|Laura and Chris in Lilliput|
Our daughter, Laura, regularly did the sitting thing on it but always just plonked herself on the floor if we placed her behind it in an attempt to get her to walk.Then one day she suddenly got the idea, hauled herself to her feet and gave us a beatific smile as she clung to the handle. So far so good. Her weight caused it to move and this wasn't something that had figured in her plan of action. Standing was one thing, forward motion was a totally new ball game which expressed itself in the expressions which flickered across her face.
It was a fairly long lounge and she'd started at one end. The first couple of steps were a tentative victory, transformed into a self-congratulating smile, then the thing gained momentum as she continued to cling to it, gathering speed until little legs became a blur. Learning to run before you can walk was a fact of life for Laura. The smile faded and her eyes widened as, mouth open in a silent scream, she shot along the room at increasing speed until the sofa proved an effective barrier from her bursting through the wall into the garden. At this point the scream became anything but silent and the police were probably inundated with calls about a murder taking place.
As a child, Laura knew how to stick up for herself, although the correctness of when to do it was sometimes questionable. My wife was chair of the school governors and, on one occasion, a meeting was taking place in our living room. The discussion had turned to something about her form teacher:
"Better be careful what you say", my wife whispered, "Laura sometimes listens at the door"
"I DO NOT!!", came a loud indignant voice from outside the door. Something in this statement struck even her as incongruous, and she departed tearfully to the top bunk she should have already been in - the top bunk she got headaches in due to - as her mother had informed her (and Laura firmly believed)- altitude sickness. My suggestion of asking Santa for an oxygen mask for Christmas was receiving serious consideration.
|Alpine House Holehird Gardens|
|Poor Man's Alpine House|
In order to be able to grow the more sensitive of these subjects, it is necessary to do what nature does on the mountains - create a protective snow cover in the form of the alpine house. Quite simply, this is an unheated greenhouse. At its best, the benches or floor have a thick layer of gritty growing medium which is suitable for sinking pots in, making it seem they are growing there naturally. Another school of thought simply displays the plants in their pots. There is no right and wrong but the former method enables the creativity of gardening, while the latter has the more limited enjoyment of just growing plants. Cold frames are a good adjunct to the alpine house: plants can be grown to flowering point in the frames, then brought in to display under glass, giving the house colourful ongoing interest.
|Tufa Wall at Harlow Carr Gardens|
I've seen a single chunks of tufa positioned on a twelve inch pot and planted with seventeen alpines at the Harrogate Spring Show. This raises the philosophical point that you don't even need a garden to practise the art. Many a forty foot square plot has not got as much variety.
A big attraction of the alpine house is that it doesn't need heating, cancelling out a few big bills. This fact has been the undoing of many a budget-conscious gardener: he or she sees the economic sense of growing alpines in this way and dangles a toe in the water. Jaws is waiting, and the unsuspecting horticulturist is dragged into the deep waters of an addiction which relegates heroin dependancy to the level of chocaholism. Many is the besotted gardener who disappears into the alpine house never to be seen again, leaving a lonely partner to eventually succumb to the charms of the milkman or double glazing salesperson. For such a marriage to be termed as 'on the rocks' would seem particularly appropriate.