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Introduction to the genus Saxifraga



The genus Saxifraga is very extensive, comprising a wide range of perennial plants, many of which are alpines. They are found throughout the greater part of the temperate and sub-arctic zones of the northern hemispheres with outposts in places such as Ethiopia, Mexico and the Arctic.

S.'Francesco Redi'

S. 'Francesco Redi'

There are some 480 known species, many of which are well worth growing and numerous garden hybrids. The three main sections that are of garden interest are: the "mossies" (botanically section Saxifraga), the "silvers" (section Ligulatae) and the Kabschia and Engleria subsections (section Porphyrion). Other attractive plants come from other sections, such as London Pride, from section Gymnopera.

A major attraction for many gardeners is that the plants are not only diverse in themselves but also come from a variety of habitats such as exposed mountains and moist woodlands - some are "easy", others "difficult". Many growers share an interest in showing their plants at the main shows held around the country by the A.G.S., S.R.G.C. and R.H.S..

Saxifrages make extremely good show plants, being beautiful both in foliage and flower. The many Kabschia and Engleria cultivars are particularly popular due to their great diversity and beauty. Several plantsmen have devoted themselves over the last hundered years to the cultivation of these marvellous plants. Their dedication has extended our knowledge and made the enjoyment we receive possible. John Brack Boyd in the 1890's raised s.x boydii, the first Kabschia garden hybrid. Franz Sundermann at his nursery at Lindau in Bavaria introduced many splendid plants. Russell Prichard introduced from the Riverslea Nursery some of the most beautiful Saxifrages ever seen.

S.'Iced Cream'
S. 'Iced Cream'

We must not forget the redoubtable Reginald Farrer who was inspired by the jewel-like qualities of the Alpine Saxifrages he observed high on the wild peaks. His writings have moved generations of readers by their descriptive brilliance and passion. We also owe a debt to Winton Harding whose A.G.S. Guide to Saxifrages must be on the bookshelf of every serious alpine gardener.

We must also pay tribute to Lincoln Foster, who bred some outstanding plants in America during the 1960's. Finally, lovers of Saxifrages owe a huge debt to Dr.Radvan Horny who, with Karel Webr and other Czech experts, made an incalculable contribution to the understanding and appreciation of these plants, by bringing order out of the chaos of names.

 


 

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