Alpine Plants and Hypertufa Pots.

I recently made a trip to NYC to meet with a client and along the way visited several gardens: Stonecrop in Cold Spring, NY belonged to Frank Cabot, the founder of the Garden Conservancy and his first garden,) Wave Hill in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Botanic gardens. I had forgotten how inspiring it is to visit mature gardens. The chance to see some mature plantings really woke me up and gave me perspective and lots of new ideas. A majestic 50’ feet Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ gave me pause, mine is 5ft high. The mature specimen at Stonecrop will profoundly influence what I do in the area my tree is planted.
Last autumn, with the Franklin Garden Club I made a couple of hypertufa pots. You probably know that a hypertufa (I didn’t) is a lightweight pot made from Portland cement, sphagnum moss, and perlite and this spring planted my first alpine plants in those pots. Hypertufa pots with alpines are like miniature versions of those large Japanese gardens (see photo of the Japanese Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.)

Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

I don’t have the time to make a Japanese garden, but I can easily create a miniature version of one! Both Stonecrop and Wave Hill had plenty of examples of how to use alpine plants both in hypertufa pots and planted directly into stone walls. I was inspired to open my wallet and buy 10 alpine plants to plant in some of my stone walls. I had the good fortune of meeting the gardener at Stonecrop who takes care of the alpine plants and she helped me locate the little alpines that I wanted to buy. She also gave me a tip on how to get the wonderful texture that looks like stone in the hypertufa pots. She said to use the backside of the hammer on the second day of drying to make dents in the hypertufa pot before the pots have completely set would give the desired effect. If you are interested in learning how to make the pots they teach classes at Stonecrop and they also offer for sale many different shaped pots at reasonable prices. Alpines are a wonderful group of plants to add to your garden.

Minuartia Stellata is the green mounded alpine

Minuartia Stellata is the green mounded alpine

Alpines in hypertufa pot

Alpines in hypertufa pot


Alpines growing at Wave Hill

Alpine collection at Wave Hill

Alpine collection at Stonecrop

Capanula garganica 'W. H. Paine' growing in Stonecrop walls

Capanula garganica ‘W. H. Paine’ growing in Stonecrop walls

Alpine growing in wall

Alpine growing in wall at Stonecrop

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7 Responses to Alpine Plants and Hypertufa Pots.

  1. Deirdre says:

    I finally realized that my ground cover rhododendrons ( mostly alpine plants) are not able to compete with the $%#* violets that have taken over the beds. I’m thinking I may have to make a rock garden for them. I’m concerned that hypertufa might make the soil too alkaline for them.

  2. Did you see any dwarf alpine willows on your travels to Stonecrop, Wave Hill and BBG?

    • Don Statham says:

      Michael, No I didn’t see any dwarf willows though my friend did buy an unusual willow shrub with very small tight grey leaves at Stonecrop. I am afraid she lost the tag so I can’t tell you what it is. The chicken’s willow tunnels have grown exponentially this year- year 3 . I will have to post a photo later. Best Don

      • Deirdre says:

        Salix nakamurana var. yezoalpina is an alpine willow. The new leaves are fuzzy and adorable.

  3. Thanks Don and Deidre. That is a great dwarf Salix. I have a small plant so it’s not too exciting yet! But I saw a plant in England about 8ft across spreading over a rock garden!

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