Friday, February 21, 2014

Botanics: Alpine House Heaven

John Mitchell, with the new Alpine House in the distance
In three recent Blog Posts I've posted quite a few pictures of Royal Botanic Gardens' gardens in their various forms--or to be more precise--I've shown lots of pictures of the rock gardens and the woodland gardens. There's infinitely more beyond these at Botanics, but oceans of rhododendrons, miles of strange shrubs and trees, perennial borders and all interest me lots--but the alpines and woodland plants are so numerous, vast and superior--well, I never get beyond these on my many visits to Edinburgh. In fact, I've probably not seen half of the gardens ever--even though I know they are bound to be full of interest for me!
A raised bed, bristling with Dactylorhiza in the foreground
I may have posted this picture before. So what: it's worth showing again--the wall garden around the perimeters of the alpine house section. This whole area is nothing but treasure piled upon horticultural treasure, and beyond the wall in the next shot lies the heavenly Alpine House backup greenhouses and cold frames we shall visit shortly. If you've not been to Botanics, get off your duff and go there. If you have, you know what I mean. It's horticulture at its most challenging and accomplished--all done with finesse and flair. John Mitchell (shown in the first shot) is to be commended and honored for raising RBG to an ever higher plane.

The Alpine House court, with the new Alpine House on the left
What can I say?
Imprisoned the old alpine house
Even a sacred space like Botanics has experienced theft. So they do have to take precautions...alas!
Another view of the same
Better seen without bars!

Cushions galore

A wonderful pink Calceolaria
I will largely dispense with commentary henceforward: the pictures really speak for themselves....

A delightful medley of yellow violet and Jack.

Love that Alchemilla--notice the weedy Dactylorhiza on the right? Such a problem!

More weedy dactylorhizas!Growing with an Antennaria sp.

Even a rather coarse Anemone cf. rivularis looks right--check out the maidenhair spleenwort below it, however!

Brand spanking new Tufa garden: it looks very different now, you can be sure!

Brand new bog (all American, mind you...)

Tufa filled with holes for treasures...

One of many greenhouses for backup collections and choice alpines to be planted out...the back story!
Another view of the Tufa garden

Silene and anthericum (and Dactylorhiza) painting a picture in the Alpine yard.

There are numerous frames like this all in wonderful condition...

More frames....

MORE alpine house treasures in the Alpine yard...

John surveying some of the treasure trove...

The gems he's checking out!

More goodies

A little startled at being photographed so much perhaps?

Oh, to have a few of these back home!



And MORE (primulas in this case--finished blooming...)

A random wall in the Alpine Yard with various experimental styles of wall technique...

And more...

And more...

I should have made this the first picture: the very rare Primula scotica, here featured in the premier Scottish garden! In perfect bloom!

I think all those orchids are interlopers among the Aciphyllas: may I weed them out for you John?

More gems (South African mostly here..)

Cyananthus starrting to bloom....

You get the idea..

Utterly distinct from what's sold by the same name in the USA: surely a subspecies?

Silver saxifrages at peak...

Glorious Moraea alticola which I have worshiped throughout the Drakensberg, here with a bevy of ferns... love this.

Dare I end with these rather seemingly homely geraniums? I should end with fireworks and thunderclaps...but Botanics never end. Few places on planet earth have embodied such excellence, and provided a more tangible, ethereal and glorious bridge between the heart of humanity and the diminishing and tragically beautiful wild world we are so busy paving over. Botanics give me hope we can work out a balance...


  1. At the moment humanity is at war with itself. We know our actions are destroying the planet. Disarming is difficult whether the weapon is a nuclear bomb or carbon emissions. We have managed to avoid all out nuclear war for now. I hope we also manage to reduce carbon emissions for our own sake. If we make the planet unsuitable for humanity the world will continue. The world will cool in a couple million years and life will still exist with or without people.


  2. You're a frickin' philosopher, James: those are the sorts of thoughts that constantly slosh my brain like an overfilled bucket being lugged over a talus slope...we the gardeners, who are so attuned to the quiddity of the moment in our gardens, in nature (mirror images of one another) know the stakes are so high: meanwhile the meretricious meritocracy plats, plots, and plunders. One thing to enclose millions of acres in the 18th Century and send the English countryfolk to populate Dickens' novels, another thing when 7 billion drunk humans spewing carbon have to be reined in...what better way to inculcate ecology than to grow alpines, and get the giddy masses away from the boob tube and their cars? Horticulture elevated hunter-gatherers into farmers, and caused higher civilization to occur only 12,000 years. How can we now, in the face of so many distractions, obstacles and opposition, grab helm? Not likely. We can, meanwhile, we must heed the wisdom of Pangloss and cultivate our gardens....

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