Garden submits plans for house to grow rare plants

Artist's impression of the new Alpine House
Artist's impression of the new Alpine House
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THE Royal Botanic Garden has submitted plans to create a new Alpine House designed to cultivate rare plants from around the world.

The new house would include a synthetic rock surface, and would allow the attraction to show off rare species including the Alpine Cushion Plant, dwarf perennial trees and Alpine orchids.

As part of the proposals currently being considered by the city council, the state-of-the-art centre would be built close to the existing Alpine House, complementing the garden’s collection of alpine plants.

It would allow the garden to grow a greater range of plants generally found in remote regions of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as mountain ranges in Europe.

The Alpine House would cost less than £200,000, with the Botanic Garden trying to raise funds from private funders, including charitable trusts, and an appeal issued among garden members.

John Mitchell, garden supervisor of the alpine section, said: “One of the aims of the new Alpine House is to show clearly the different techniques available today of cultivating and displaying alpine plants.

“The existing cedar Alpine House shows the traditional way of cultivating alpine plants – grown in clay pots and then plunged into sand to keep the roots cool. Currently, during the peak flowering season, the alpine display is changed weekly, with the plants in flower being rotated from our behind-the-scenes alpine frame growing area.

“The new proposed structure, however, will have a landscape made from tufa, a soft porous rock consisting of calcium carbonate, with most of the plants growing in the tufa itself.”

The garden’s existing Alpine House is used to grow plants considered too delicate to put outside in the rock gardens.

However, it is not easy to put plants on display and many specimens grown there are rarely seen by the public. That will all change if plans for the new house, which would measure 42 square metres internally, are successful.

Mr Mitchell said: “Using tufa means we can showcase a wider range of plants. It will be the first Alpine House in a British botanic garden to have a whole area dedicated to growing plants in tufa. It will enable RBGE to once again lead the way in growing and showing alpines.”

An application for listed building consent for the erection of a new Alpine House was submitted to the council last month, with the Botanics hoping for a decision next month.

It would consist of a large glasshouse with tufa wall at the back and a natural landscape flowing from inside to out. This would have water running down it and would allow specialists to grow a wider range of rare and fragile plants.