Human Flower Project
Friday, September 30, 2011
Alpine Valley Down by the Alley
Allen Bush explores alpine possibilities in the Ohio River Valley. What a view!
By Allen Bush
Eritrichium canum Hybrid ‘Baby Blues’
Photo: Allen Bush
It happened so fast. One day I’m “shovel ready” on cheap landscape jobs in Louisville, Kentucky, and the next, I’m falling in love with tight buns in London. (Trust me: You won’t find buns like these in the bakery!)
Ground hugging Dionysias and Saxifragas became a brief obsession over thirty years ago when I lived and gardened in England. I was introduced to a wide world of rock garden and alpine plants through the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as well as from the glorious displays of nurserymen and enthusiasts at the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Shows at Vincent Square, 1978-1979.
There, to behold, was a level of horticultural expertise I could never have imagined. Names like the Ingwersens, Eliotts, Jack Drake, Kate Dryden and Tony Hall were glittering stars of my new galaxy. They delivered littler plants, plucked from cold frames and glass houses, and grown to perfection in shallow terra cotta bulb pans. They brought familiar woodland ephemerals like Trilliums and lady slippers, too, which I knew and loved. I was pleased the Ohio Valley and southern Appalachians - my neck of the woods - were so well represented.
But “alpines” were in a different class altogether – from the tall mountains. I had never seen tall mountains before nor set foot anywhere close to these cute buns—or cushion plants. My world expanded. I had a connection, now, to towering ranges. These “high” enthusiasts, who loved their munchkin plants, got around. There were tales of adventurous explorers prying small plant pieces from thin, rocky crevices or harvesting a few seeds. I was hooked.