The Front Garden
The front garden was to be the last area we looked at – mainly because it was ideal for having bags of gravel, sand, blocks etc delivered and dropped on to! In the middle of the area there was a large solid base – approximately 3" to 6" thick, made up of granite and concrete. Although Mike had tried to break it up, with the use of a pick axe, it was proving extremely difficult and we knew we would probably have to hire a kango.



Black weed matting was laid all over to suppress the weeds until we decided what to do next. In December 2013 we (sorry, I) decided to go mad with Christmas lights and so, once again, we enlisted the help of my brother Malcolm who built a circular wall out of the surplus York stone we still had, back-filled it with gravel and it became home to an artifical blossom tree and three mushrooms – all of which lit up! Unfortunately I didnt take a photo of it.

April 2014
Although we had settled on having Alpines in the front garden we were still unsure of how to go about it. We then saw a raised bed at Marple Garden Centre where they had planted some alpines amongst rocks – as well as a few Acers. In view of me having problems with my back at the time we thought the raised-bed idea would be more practical for me. Having seen various raised-bed kits at different garden centres we had settled on getting a couple of 1.8m x 90cm x 30cm high kits. We were also going to get some half-log rolls to put around the edge to hold the gravel in – in case we decided to change the crazy-paving pathways at some point.

On 1st April we went to look at Newbank Garden Centre to see what raised-bed kits they had but they weren't big enough. However, we did buy 4 decent size sandstone rocks as a starter for the Alpine garden.

On 2nd April Mike went to B&Q to purchase the half-log rolls (as a Senior Citizen he gets 10% off on a Wednesday!!!). Instead he came back with some lengths of wood as he decided that we probably wouldn't visually see the half-logs and so it would be a waste of money – and, in any case, the lengths of wood were much cheaper! He also came back with some additional lengths of wood to make our own raised-bed as we could just do one large bed to the exact size we wanted and, again, it worked out much cheaper.

Once the wood was in place (below left) we had 2 ton of limestone gravel delivered on 1st May, 2014 from Benchmark Building Supplies. I fluttered my eyelashes at the delivery driver and, with the aid of my Stanley knife, he slit the bottom of the bags so that the gravel would literally drop onto the front garden without having to shovel it out of the bags! However, we soon found that 2 ton wasn't enough and so will have to order another ton!









In the meantime we had purchased three planters from Newbank Garden Centre at Dobcross – two brown ones which can be seen at the far end of the raised bed, which contain Acers ('Skeeters Broom' and 'Katsuri' – both purchased from Aldi at Ashton-under-Lyne), and a white one against the brickwork which I had planted with Geraniums, Fuscias, Petunias, Ivy and a small Conifer all purchased from Newbank. You may also have spotted from the above photo and the one to the right that the patio has been power-washed!

The bed measures 2.5 metres x 1.8 metres and is 25cm high. We initially purchased 15 bags of top soil from Marple Garden Centre thinking it would be easier to handle – although it was more expensive. Mike had put a supporting length of wood across the middle and also put some small gravel on the bottom of each half. The soil only filled one half of the bed! The three rocks below were kindly given to us by Mike Younge (a member of the koi club we belong to) who had a surplus of rocks. They were covered in moss, so I power-washed them and was pleasantly surprised at how well they came up.


Instead of purchasing more individual bags of soil, we decided to order a bulk bag (1 ton) and, fortunately, the delivery driver was able to move the hiab directly over the raised-bed, cut the bottom of the bag, and drop it straight on! (Mike had moved half of the original soil into the other half before the delivery was made). We should have done this initially!

When we went to order the bulk bag of soil from Lymefield Garden Centre, they recommended border soil. We also purchased 3 bags of purple slate to put on the top, once the bed had been planted. We had previously bought some bags of grit to mix in with the soil.

We then looked at a suitable capping to go round the top of the raised bed and were initially going to put 4" wide planks on. However, when we were in B&Q we spotted some chamfered skirting boards which, although technically for indoor use, we felt would be perfect and would be ok for outdoor use if we treated them. Once Mike had put the skirting boards on I set about 'painting' all the wood with Ronseal's One Coat Fence Life – Harvest Gold.

Once Mike had mixed the soil and grit I was itching to start planting. I purchased the first seven Alpines from Newbank Garden Centre at Radcliffe on 20th June, 2014 and then a further 9 from Marple Garden Centre on 25th June, 2014. I quickly planted the 16 plants as we had a large family gathering on 27th June, 2014 plus an Open Day on the 29th, so I wanted it to look reasonably good.

Earlier on I mentioned the extra triangle just before the start of the rectangular raised-bed. The photo to the left shows a concrete Japanese-style lantern - 'Yukimi' – which Mike has made and, as can be seen, it sits perfectly in the triangle! (See the Lanterns page for further details.)

I found 3 small York stone rocks in the garden which I power-washed and added to the bed, together with the 3 larger ones from Mike Younge and the original four sandstone ones purchased. I realise the purist may say that all the rocks should be the same type but I think having different ones adds to the character.

I was keen to add some more specialised Alpines which you don't see at garden centres and so we went to Slack Top Alpine Nursery and Garden in Hebden Bridge. They are one of the UK's top five specialist alpine growers and have won Gold Medals. We purchased 11 plants on this occasion and will probably pay them another visit in a few weeks.

I had originally envisaged a type of monolith as a feature in the middle of the bed. However, when I did find what I liked it was, of course, very expensive and, additionally, would have incurred hefty delivery charges due to the weight. I would have been looking at £200 to £300! Mike then came up with the idea of getting a piece of driftwood (similar to what we have used in the Fernery). So, on 30th June off we popped to Newbank Garden Centre at Radcliffe which is where we had purchased the others. Whilst looking through them I said it would be nice to get one with some nooks and crannies in so that I could plant it up. We found one measuring approximately 29" long x 4" wide and 4"-6" high at £29.99 and duly planted it up with 10 of the 11 plants purchased from Slack Top.


Even though we hadn't purchased enough slate the photos above right and below left show how good it will look when the whole garden is covered – as can be seen below right.










Above and right show photos of the planted driftwood which has now become the centrepiece of the garden.

For details of the Alpines planted please look at our Alpines page.



So, the before and after photos.....

By 5th July, 2016 the Alpine Garden was well and truly established!

Front garden


Benchmark Building Supplies
Lymefield Garden Centre
Marple Garden Centre
Newbank Garden Centre, Radcliffe

Slack Top Alpine Nursery & Garden


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