It is distinctly odd that the peat bed and its associated plants should be traditionally included In books and catalogues dealing with rock gardens and their flora. Rock is not used in Its construction and most of the plants come from woodland areas. The three features they share are a need for good drainage, a disllkeof exposed windy sites and a preponderance of low-growing types. The walls of the bed can be made of stone: brick etc but wood is better, especially logs or railway sleepers. Best of all are peat blocks, which must besoaked thoroughly and then laid in brick-like fashion. The base of the bed must be weed-free with unimpeded drainage. It must also be lime-free — there Is no point In trying to create a peat bed if you live In a chalky area. Fill the bed with a suitable planting mixture — a popular one Is 1 part topsoil, 1 part sphagnum peat and some grit as an optional extra. Let the soil mix settlefora couple of weeks before planting — top dress with peat or pulverised bark after planting and renew each year. Weed with care — remove by hand rather than hoeing. Avoid walking over the peaty soil — lay down stepping stones if the bed is large. Recommended plants Include Astllbe, Casslope, Dodecatheon. Gaultheria, Autumn-flowering Gentian, Hepatlca and Primula.

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