Creating an alpine scree bed

An area of stones and larger rocks at a c. 45 degree angle, mimicking an alpine mountain side. There are lots of grey to grey-orange large flat stones that have been embedded in, with smaller stones then holding the plants in place. It was earlier in the year when taken, so there are only a few plants flowering  with white flowers at this time.
No, not mine, alas. This alpine scree bed is at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. April 2016.

I have long wanted to create an alpine scree bed, after admiring them elsewhere, such as the alpine scree beds found at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Scree beds aim to emulate the rocky sides of mountains, only, in an urban garden. Finally, I had a smaller and flatter space, that I thought might be just right for the implementation of this little dream.

A square border edged by wooden sleepers and with a small container pond dug in to the left, the base of a Damson tree in the middle, and some daffidols and other flowers towards the back.
The Damson Border, with space to create a small alpine scree bed.

The above space is where my Damson tree sits, along with a small container pond (more about that another time). The roots of damson tree grow down deep, and it seemed like the remaining space would be a good place for a scree bed, as alpines don’t have deep roots and therefore won’t really be competing for the same space.

The same space, but a kind of large backwards L dug out with smaller pebbles and stones at the bottom for drainage.
After digging out c. 45cms of heavy acid clay soil, the bottom 20cms was filled with small stones for drainage.

Though the border is slightly raised up, the soil is very heavy acid clay, and is next to an area that gets surface flooding during longer periods of wet weather. As alpines prefer well-drained soil and don’t like wet feet, we dug out c. 45cms down, laid the bottom 20cms with decent sized stones and pebbles, then back-filled with a 50/50 peat-free compost and sand.

An overview of the scree bed all filled in and several large flat stones standing up and plants will be grown inbetween these.
The bed after back-filling with compost and sand and some larger stones added.

This border was created last summer, and the 2020/21 wet winter was a good test of how well the drainage was, and whether I got the depth and compost/sand ratios correct. We had a lot of standing water in the purple shale path right next to the border, which I confessed did worry me. Would the alpine plants there survive and thrive?!

June 2020: the planting has started. In the bottom middle you can see a small section of horticultural grit with a green plant in it, and a taller rectangular stone in the corner for maneuvering the hosepipe. There are some plants in pots waiting to be planted out into the bed.
Last June, as the first of the planting had begun. The stone sticking up in the front corner is to make
it easier to move my hosepipe around the bed without it damaging plants.

It turns out, the answer was a resounding YES!

May 2021: despite a very wet winter and early Spring and flooding nearby, there is lots of growth of plants in the scree bed. Some have already flowered and others will do so in the next month or two. There are some empty spaces awaiting more plants. The small aluminium container pond is still to the left side, but embedded in more with rocks around it.
May 2021.

Despite flooding nearby, the alpine bed wasn’t affected at all and there is lots of green growth. Below are a couple of plants that have already flowered.

A collection of the same flowers. At the base of the small plant are leathery, rounded to heart-shaped, dark green leaves and around them are small pebbles (horticultural grit). They sit within a small alpine scree bed.
Soldanella ‘Spring Symphony’
Rounded to broadly oval, scalloped, dark green leaves with multiple yellow flowers. It's a very small plant and sits amongst horticultural grit (v. small stones) and large stones.
Primula ‘Lindum Golden Orb’

Overall, I’m pleased with how it’s going so far. The scree bed also has alpine Geraniums and Erodiums that will flower in the next few weeks. I have some Sempervirens and Jovibarbas to go in, and there is space for a few more alpines too. I sense a visit to my favourite alpine nursery (the Alpine Plant Centre, in the Peak District) is in the stars.

A slightly wider view of the alpine scree bed within the Damson border. At the front is the alpine scree bed with taller thinner rocks interspersed with small green plants, and the surface area covered with horticultural grit. There is a small aluminium container pond to the left and taller wooden raised beds at two sides. You can just see the think trunk base of the Damson tree, with mixed planting under it. In the background are some terracotta pots with plants in them.
Overview of the alpine scree bed, with the rest of the Damson border, and small pond, May 2021.

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