Taking inspiration from the alpine landscape, the perfect scree garden offer plants adequate moisture in summer along with good drainage and protection from damp in winter. These are the ideal conditions to display choice plants.
To make your scree garden, choose a sunny site that is well lit even in winter, and away from trees and their leaf fall. Then;
- Clear all perennial weeds
- Dig out about 75cm (30in) of soil from the site, making the base slope gently towards the bottom. Enough slope is needed to allow excess moisture to drain away, without the upper part becoming over-dry in summer
- Cover the base of the area with about 15cm (6in) of rubble
- Place another 15cm (6in) layer of small stones about 2.5cm (1in) diameter on top of the rubble
- Fill up the hollow with a mixture of stone chips and gravel
- Lay a layer of about 7.5cm (3in) depth of free draining soil mix of one part loam or good top soil, 1 part leaf mould, or peat substitute and 2 parts grit by volume
- Top off with a 5cm (2in) layer of gravel. Limestone chips are used for alpines from chalk or limestone areas and shingle, washed gravel or granite chippings for those from neutral or acid soils. Avoid flint chips as they do not conserve moisture
- Try to add some larger stones to add character to the site, and create some protection for plants. Just a few will do, but they are useful as stepping-stones when weeding, as well as for aesthetic reasons. Large stones should match chippings
Care of scree plants
Plants with leaves covered with fluff or down need winter protection from drying winds and damp. In their native habitat snow protects them. From October to March, suspend a sheet of acrylic or polycarbonate over the plants using corner supports.
Water well in dry spells during the growing season. In well-constructed screes plants are deep-rooting, as in natural screes, but may need extra water.
Lightly top-dress in May with the compost mixture used in the original construction, with added fertiliser. This will wash down deep into the scree bed, providing nutrition for searching roots.
Cushion plants and those that are mat-forming are ideal for scree gardens. Try to avoid rampant growers, tall plants or those with large foliage.
Spring-flowering (April-June) up to 15cm (6in) in height
Gentiana verna, Gentiana verna var. alba
Geum montanum AGM (through to October)
Saxifraga (Kabschia Group) e.g. S. burseriana, S. 'Gregor Mendel' AGM
Soldanella alpina, S. montana
Spring-flowering up to 30cm (1ft) in height
Aurinia saxatilis var. citrinum
Saxifraga oppositifolia, S. oppositifolia subsp. latina, S. retusa
Summer-flowering (June-October) up to 15cm (6in) in height
Androsace lanuginosa AGM
Anthyllis montana ‘Rubra’ AGM
Armeria juniperifolia AGM
Aster alpinus AGM
Campanula alpina, C. pulla, C. raineri AGM
Cyananthus lobatus AGM, C. microphyllus AGM
Dianthus alpinus AGM, D. freynii, D. pavonius
Dryas octopetala ‘Minor’ AGM
Edraianthus pumilio AGM, E. serpyllifolius
Erinus alpinus AGM
Geranium (Cinereum Group) 'Ballerina' AGM, G. cinereum var. subcaulescens ‘Guiseppi’ AGM
Lewisia columbiana, L. cotyledon AGM, L. oppositifolia, L. rediviva
Oxalis enneaphylla AGM
Potentilla nitida, P. nitida ‘Rubra’
Summer-flowering up to 30cm (1ft) in height
Plants suitable for partial shade
Dwarf shrubs and conifers
Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’ AGM
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.