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Alpine Plants of North America: An Encyclopedia of Mountain Flowers from the Rockies to Alaskaby Graham Nicholls
What is an alpine plant? In the strictest botanical sense it is any plant that grows above the tree line in subalpine and alpine zones in mountainous regions. Owing to the harsh conditions that exist in arctic areas like Alaska, not all alpinelike, treeless habitats are mountainous. Furthermore, a large number of plants that grow below the tree line are just as attractive and as suitable for growing in an alpine or rock garden as the true alpines; such plants may come from habitats ranging from woodland to desert. Even though some can be fairly tall it is generally accepted that to be classed as an alpine plant in the horticultural sense they have to be small, no taller than 30-40 cm (12-15 3/4 in.) high. Although many plants I describe in this book orginate in true alpine areas, others are alpines only in the horticultural sense. Those in the horticultural category can be just as difficult to cultivate successfully as the true alpine plant because of the conditions (such as high light levels and the type of rock in the soil) that exist in their natural habitat. Most plants I discuss in theis book do grow at least a few thousand feet above sea level, but as I point out in the Introduction, a wide range of factors govern the growth of alpine plants.
I have been growing alpines from all parts of the world for over 40 years, but my first trip to the western United States in 1982 sold me on western alpines. Cultivating these wonderful plants has become part of my life ever since. I exhibit them at Alpine Garden Society shows, which means they have to be cultivated to a high standard. In attempting to meet these standards I have learned propagation and growing techniques not available in many books. In addition, since I am a nursery, specializing in North American alpines, I have been able to study and grow many more genera than I otherwise would have.
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