Alpines are any small hardy plants suitable for growing in a rock garden or a similarly small area, such as in stone troughs or crevices in paths or walls. Alpine plants are those found at high altitudes between the tree line and the permanent snow line. Alpines grow in the varied habitats found in this zone: high meadow, rocky outcrops, cliffs, bogs and screes.

Views inside the Alpine House at RBGE.Alpines typically have dwarf, compact growth habits, which protect them against strong winds, extreme cold and heavy layers of snow. Many are slow-growing, with dense shoots and tough, small leaves that reduce the loss of heat and moisture. As an economy measure, the leaves are often long-lived: in Cassiope, individual leaves may function for 15 years.

Tlhe collection of alpines at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the best in the world. It includes a wide range of plants, from dwarf perennial trees and shrubs to bulbs, succulents and orchids. The Garden's collection comes from mountainous regions all over the world, from Scotland and the permafrost regions of the Arctic to South Africa and New Zealand.

The Alpine House

The RBGE Alpine House

The RBGE Alpine House 

The Alpine House was built in the 1970s as some alpines need conditions that cannot easily be created outdoors. In the wild, some plants are hidden under a blanket of snow for several months and dislike winter wet, while some enjoy particularly dry winters and very wet summers. Others need ample moisture at the roots, which in nature is obtained from melting snow, but have delicate flowers that can be ruined by heavy rain. Pot culture in the unheated, well ventilated Alpine House and frames is still preferred for these subjects, and for those which are so small that they are safest and best appreciated in isolation.

Fritillaria eduardiiAn electric fan blows over the plants constantly to reduce the risk of moulds. The Alpine House is surrounded by unheated frames and alpine troughs in which plants are displayed. A wall is also planted up with those trailing and cushion-forming plants that thrive when their roots are wedged into crevices.

In spring, the Alpine House and its surrounding area are full of vibrant colour from Draba, Dionysia and Androsace. Bulbs such as Cyclamen, Fritillaria and tulips also thrive, as do primulas, gentians and Chilean crocuses.

New Alpine House

December 2011, work has started clearing the old Hamamelis beds to make way for a new Alpine House. The Hamamelis have been relocated to the opposite side of the path and new plants from our expeditions added. 

December 2011 clearing the Hamamelis beds

Moving the Hamamelis features on the December Seasonal Highlights page click here to see how it was done.

Further updates to follow as this project develops.

Please help fund this project, for more details click here

Other garden features include....

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Views inside the Alpine House at RBGE.

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