Alpines

Sowing alpine seeds requires special considerations. Generally, alpine seeds are sown in autumn or winter into containers that are then stood unprotected from the elements. As the seedlings may not be big enough to handle until the following season, the kind of compost in which they are planted is important as it will have to sustain the seedlings for at least twelve months.

If the seeds have been collected, then they should, as a general rule, be sown fresh. This is especially true of such plants as Pulsatilla vulgaris, cyclamen, most bulbs, primulas and gentians, which show dramatically better germination sown fresh. Dried and stored seed of these plants often suffers loss of viability.

Normally, sow alpine seed in pans (dwarf pots), unless large quantities are required. Select a pan that will allow the seedlings sufficient space for growth once they have germinated.

The most important consideration will be in the choice of compost. Most alpine plants do not tolerate damp conditions, and, as the containers have to stand outside for the winter, the compost must be free draining. It therefore requires a high proportion of grit. As the seedlings may need to remain in the compost for as long as twelve months, it must retain its structure and have an ability to retain nutrients. These characteristics are found in sterilized loam, which should therefore be included. As the seedlings are generally small and fine rooted, a coarse, lumpy compost should be avoided.

The most satisfactory compost for alpine plants is made up of equal parts (by volume) sieved peat, grit and sterilized loam, with f oz superphosphate and 4 oz lime added per bushel. Ensure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Heap the pan with compost, firm very lightly to the base and then strike off. Push the compost down with a presser board, ensuring the surface is level for sowing. Mix very fine seeds such as Ramortda myconi with fine dry sand and sow with the packet close to the compost. To achieve an even distribution, take half the seeds and sow across the pan; turn the pan through 90 degrees and repeat the action with the remaining seeds. Large seeds such as Cyclamen neapolitanum are station sown. With the presser board, push the seeds into the compost so they make close contact with it. Cover the seeds with handfuls of grit; then strike off level with the rim of the pan.

The seeds, while outside during the winter, will be protected by the grit, which evenly

4 Sow large seeds individually by hand, spacing evenly on compost.

5 Push the seeds into the compost using the presser board.

6 Cover the seeds with grit, keeping the hand low over the pan to avoid bouncing.

filters any rain on to the compost, provides excellent surface drainage, prevents the development of mosses and algae and makes it easy to remove any weeds.

Label the pan, water and stand on any well-drained surface. While standing out, the damped seeds are exposed to the cold, which chills the seeds. This causes the breakdown

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