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Alpine Containers with Carlo

Source: Martha Stewart


Alpine plants—small-scale plants with slow, measured growth found in mountainous regions above the timber line—make delightful, easy-care plantings. Today, Carlo Balistrieri, curator of the Alpine Garden at New York Botanical Garden, discusses his favorite shade-loving alpine varieties and how to care for them.

As Carlo explains, there’s a rich tradition of both European and American alpine and rock gardening, incorporating containers, raised beds, alpine houses, and open gardens. Trough gardening (the use of stone troughs for miniature gardens) is the most popular, but it’s only one of several alpine-gardening forms. As single specimens or in groupings, containers accentuate the beauty of certain species in their unusual forms and rich blooms. Combinations of alpines can create finely detailed, miniature gardens with striking contrasts in color, texture, foliage, and shape.

Given the wide range of alpine and rock-garden plants available, Carlo points out that you should consider both practical and aesthetic factors when making your selection. Ultimately, of course, you’ll want your plants to thrive, and their ability to do so will depend on their suitability for your climate, size at maturity, and nutrient, moisture, and light requirements. Aesthetic factors, which are also important, include color, bloom, texture, comparative size, shape, and foliage.

Generally, alpine plants require excellent drainage, bright light, protection from winter moisture, and low nutrients. As Carlo points out, many alpine plants are adapted to dry or fast-draining conditions with fresh water. Most alpines and rock-garden plants prefer a sunny or well-lit location, but he adds, there are some that do well or better in partial shade or full shade.

Carlo Balistrieri

Curator for the Alpine Garden

New York Botanical Garden

Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road

Bronx, New York 10458



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