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The Rock Garden in full bloom

Richard Wilford
21 April 2011
Blog team: 
The recent warm, sunny weather here in London has brought a whole range of plants into flower on the Rock Garden at Kew. Read on to see some of the highlights.

The Rock Garden at Kew Gardens is home to alpines and Mediterranean climate plants from around the world. It usually reaches its glorious peak in May but the weather we have had recently has brought the flowering season forward by a week or two so there is already plenty to see.


A view of Kew's Rock Garden this week

Among the flowering plants you can find here are several peony species. Most do well in a free draining soil and sunny position like the following species, Paeonia anomala subsp. veitchii, sometimes called just P. veitchii. This specimen was collected as seed on a Kew expedition to Sichuan, China, in 2003.

Paeonia anomala subsp. veitchii on the Rock Garden

There are plenty of irises in flower too, especially the 'bearded irises', which have a tuft or beard of hairs down the centre of their lower petals. They grow from thick rhizomes that are planted near the soil surface. The next photo shows the dark purple Iris sabina, a little known species from central Italy, near the town of Palombana Sabina, from which it takes its name. In front is a pale form of Scilla peruviana, collected as seed in Tunisia in 1989. This scilla is not uncommon in cultivation but normally has deep blue flowers.

Iris sabina behind a group of Scilla peruviana

One more highlight for now is the showy blooms of a monkey flower, Mimulus naiandinus, endemic to central Chile. This has seeded itself into rocky cracks and is in full flower now. It has been in cultivation in the UK since the 1970s but usually under the name 'Andean Nymph'. Only in 2000 was it given a species name, and was described in Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

Mimulus naiandinus flowering on the Rock Garden

These are just a few of the wonderful plants you can see now on the Rock Garden at Kew. Over the next few weeks more and more will bloom so come along and explore the twisting paths and rocky ledges of this spring garden highlight.

A general view of Kew's Rock Garden

- Richard -


9 May 2011
It is a fantastic time of year for a lot of alpines. I have only a small sand bed in our front garden but it contains over 200 plants! Amongst them flowering at the moment are several gentians, species of Campanula and the related Edraianthus, the amazing Silene hookeri from the Rocky Mtns., and Lupinus albifrons from the western USA. The bed is dominated by a majestic plant of Yucca whipplei and several Dasylirion sp. Very different from Kew (!) but equally exciting, and very easy to make in the garden - simply dig a hole and fill with sand and give overhead winter protection.
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