The fish box troughs

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BULB LOG 38 --- 17th September 08

Troughs Every so often I shift the emphasis of the Bulb log on to some of the other parts of the garden that I am working on - this week partly due to a number of requests I am devoting the bulb log to troughs.

Cement trough 1 Many years ago I developed a method to convert a polystyrene fish box into a convincing looking trough. These were designed to be as light as possible so they could be taken to shows and displays and they still serve us well but I wanted some more robust and permanent troughs to add to our collection so I have been quietly experimenting for some months and have now come up with a new slant on an old method.

Cement trough 2 You need a solid flat board to work on and for the sake of your back is best raised up at a good height. The fish box does not need to be carved and painted like this one but I only have old painted ones at the moment. The first step is to draw a line around the box and then draw another line with your thumb between the box and the pencil to act as a guide for the wall thickness.

Cement trough 3 Now the new part of this method - previously many people have covered the box with wire mesh to key the cement on. I have done away with the wire by making lots of 1-2 cm holes all over the box which allows the cement to key itself through these holes. I also cut two square holes in the box where the drainage holes will be and draw a line round them onto the base board.

Cement trough 4 Now I cut some small bits of the polystyrene from the larger square just removed to form the drainage holes and place them inside the larger squares I have just cut. This method means that the drainage hole is fully surrounded by a good layer of cement and it also helps strengthen the base.

Sand cement mortar It is essential that you wear gloves to protect your hands when handling the cement: if you do not you will suffer severe skin damage. Now I start with my mix which is just sand and cement; I have tried numerous times over the last thirty years to make the hypertufa mixes by adding peat to the mixture but none of the troughs made with hypertufa have survived for long. The problem is that they are very porous and in the winters the moisture contained within the walls freezes and thaws so often that they eventually fall apart. All the ones I have made with a sand cement mix have survived and in time take on a good surface of moss and lichens. To keep things very simple I use the ready mixed mortar that you can buy at any large DIY store and one 25 kg bag will make two of the size of trough I am demonstrating here.

Cement trough 5 Your mix should be wet enough so that it forms a shape when squeezed but not so wet that it flows down when you are trying to build up the sides. I start working with it on the dry side and add small amounts of water if it starts to crumble and not bind. The next stage is to hold your polystyrene 'drainage holes' in place as you surround them with the cement mix.

Cement trough 6 Then using these bits of polystyrene to act as a depth guide build up a base layer making sure that it extends out beyond the outer line you marked on the board.

Cement trough 7 Now position the box onto the base layer using the polystyrene drainage holes as a guide. If you are using the off cuts of polystyrene as described above they will not be thick enough to form the drainage hole all the way through so you will need to place a second piece on top of the first one at this stage and again surround it with cement making sure you work the cement in well to key into the base layer.

Cement trough 8 Work a layer of cement all over the base taking time to push it down through all the holes you punched earlier. The inside layer does not have to be quite as thick as the base layer and you can again use the top of the polystyrene drainage hole as a guide.

Cement trough 9 Now to the sides - you will notice that I cut the sides of this polystyrene box down a bit but I have left others at their full height to give a variety of depths to the finished trough. I place a trowel full of cement inside and one out side and work them simultaneously again paying particular attention to working the cement through the holes to key the layers together.

Cement trough10 Gradually work your way around the box building up the side until the polystyrene is completely covered; aim to get at least 1 to 2 cms of cement over the top of the sides.

Cement trough 11 Use both hands one inside and one outside to form the sides.

Cement trough 12 Once it is all covered you can start to smooth the base and trim off any excess from the inside of the sides - this excess can be added to the tops or worked onto the sides to form lumps which if done well add to the 'genuine' look of the finished trough.

Cement trough 13 Continue to work and shape the sides squeezing and moulding the shape until you get a finish that you think looks as if it was carved from stone rather than having been built up.

Cement trough 14 You can easily make some deep 'chisel' marks at this stage.

Cement trough 15 Now you cover the trough up and leave it over night to dry out a bit: here is one I did yesterday beside the new one.

Cement trough 16 Next day you can carefully slide a trowel under the trough to just release it from the board - if you are doing this in the winter it may take a few days to dry out enough to be moved.

Cement trough 17 Carefully slide the trough so that one side is sitting over the edge of the board.

Cement trough 18 This allows me to under cut the very obvious straight edge and do some more light carving to the sides as I think necessary.

Cement trough 19 After another day of hardening I rub the sides with a wire brush which removes the very grainy sandy texture and can also cut groves to mimic layers of strata in the stone. Some troughs I have finished by rubbing them with a smooth stone which gives a slightly different effect than the wire brush. That could be the finished trough now but I have one more refinement to make it even more realistic.

Cement trough 20 No stone is a single colour if you look carefully it is made up of many tones and hues so I now add a cement wash. As an artist who works in different media I buy my colours as dry ground pigments so I make up a very wet mixture of roughly 2 parts fine sifted sand to 1 part cement and I make small piles of pigments of the earth colours -ochre, sienna and umber. I dip my brush into the cement and then pick up a little pigment and stipple it on to the trough. As the cement of the trough has not fully cured the coloured wash binds into it as the lime crystals form and gives a subtle layer of colour to what I think is a pretty convincing 'stone' trough. As one bag of the mix costs less than ÂŁ4.00 and makes two troughs you can well afford to experiment.

Creating slate trough 1 Some of the troughs may be quite shallow but you do not need to worry about that as you can build up your planting as I have done here with this very shallow trough that was just free formed with some left over cement mix.

Creating slate trough 2 Standing old roofing slates on their ends creates a perfect crevice type garden that plants just love. I build it up slowly adding sharp sand as I go and watering it in so it penetrates all the way down the crevices.

Troughs at workshop This is a series of troughs that I produced at a recent workshop showing that you can build up your planting and even a tiny shallow trough can provide a very good home for alpines. I will show more pictures of the troughs and from the workshops in the bulb log feedback pages of the forum.

Crocus trough I have a number of troughs now ready for planting up which I will report on how I do that in future logs. I would love to be able to find a number of very compact bulbs that I can grow in a realistic fashion in one of these troughs. I can see no reason why the bulbs would not grow well as these troughs have built in 'cavity wall insulation' so the cold should not be too much of a problem. ^ back to the top ^

BULB LOG 41 -- 8th October 08 I have decided to do part two of the troughs this week : this is landscaping them.

Trough one

The first thing I always state when taking workshops on landscaping your trough is to make it look interesting before you put any plants into it and then it will look good with plants as well. You can see from this trough that I like to achieve some degree of height with my rock work. How often have you heard people say that they wish their garden was not flat - well when you are creating your trough landscape you are in charge. I hate to see a trough not filled to the rim and left flat because inevitably the compost will sink. You end up with a sunken garden so even after top dressing with gravel you end up with several centimetres of the inside edge showing.

Workshop troughs I will start by showing you two troughs I landscaped at a recent workshop to demonstrate some of my methods of creating both an interesting landscape and also to provide a good planting depth in what was originally a shallow trough.

Creating a landscape Another bit of advice I always give is to be bold and start with at least one large rock. In this case the rock is quite tall so I do not need to make a pile of compost I just fill the trough to a bit below the edge and bed the rock in. If I were using smaller rocks I would make a pile of compost as you will see below. The landscape that you create will depend on the type and shape of the stone you have available and in this case after placing my largest rock I now start to make a series of crevices leading up to a face.

Build up the height Continue to build up the height using the stones and at this stage I would now start to add more compost so it can get well worked in between the stones. The compost I favour for these crevice type plantings is two parts grit one part leaf mould and two parts loam in the base and then as I create the extra height I use a very gritty sand just mixed with a small amount of bone meal to add some nutrient. When I build these up at home I wash the sand down the cracks with water as I go but this was not possible at the workshop.

Shallow trough Now switching to an even shallower trough I am going to use old roofing slates to create my landscape and height - here I am just using sharp sand and bone meal. Having filled the trough with the sand I begin by standing some of the bigger bits of slate at an angle across the trough, leaving gaps of about one centimetre between them.

Angle some slates Then I set some smaller pieces at an angle to these to help support them adding more sand as I go.

Adding sand as you go Continue working around your trough adding more slate and washing sand in as you go until you are pleased with the effect. When you are watering the sand in watch how the water flows and, if it is running off too quickly in parts, add some extra small bits of slate to prevent this.

Slate Trough. Once I am happy with the landscape I can add some plants. The plants I use are always very small to start with perhaps just cuttings which depending on the time of year can root very quickly into the sand in the crevices.

One stone It is not necessary to have masses of stone to landscape smaller troughs like these and this one lump of sandstone when broken up with a hammer and chisel produces enough to landscape at least two or three troughs.

Boulder trough Even if you can just get small boulder shaped rocks you can still create very nice landscapes - in fact it is a good idea if you have a number of troughs not to landscape them all in the same way. When I use rounded stones I like to make a big pile of the loam based mixture in the trough and place my biggest stone on it.

Around the trough Another consideration when landscaping your trough is how it will be placed. If it is going to be against a wall then the back will not be seen so you take this into account when placing your first stones. If it is to be viewed from all sides then you need to make sure that there is all around interest with planting spaces. As you can see the trough above has a definite front but it is landscaped to look good from all sides.

New Zealand trough Here is another example of a landscaped trough ready to be planted with New Zealand alpine plants - I like to theme my troughs.

Granite trough This is a real stone trough which I made from an old granite paving slab. It has only a shallow cavity but I have provided the plants with extra depth by building up with the rocks. This one has been replanted several times over the last fifteen years or so but always with sedums and sempervivums which are stuck in as cuttings.

Saxifraga trough Another trough landscaped with red sandstone and planted with saxifrage cuttings about a month ago. All the cuttings have rooted and are now showing signs of growth. I will add additional pictures of our troughs to the forum in the coming weeks and I will cover more about planting them up now they are landscaped in a future bulb log but now it seems appropriate to review a new book on saxifrage that I have just received.

Saxifrages - Malcolm McGregor Sometimes when you hold an object it just feels good and you may think this is a strange thing to say about a book but that is exactly how I felt when I first picked up Malcolm McGregor 's book 'Saxifrages'. The cover picture, the layout of the text, the matt finish to the paper and, when you pick it up the solid weight of this book, all make it a pleasure to handle.

Well illustrated It is one thing looking and feeling good but what of the contents? On the first flick through I was impressed with the large number of quality illustrations and again the design and layout throughout the book matched the high expectation I had from the front cover.

Contents The list of subjects on the contents pages shows just how comprehensive a survey this is with chapters covering every aspect of saxifrages you might want to know, from the ecology, the habitats through the description and taxonomy of the species to how best to grow them in your garden. The author opens the book with an account of his early introduction to saxifrages taking us through his increasing interest in the genus as he travelled around the world to view them in their native habitat. I could not help being infected with some of his enthusiasm and like a good meal I finished this chapter wishing for more.

Taxonomy The next chapters give us a detailed over view of the Saxifrage Family explaining survival strategies, speciation and taxonomy in a very readable and understandable way.

History of cultivation The bulk of the book works its way through all the different sections describing and illustrating them extremely well. There are very detailed sections on the most popular cushion forming Porphyrion section which includes an exhaustive history of their popularity with alpine enthusiasts through the ages. The very useful and informative listing of hybrids old and new gives the parentage where known.

Mossy Species I remember being very taken with the Mossy Saxifrages that I saw growing in Tromso Botanic Garden so I was especially interested to read the section dealing with them and to see just how many species and cultivars there are. The picture of Saxifraga bourgaena growing by a road in Andalucia along with some of the other beautiful full page pictures of nature's rock gardens are in my view worth the cover cost of the book.

Hybrids I like the layout and design of this book. The lack of margins means that there is more space for the extensive number of pictures many of which have been carefully staged illustrating details or differences between the related plants. Towards the end is the section giving valuable advice on how to grow saxifrages in your own garden and just to help you further the author recommends 100 of the best garden saxifrages drawn from all the sections that should do well in most gardens. The final chapter 'On The Road Again' sees the author on one of his most recent trips to Morocco and completes the cycle linking nicely back to the opening travelogues and if I am not mistaken the headings of these chapters have a musical connection to the late sixties - very appropriate for Morocco. The only tiny criticism I could make is that when I was checking the accuracy of the index, which was good, I was annoyed to find that the page numbers are not on every page and at one point I had to turn 4 pages over to find out what page I was at. I have no doubt that this will be the definitive book to have on Saxifrages; I cannot see why you would need another. If you are an expert it will serve you well as a reference book. If like me you have had a passing interest in these fascinating plants then prepare to be drawn in by the author's enthusiasm and the beauty of the plants - I seem to have just acquired about 20 new ones as well as having a wants list. If you just want a good book then unusually for this type of monograph it is very readable with all the references to the history, the geography and the people behind the plants.

Published by Timber Press and priced at ÂŁ35 this book is available from the SRGC and many other sources. ^ back to the top ^


----- Bulb

Log Diary -----

Pictures and text © Ian Young

BULB LOG 46 …….........................….18th November 2009

Troughs In this week’s Bulb Log I have decided to give an update on the progress of the troughs that I made and planted last year see Bulb Logs 3808 and 4108. Above is a picture taken earlier this year of part of our trough area.

Red sandstone crevice trough The picture on the left is of a newly planted cement covered fish box trough where I have used a red sandstone to create a series of small crevices. When I planted this trough I just pulled cuttings from a number of saxifrages that we had already growing - some had a bit of root and others had no roots at all and I stuck them into the pure gritty sand that I used as compost. Every single one of them has rooted and grown well as you can see in the right hand picture taken today. The cement of the trough has started to weather nicely and matches the colour of the sandstone very well and there is the just the first signs that moss and lichens are growing on the cement.

Saxifraga trough I hate to see labels in our garden and they look even worse in a trough so I use this method of laying the labels out when I plant and taking a digital picture for keeping a record of the names.

Saxifraga trough I have used a pale sandstone for landscaping this trough and again I have shown how it looked in the spring (left) and on the right is how it looks today showing how the plants have progressed. One of the many good points about this type and size of trough is that I can move them around to different positions. Why would you want to do that? Well it means that I can give them good sunshine in the spring then move them into a shaded position for the summer to prevent the cushions that are susceptible to scorch from being damaged.

Sandstone trough This is another saxifrage trough that I landscaped with more of the red sandstone . To remind you I used just a gritty sand as compost to both fill the trough and trickle down between the stone crevices. The only supplement that I have added was some bone meal which I sprinkled into the planting hole before planting the small bare rooted plants.

Here again are comparative pictures of this trough taken in flower in the spring and how it looks today.

Saxifraga 'Allendale Bravo' did particularly well while Saxifraga 'Allendale Desire’ to be seen as the brown patch in the centre left of the trough has all but died off.

Campanula trough While many plants enjoy and thrive in our cool moist climate I struggle with many of the alpine Campanulas so I decided to try some again in this trough. I landscaped it with chunks of a limestone marl, which is like a hard tufa, and again used only sharp sand as compost.

Campanula trough The comparative pictures above show that while most of them got off to a good start a number did not survive our ‘summer’ weather. I will just have to settle for the tougher ones that seem happy and still have a few flowers on.

Concrete Trough While I am pleased with how all this series of troughs I made have turned out I am particularly pleased with this one which is not only made from cement mortar mix over polystyrene but all the ‘rocks’ used for landscaping are broken up concrete blocks. I was very inspired by the way recycled materials were used in an alpine garden setting on a visit to Utrecht Botanic Garden a number of years ago.

Concrete Trough This trough is planted with a single silver saxifrage plant that was big enough when I bought it in an 8cm pot to be pulled apart and make up all the plants you see above.

Granite Trough The next two pictures are of a granite trough that I carved out of a 200 year old paving slab salvaged from an Aberdeen street where they were lifting the granite paving and replacing it with concrete slabs!!!! The above picture was taken in the spring.

I have continued the recycling theme by using old roofing slates to create the raised crevice landscape that the plants so enjoy. As you can see in today’s picture the plants have grown well and are now shutting down for the winter but they will continue to look good.

New Zealand Trough in the spring

New Zealand Trough today This trough is planted up with New Zealand plants and I keep it at the front of our house where it has a northern exposure. The plants are growing well but so is the liverwort which is one of the main problems with many of our troughs. To try and combat it I top dressed the exposed compost with moss but this has not been the answer.

Trough top dressed with moss This is another example of a trough top dressed with moss to try and keep down the liverwort and it does work to a degree. One thing that does inhibit liverwort is covering it over which kills the growth but it does not stop it coming back again. Moisture loving cushion and mat forming plants also enjoy rooting into the moss.

Liverwort fruiting bodies This little forest is a macro photograph of the liverwort’s fruiting bodies which produce masses of spores to colonise any suitable ground they will fall on as they drift in the wind.

Liverwort splash pots You have to wonder at the efficiency of this plant in reproducing itself because not only will it produce spores but the surface is covered in small ‘splash pots’ each of which contain numerous miniature plants. When it rains and a rain drop hits one of these splash pots the plantlets are splashed out to colonise where they fall.

Liverwort on seed pots The gravel top dressing on the seed pots seems to be the perfect habitat for the liverwort which is a real pest to control once it gets hold. The only way I know is to remove it physically which I have done a few times this year already but with so much rain the plantlets from the splash pots were spread everywhere and regenerate almost as quickly as I can remove the blanket of liverwort.

Moss and Lichen on rocks The moss and lichens that grow on the rocks that make up some of the raised beds in our garden show just how cool and damp our weather is in the summer – so it is not surprising that liverworts also thrive.

Rhodohypoxis Troughs Although I did not show you at the time I moved all our troughs of Rhodohypoxis under glass in early October to allow them to dry off before we get hard frosts. I have been thinking about planting one of this series of small landscaped troughs with a mixture of bulbous plants. I would like to achieve all year round flowering and interest so the plant selection will be a problem. I need small bulbs that will fit in with the modest scale of the trough and that can cope with all the vagaries of our weather.

Snow on the Troughs Although we have not had any snow yet the ideal cover for the troughs through the winter is snow. Next weeks Bulb Log will be back in the bulb house where lots of Narcissus buds are appearing.


----- Bulb

Log Diary -----

Pictures and text © Ian Young

BULB LOG 22....................................3rd June 2015

Trough gardening is one of my passions, it is so accessible that everyone can do it; even if you have no garden surely there is a door step where you could have a small trough garden to tend and enjoy? I have not done a full count of how many we have but I know it is well over 50 - each having its own character and environment. I was asked by the Television programme ‘The Beechgrove Garden’ to go back and work on the polystyrene troughs that I first made for them many years ago as the painted surface has eroded over the years exposing areas of the white polystyrene. This time I showed my more permanent cement-coated fish box troughs that I described in Bulb log 38 of 2008 . I also used the larger salmon-sized fish box which is approximately 750mm x 400mm

I landscaped the Beechgrove trough using some old broken concrete and cement that I found at the back of their garden which was already covered in moss giving a very established appearance. I always like to have at least one large rock to anchor the landscape and help build up the height well above the rim of the trough.

The trough itself has only been made for a month and was stored undercover so it still looks very new however now it is planted and exposed to the elements it will soon start to weather, taking on a more natural look.

After making the large one for the Beechgrove I decided I needed to make one for myself; in fact I made two. My style of landscaping is creating an environment that will suit alpine type plants - a well-drained rocky one. Many people fill the trough to within a few inches of the rim forming their planting area which stops there; with my style the planting opportunity starts at the rim and goes upwards. High landscaping brings many advantages - firstly it adds around 50 percent more volume to the planting medium which in my case is pure sharp sand. This height also adds aspects so you have North, South, East and West sides. A flat planted trough, like a solar panel, absorbs maximum heat from the sun resulting in maximum evaporation of moisture; with the piled up version the sun cannot hit the entire surface at the same time so the evaporation rate is greatly reduced. Plants that like hot and dry conditions can be planted near the top while those that require cooler moist conditions are placed near the rim on the shady side. I like to take time and rarely plant up a trough immediately I finish the landscaping, preferring to ensure that the rock work looks effective in itself – the plants can then be added to further enhance and complete the picture. Many times I plant up using very small cuttings or even by scattering seed so that I can enjoy the whole process of the plants’ growth and establishment. Like most of my recent rock landscaping, I have landscaped these using old broken concrete. I hate seeing plant labels spoiling the look of a trough so I avoid this need by taking photographs of the planted trough with the plant labels laid out so they can be read in the full sized image - this then becomes my record.

My interest is in creating environments within the troughs - observing and enjoying the processes of nature, watching how the plants fare, whether they grow or die. I can learn from that experience using it to inform future projects. This small trough has a single lump of limestone marl that almost fills it I then simply scattered seeds of the lovely Erinus alpinus onto the rock imitating how I have often seen this plant growing, beautifully compact, on walls. It took around three or four years for the seedlings to reach flowering size and then shed their own seeds so it became a self-regenerating habitat that only needed the occasional watering in dry spells. This is the second version the first trough was made about 30 years ago using a hyper-tufa mix which fell apart after repeated frosts leading me to wonder why on earth would you put peat into a cement mix for making troughs anyway? Since them I only ever use a sand cement mix for making all my troughs and have had no more such losses. The trough above is the second version using the same lump of limestone. Last year I used another old trough that I made 30 years ago, left, to recreate the same effect but this time I am using a lump of concrete block that I have roughed up sufficiently to disguise its origins as well as creating cracks and crevices for the plants to get a hold. I planted a few seedlings around the base and will assist the distribution of seeds over the ‘rock cliff’ as they ripen.

Part of the success of the original ‘rock cliff’ can be attributed to the growth of moss that first colonised areas of the rock, this then provided a suitable habitat for the Erinus to seed into – you can see in this detail the many seedlings growing in the moss. This is precisely the process I will enjoy watching develop in the concrete block version.

It does not take very long before mosses start to colonise the broken concrete blocks as some of the troughs I planted up a few years ago show. In many instances I have the dilemma of deciding how much to let it grow as I do not want the rocks to be hidden completely by either the moss or the plants. The cushion forming moss in the foreground looks particularity attractive as well as providing a wonderful moist seed bed.

Another detail from a trough shows how beneficial the moss growth is to other plants and not just seeds. The Androsace delavayi is growing best and choosing to migrate from the crevice where I planted it onto the moss covering the concrete. Young plants of Saxifraga brunonis, placed by the runners, thrive best when they land on the moss. Just like with any garden a trough planting that will grow unaided into perpetuity is a rare thing - most will deteriorate or require intervention in time. This one dates to about 2008 when I landscaped it using red sandstone, planting it up with saxifrages. I have done nothing except the occasional watering with dilute liquid feeds. I was fascinated watching the liverworts invade through the winter months then in the spring when the saxifrages were growing strongly they reclaimed the territory they had lost and so this cycle repeated itself every year.

Now I have decided it is time for me to rework this trough. It is fascinating to see how the liverworts actually help break down the sandstone rocks causing them to crumble. I have placed all the saxifrages into a sand bed and will give them liquid feeds to help them grow well before I reuse them in another trough or raised bed. If they do grow well I will take cuttings in August to root over the winter.

One trough that requires little attention except to prevent the sedum taking over completely is this one I carved out of an old granite paving slab, landscaped to create plenty of height surmounted by a feature rock then planted it with a Sempervivum and a Sedum, the Campanula seeded itself.

Sempervivums are wonderful in troughs and are as easy as the name Sempervivum = ever living, suggests. I bought these recently at a local supermarket chain as a special offer of six and planted some into this small freeformed trough landscaped with broken concrete. I pulled some rosettes off from around the edge of the plants, most with a bit of root, but these plants are so easy that all rosettes will soon grow new roots. When I got the plants they were quite plump and wellnourished but now they are growing in this more Spartan environment they will become smaller, forming tighter groupings.

Another experiment I made using recycled materials was this trough where I used broken concrete paving slabs to make an extreme crevice environment in which to grow Ramondas. It is not one of the most attractive troughs from the landscaping point of view but the plants love it and have grown extremely well diverting the eye away from the still bare slabs. Unlike the broken concrete blocks I use these slabs are made from a very dense form of concrete that prevents moisture penetrating so mosses do not grow on these so well. Back to some of the smaller cement -covered fish box troughs landscaped with broken concrete that are now in year three or four since planting. As well as the mosses and plants covering the landscaped concrete you can also see a healthy growth of lichens and mosses on the sides of the troughs making them look just like real stone.

I just love seeing these miniature landscaped environments which when isolated in a photograph look just like pictures I have taken in the wild, excepting the plants I use do not always grow together in the wild.

The troughs also have different aspects; here is the west side of same trough that was in the previous picture.

The east side and below is the view looking down on the trough in situ. The beauty of these smaller troughs which are around 400mm x 300mm, weighing in at 20-30kgs fully planted, is that I can move them around.

Here two sides of another trough of the same size and age with Potentilla pulvinaris in flower.

Another selected landscape from a trough landscaped using limestone marl over twenty years ago.

One of the longest plantings in a trough is this one completely filled with Saxifraga cochlearis minor. You may wonder what the white balls covering the foliage are – well it is the result of one of the hail storms we have been having this week, so heavy they caused lightening. Originally I planted a number of saxifrages in this trough but over the years but one has dominated and now covers the 700mm x 300mm planting area.

This is among the first troughs that I landscaped with broken concrete or cement - I created a crevice landscape using broken cement salvaged when the neighbours had the builders in. I planted it with an encrusted saxifrage that would not object to any lime that may leech out but nature soon showed that the plants do not care and will grow happily in cement based rocks when the Dactylorhiza purpurella selfseeded in among the silver rosettes.

Dactylorhiza purpurella growing happily through a silver saxifrage in a cement landscaped environment. The Beechgrove Garden TV programme showing the making, landscaping and planting of the trough will be aired first on BBC 2 Scotland on Thursday 11th June and is repeated across the BBC 2 network on Sunday 14th…………


----- Bulb

Log Diary -----

Pictures and text © Ian Young

BULB LOG 24….................................17thJune 2015

The feedback that I have had since my recent musings on troughs, both here and on the BBC, has further reinforced my belief in the attraction of this from of gardening. They seem to appeal right across the board from the young to the old appealing, to non-gardeners as well as experienced growers all want to try out this from of creating landscapes and growing plants. As a result I am again devoting this week’s Bulb Log to looking at some more of our many troughs. I view each trough not as a miniature garden but as a mini environment, or more correctly a small landscape containing a number of micro environments. A flat landscaped trough has but one aspect - mounding up and landscaping high immediately expands that to multiple aspects. Our troughs represent forty years and as a result display all stages of a trough from newly planted, to mature then into old age and decline (much like the gardeners!). The oldest surviving trough plantings we have are established thirty years now but these are exceptional, ironically they are landscaped on the flat before I developed my favoured style of building up, their success is down to the plants in them. Two are dominated by Dianthus alpinus and small forms of Primula marginata, one has the addition of a tiny Hebe and the other has been colonised by self –sown Dactylorhiza along with Oxalis laciniata. The third and oldest was originally planted up with several saxifrages however one, Saxifraga cochlearis minor, has completely taken over covering the entire metre long trough. Following on this lesson from nature I have planted up some troughs with just a single species only to watch other plants choosing to be included by selfseeding in – often growing through each other forming a community. This showed me that if I create suitable environments plants will establish themselves and this has been a favoured method – I first build a landscape then slowly introduce plants, usually as small cuttings or even seed, then enjoy watching the natural progress.

Miniature troughs made of cement landscaped with concrete. Early cement trough made in wooden mould.

Cement coated fish box troughs landscaped with limestone marl.

Granite trough carved from Victorian paving slab with slate landscape. Cement-coated fish box with sandstone.

Cement-coated fish box trough landscaped with concrete. Cement trough moulded using cardboard boxes.

Two more granite troughs I carved from Victorian paving slabs.

Cement trough formed in wooden mould; NZ plants. Cement-covered fish box; landscape of limestone marl.

Sandstone trough landscaped using limestone marl.

Cement-covered fish box volcanic rock.

Cement-covered fish box troughs the one on the left landscaped with broken cement and planted with a single silver saxifrage, the Orchid sowed itself. On the right an old, tired planting between the small rounded granite stones may get rejuvenated or I may just sow some seeds and see what takes.

Sandstone trough with limestone landscape: this one has been waiting a few years to be planted. A group of troughs with some of the bonsai trees complement each other

Cement trough moulded using cardboard boxes.

Granite paving slab trough

Two of the oldest plantings

Cement trough full of Iris.

Polystyrene trough shared by Sanguinaria canadense and Galanthus nivalis.

Large troughs or raised slab beds made by bolting paving slabs together – granite troughs in foreground.

Slab bed with Edrianthus serpyllifolius in full bloom.

I am still happy with this landscaping but the planting is getting tired and I will re work it preserving the best of what is there and introducing a few new plants.

I reworked this slab bed a few years ago adding broken concrete to the granite to help raise up the right hand side.

Sandstone trough taken over by a saxifrage.

Cardboard box moulded cement trough; limestone landscape.

Cement-covered fish box with granite stone and a small cement trough landscaped high with roofing slates.

Cardboard box moulded cement trough

Polystyrene fish box covered in cement waiting to be landscaped. Old trough we bought thirty five years ago.

We bought this lovely moulded trough thirty plus years ago it is planted with two dwarf conifers. Group of old trough:s the front two are planted with Rhodohpoxis and get lifted into a bulb house for the winter.

Cement-covered fish boxes, one landscaped with roofing slates the other with broken concrete.

Two recent troughs landscaped with broken concrete the one on the right has not been fully planted yet.

Cement covered fish boxes, the left hand one was planted up using unrooted saxifrage cuttings over a year ago the other was planted recently using some saxifrage plants I bought.

Old cement troughs I made using wooden moulds. All these are landscaped using broken concrete block.

Cement-covered polystyrene fish boxes.

Cement-covered polystyrene fish boxes.

Cement-covered polystyrene (Styrofoam) fish boxes.

Cement-covered polystyrene fish box.

Sand-covered polystyrene box.

A polystyrene fish box makes an ideal box for cuttings I used to just paint them but regular usage caused the paint to erode allowing the white to show through so I now paint them with waterproof PVA glue which is coated with fine dry sand, I apply three layers of this allowing each to dry first – this is much more durable.

Miniature trough, 24cm across, landscaped and planted with cuttings in 2008. I hope that these images give you some ideas to try out for yourself, as you can see if you create a good landscape the trough will always look good not matter what you grow, one of those above I never got round to planting up and has not much more than liverwort and mosses growing in it . However when you do combine a good landscape with good plantings the effect can be so rewarding and you can move them around – it is the ultimate in mobile gardening.

This picture sums up my method of creating an environment that plants are happy in. I sowed seed of Edrianthus serpyllifolius in this slab bed a number of years ago and now it self- seeds around even growing through some of the saxifrage mats………………