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Eco Plant Whisperer May 2022

I spend a lot of time in the spring working on rockeries, and it's an admission of mine that it really is one of my favourite aspects of gardening ! It's that element of really getting drawn into the fact that you  are actually working on a scaled down landscape. 

The mosses ( Bryophytes) that cover rock faces within any design and planting scheme really add to the overall sense and feeling of how all the natural features of plant life and stone, if used strategically,  come together. I never tire of reading and referring to  the classic the Botanist's Reginald Farrer's book : My Rock Garden (1908 )   As well as the incredible  plant knowledge, I really enjoy the humourous side of the writing too !  

Soldanella montana comprises exquisite delicate nodding violet/blue flowers, the undersides are greyish in colour, with fringed petals. This little gem will flower from April - May, and can be planted in any good soil, and thrives in part shade. The potential size will push up and out to 20cm x 20, and of course it's a hardy perennial. Soldanella is in the family  (Primulaceae)

Soldanella montana is a mountainous plant from the European Alps. It seems quite fitting in some respects working with plants like this in the South Lakes, looking over at snow capped mountains from home and  the work place ! 

I'm currently developing a rockery at the Lakeside Hotel Garden, and this horticultural outstanding plant is in the planting plan. I have planted the Soldanella in other rockery schemes working down into the scree design, it's in that element of design from the Plantsperson's  eye that it really comes into it's own ! If you draw yourself into a plant, especially the miniatures like this, you really get a sense of how the plant  will work to its full potential, that's where the plant whispering comes into play ! 

I've experimented a great deal in the past with chilling alpine seeds ( stratification) liaising with  the RHS, following guidelines etc. From my own personal hands on experience I've discovered that successfully growing a good number of alpines from seed can be achieved from directly sowing into gritty compost mix comprising grit sand and perlite,  gently plough the seed in just below the surface with a small dibber or split cane. This is followed by placing seeds direct into the cold frame for winter chilling,  working with the natural ebb and flow of cold to warmer temperatures, just as plants would experience in their natural environment. 

I learned a lot about this in the Cotswolds as Head Gardener from a wide selection of Alpine seeds purchased from Alplains, ( Colorado)  I successfully propagated an Arbutus Texana from  the seed company,  not exactly an alpine !  cultivated over a number of years as part of the National Collection, and planted it on an east facing slope, it survived a severe test of winter hardiness. 

I will be looking to propagate a good number of Alpine seeds this autumn / winter here at the Lakeside Hotel Garden. This will include the Soldanella ! 

For now, I'm  enjoying working at close quarters with this wonderful plant. The bond between gardener and plant/s can produce some surprising results ! 

The Eco Plant Whisperer ! 

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

Kevin is the Head Gardener/ Plantsman at the Lakeside Hotel South  Cumbria, appointed to restore the garden back to National Garden Scheme standard.

In 2021 Kevin was listed in the Horticultural Industries top 100  British Head Gardeners / Curators. This was to coincide with 180 years of the industry magazine, and the opening of RHS Bridgewater.

He is a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, Plant Heritage, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. He also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), he is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

Kevin had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

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