Alpines: An Illustrated Dictionary

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9780881922905: Alpines: An Illustrated Dictionary
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Gardeners have a special affection for those plants generally classified as "alpines." They are, for the most part, easy to grow, once the particular conditions of their natural habitat are understood. The offer a wide range of forms, provide year-round color, and a large number can be grown even in a small garden. What constitutes an alpine is less easy to define. Alpines may be found at low altitudes in warm Mediterranean climates, on the mountain slopes of Saudi Arabia, or high in the mountains of the Alps, the Andes, the Sierra Nevada, and most other ranges around the world. Their hardiness and water tolerance vary according to origin. Certain cacti and succulents, ground orchids and carnivorous plants flourish in a typical alpine environment, and can therefore be defined as alpine plants. So diverse is the spread that alpines can be found in almost every family of plants. This book describes that diversity, and illustrates almost 1,000 alpine plants, including with those most frequently found and grown, a number of rarer species. Each photo is accompanied by notes on habitat, distribution, growing habit, flowering season and any individual characteristics of special interest. Specific tips on successful cultivation build on the author's introductory advice on soils, watering, feeding and propagation. The entries are presented alphabetically, using the currently accepted nomenclature, but the more commonly encountered synonyms are included in the descriptions and listed in a separate Index of Synonyms.

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Alpines are low-growing plants suitable for rock gardens. True alpines are native to high altitudes, but rock-garden plants come from lower altitudes as well. Species illustrated here are from a wide variety of environments and are suitable for cultivation in rock gardens and alpine houses. This book's format is identical to Succulents [RBB N 1 94].

The brief introduction offers general instructions regarding positioning and planting, soil, watering, and propagation. The core of the work is the "Illustrated A^-Z of Species." More than 1,000 species are photographed, with six two-by-three-inch color photos per page. Each species is shown growing in a rock garden or alpine house. The photos are not always clear enough for precise identification. In many cases, the flower is emphasized and the foliage obscured. Some photos are dark or crowded. The captions, however, give meticulous description and include habit of growth, origin, and individual characteristics of special interest. Because cultivation requirements for these plants are so diverse, the inclusion of this information is helpful. An index of scientific synonyms and alternative names is provided, but no common names are given. A bibliography is included, but not a list of journals, societies, or suppliers.

Like this one, most of the books on rock gardening are British and reflect British conditions, which are quite different from those in North America. H. Lincoln Foster's Rock Gardening: A Guide to Growing Alpines and Other Wildflowers in the American Garden (Timber, 1968) describes site planning, maintenance, and propagation and includes a descriptive catalog of more than 1,900 species but is minimally illustrated.

Alpine plants are sought after by rock-garden enthusiasts. Alpines gives a useful overview of suitable plants. A good purchase for libraries with large gardening collections.

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Innes, Clive
Published by Timber Press, Incorporated (1995)
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