SAXIFRAGA

The Saxifrages are an extensive and complex range of perennials, a range which is a basic ingredient of both the small and large rock garden. The usual form is low-growing – a group of rosettes or mossy sheets from which starry or saucer-shaped flowers arise. A few exceptions to this general description do occur, but even within the standard pattern there are many variations and so you should choose with care. A few types are often considered as front-of-the-border plants – London Pride and S. Some of the best known are dealt with below.

VARIETIES: There are 3 basic groups. The Encrusted section contains plants which bear lime-encrusted leaves in the form of a single or many rosettes. The stalked flowers are star-shaped, appearing in May or June. Examples are S. aizoon (S. panicu-lata) – height 1 ft. spread 1 ft. sprays of white flowers above silvery rosettes-’Rosea’is a pink form; S.cochlearis – height 8 in., spread 9 in., sprays of white flowers on red stems above silvery rosettes; and the large S. cotyledon (height 2 ft. spread 1 ft) which bears dark green leaves encrusted at the edges. Two named varieties – ‘Esther’ (cream) and ‘Whitehills’ (white) are popular compact (height 6 in., spread 9 in.) plants. The Mossy section contains plants which form hummocks of mossy leaves. The flowers are star- or saucer-shaped and appear in April or May. There is a single species S. moschata (height 3 in., spread 1.5 ft) with many named varieties – ‘Pixie’ (red), ‘Peter Pan’ (pink), ‘Dubarry’ (red), ‘Atropurpurea’ (red), ‘Cloth of Gold’ (white flowers, golden foliage) and ‘Flowers of Sulphur’ (yellow). Finally, there is the Cushion section, containing plants which have lime-coated leaves like the Encrusted section but the flowers appear early, in February-April, and the foliage forms a low cushion. S. burseriana (height 2 in., spread 1 ft) blooms in February – the earliest to flower. A little later-blooming and with yellow flowers instead of white is S. apiculata (height 4 in., spread 1 ft). S. ‘Elizabethae’ (yellow) is another early flowerer and a popular variety is S. ‘Jenkinsae’ bearing large pink blooms which nestle in the foliage. Equally low-growing (height 1 in.) is the pink-flowered S. ‘Cranbourne’.

SITE AND SOIL: All require well-drained soil. Provide a moist spot with some shade from the mid-day sun – only the Encrusted section thrives in full sun and dry soil.

PROPAGATION: General method is to plant non-flowering rosettes in a cold frame in early summer.

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