Kenton Seth and Paul Spriggs would be an excellent handbook for somebody setting out on a rock gardening project. The authors give an extensive introduction to the natural conditions in which those desirable alpine plants grow before outlining how one might recreate these conditions in our own gardens with advice on soils and plants, on building and maintaining a crevice garden. These sections are generously illustrated with photogaphs and line drawings which not only bring the text to life but are the highlight of the book especially a section, Case Studies, which presents a dozen or so accounts of actual crevice gardens ranging from those of enthusiastic individuals to the professional work of botanical gardens. The book concludes with a selection of plants suited to crevice gardens for it is the plants which attract the enthusiasts and this book will be the handbook to growing them successfully!
[The Crevice Garden, Kenton Seth and Paul Spriggs, Filbert Press, 2022, Hardback, 224 pages,ISBN: 978-1-7399039-0-9, £25]