This is dryas octopetala. It’s a plant of the high Arctic and forms a large mat of small green leaves and woody stems, never rising much above ground level. With me, it spreads rapidly – rather too rapidly for my limited space, in fact – but is easily kept within bounds by cutting back the branches which have got into the wrong place, and it does not seem to mind a severe pruning. Apparently, it’s quite hard to reproduce from seed, so it may be worth trying to establish any of the prunings that turn out to have roots. It’s good ground cover, but these delicate white flowers are its real charm. That, and the curious seed heads:
These start by winding themselves into a tight spiral, as you see, and then explode into a sort of fluffy ball. I’m not a huge fan of seed heads on the whole, but I love these ones.
This remains a small, delicate plant, but, like all its tribe, seeds itself everywhere. It’s ideal for establishing a bit of blue in a rock garden (blue’s curiously rare among June alpines), but you do need to keep an eye open for the seedlings, and move them before their tap roots go so deep that you are bound to damage them if you lift them.
Here’s one of my favourites: edrianthus pumilio
This is a very small, creeping plant, fairly hardy, though short lived, and much more delicate in its habit than the dwarf campanulas, which it slightly resembles. It dies back completely in winter and looks totally dead until about April, then pushes out its strappy leaves followed by a mass of flowers. Unfortunately, slugs seem to regard the flowers as a delicacy, and they need to be protected as soon as the buds emerge if you want to have any left.
Finally, an encrusted saxifage s. ‘White Hills‘:
There are many cultivars and hybrids of s.cochlearis and s.paniculata but, for my money, this is one of the best. There’s a tendency to breed encrusted saxifrages with huge, spectactular flower stems, but in my conditions they just fall over and look silly, so I prefer the rather less dramatic types that just get on with producing a mass of properly proportioned flowers. Even when they are not flowering, the crackly, silvery-grey rosettes look great – much better than the house leek tribe which many people seem to favour.