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Rebuilding alpine troughs 1

Rebuilding Alpine Troughs

May 28, 2024

Alpine troughs are vessels that provide a haven to plants that prefer the rocky cliffside of mountains. To replicate this condition of sharp drainage, we use a mixture of perlite, grit, sand and peat. The trough itself binds together pieces of earth mined, transported, reconstituted and brought together by human hands. The goal is to invoke the qualities of tufa, a calcareous and porous rock. This is why troughs are often called hypertufa. Many gardeners have found success in this practice of replicating nature in their garden to grow alpine plants.

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Pictured: Wave Hill staff in the 1990s planting alpine troughs.
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At Wave Hill, alpine troughs are part of our garden’s identity. First created in the 1970s by Founding Director of Horticulture Marco Polo Stufano and staff, he shares the inspiration for this display, "having seen this sort of thing in England, specifically at the Edinburgh Botanical Garden, I thought that'd be a great thing for us to do...we always thought that this is something that people could do, not on their fire escape it'd be too heavy, but on their roof.”

Troughs were crafted by Wave Hill Gardeners also in 1999 and 2011. Now in 2024 for the fourth time.

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Pictured: Wave Hill Alpine House Gardener Sandra Schaller, Director of Horticulture Cathy Deutsch and trough-making extraordinaire Alfredo.

Starting in February 2024, Wave Hill Alpine House Gardener Sandra Schaller, Director of Horticulture Cathy Deutsch and Associate Director of Horticulture Steven Conaway jump-started the project to remake 24 troughs. This is a long process that will take over a year.

Sandy plans to have many more troughs made before she introduces the new ones onto the Alpine House Terrace. Director of Horticulture Cathy Deutsch shares, “A sequencing plan is required to optimize the health of our plant collections. We plan to remove conifers now that have outgrown their trough and plant them in the ground. We plant alpines in the spring for best root development. The troughs will be in a transition phase for a while, but we expect to have the new ones installed and planted in spring 2025.”

Stay tuned for more updates on this project!