Rockfoil (Saxifraga) - This genus includes perhaps more true alpine flowers than any other. In the Arctic circle, in the highest alpine regions, on the arid mountains of S. and E. Europe and N. Africa, and throughout the length and breadth of Europe and of N. Asia, they are found in many interesting varieties of form and color.

Descriptions of Major Saxifraga Groups

Mossy Saxifraga Group

One might expect rockfoils to be as difficult of cultivation as most alpine plants, but they are the easiest to grow of all. The most ordinary form is the Mossy or hypnoides section, of which there are many kinds in cultivation. They are admirable for the fresh green hue with which they clothe rocks and banks in winter.

Silver Saxifraga Group

Next to these we may place the very extensive silvery group. These have their greyish leathery leaves margined with dots of white, so as to give to the whole a silvery character. This group is represented by such kinds as S. aizoon and the great pyramidal-flowering S. cotyledon of the Alps.

London Pride Saxifraga Group

The London Pride section is another of some beauty, the plants thriving under ordinary conditions in lowland gardens, and soon naturalising themselves in lowland woods and copses.

Purple Saxifraga Group

The most brilliant are the purple Saxifrage (S. oppositifolia) group and its near allies. Here we have tufts of splendid color in spring with dwarfness and perfect hardiness. The large leathery leaved group, of which the Siberian S. crassifolia is best known, is also of much importance, the plants thriving in ordinary soil and on the level ground.

Caring for Rockfoils

Such of the smaller and rarer alpine species as require any particular attention should be planted in moist sandy loam mingled with grit and broken stone, and made very firm. Very dwarf and rather slow-growing kinds, like S. caesia and S. aretioides, should be surrounded by half-buried pieces of stone, to prevent their being trampled on or overrun. Stone will also help to preserve the ground in a moist healthy condition in the dry season, when the plants are most likely to suffer. Very dry winds in spring sometimes have a bad effect when such precautions are not taken.

Rockfoil Varieties

The following are among the most important cultivated kinds, though the list excludes many species that are difficult to grow or to procure, and which are found only in very full collections.

Saxifraga Aizoides

Saxifraga Aizoides - A native plant, very abundant in Scotland, the north of England, and some parts of Ireland, and generally found in wet places and by the sides of mountain rills or streams. At the end of summer or in autumn it has an abundance of flowers, 1/2 inch across, bright yellow (including to orange in the form aurantiaca) dotted with red towards the base. Although a mountain plant, it is easy to grow in lowland gardens in moist ground. Division.

Saxifraga Aizoon

Saxifraga Aizoon - A good rock, border, and edging plant. Plants established for two or three years form grey-silvery tufts, which do not flower so freely as the wild plants, but this need not be regretted, as it is the silvery mass, and not the flowers, that is sought. There is a host of named varieties. S. a. balcana, pink spotted, and S. a. rosea, are very desirable forms. Division in spring.

Saxifraga Andrewsi

Saxifraga Andrewsi - Among the green-leaved Saxifrages there is no better kind than this. Its flowers are freely produced, prettily spotted, and larger than those of S. umbrosa. The plant is finer in the rock garden than London Pride, grows as freely on any border soil, and merely requires to be replanted occasionally, when it spreads into very large tufts, or to have a dressing of fine light compost sprinkled over it annually. A distinct variety, Guthrieana, is from the Pyrenees.

Saxifraga Apiculata

Saxifraga Apiculata - Apart from these there are other varieties showing minor differences of leaf and times of flowering. Recently, and almost simultaneously, in different collections pure white sports of these apiculata forms have appeared, differing in no wise except the color of the flowers. Of easy culture, free growth and flowering, they are welcome additions.

Saxifraga Aretioides

Saxifraga Aretioides - A real gem of the encrusted section, forming cushions of silvery rosettes about 1/2 inch high. It has rich golden-yellow flowers in April, on stems a little more than 1 inch high, which remind one of the flowers of Aretia vitalliana. S. aretioides require a moist and well-drained soil, and, being so tiny, must be protected from coarser neighbors. There is a pretty form of it with pale yellow flowers called primulina. It is a rarity and a great improvement on the type. Seed and careful division. Pyrenees.

Saxifraga Biflora

Saxifraga Biflora - A dwarf kind coming near S. oppositifolia, but larger in growth and in its rosy flowers, fading to violet and clustered loosely in twos and threes. It grows in the loose, moist grit of the alpine ice-fields, flowering as soon as the snow melts in June.

Saxifraga Boydii

Saxifraga Boydii - A presumed hybrid of burseriana and aretioides, and one of the most beautiful of yellow-flowered Saxifrages. It is, indeed, only eclipsed by Faldonside, the queen of the yellow-flowered set, which occurred as a seedling from the original S. Boydii. Of the two, Faldonside is the least exacting in its requirements. Both should be grown in gritty, well-drained loam, and are readily increased by means of cuttings. The plant known as S. Boydii alba, while very desirable, has nothing in common with the others named. All were raised by Mr James Boyd of Melrose.

Saxifraga Burseriana

Saxifraga Burseriana - None of the Rockfoils surpasses S. Burseriana in vernal beauty. The blossoms are borne singly on slender red stalks, which rise 2 or 3 inches above the silvery tufts, and are pure white, the margins of the overlapping petals elegantly frilled or crisped. They appear freely in January and February. S. Burseriana soon forms good-sized tufts in the open border or in the rock garden, but prefers a dry sunny situation and calcareous soil. All lovers of hardy spring flowers should possess it. There are two or three distinct forms which differ from each other chiefly in habit or time of flower. Readily increased by cuttings in the spring. Austrian Alps.

Saxifraga Bursiculata

Saxifraga Bursiculata - A beautiful hybrid of burseriana major and apiculata, raised by Mr. E. H. Jenkins of Hampton Hill, and probably the purest white-flowered sort in cultivation. The large flowers are in clusters as in apiculata, and supported on stout erect stems. Vigorous and free growing and of easy culture, it is one of the most desirable of these plants. Flowers in March.

Saxifraga Caesia

Saxifraga Caesia - Resembles an Androsace in the neatness of its tufts. On the Alps it covers the rocks and stones like a silvery moss, and on level ground, where it has some depth of soil, develops into beautiful little cushions 2 to 6 inches across. It has pretty white flowers in summer on smooth thread-like stems, 1 to 3 inches high. Though a native of the high Alps and Pyrenees, it thrives in our gardens in very firm sandy soil, if fully exposed and well watered in summer.

Saxifraga Caespitosa

Saxifraga Caespitosa - A dwarf kind forming a dense carpet arranged in neat tufts and studded in summer with white blossoms. It succeeds in almost any situation in any garden soil, is useful for margins to herbaceous borders, and makes a beautiful covering for moist banks. It is one of the most variable of Saxifrages, its most distinct form being purpurea, with rosy flowers.

Saxifraga Ciliata

Saxifraga Ciliata - A deciduous kind. One of the broad-leaved or Megasea section, with large broad leaves covered with soft hair, and carried on creeping stems. The flower-stems are 6 to 9 inches high, and bear numerous large flesh-colored flowers in spring. A native of N. India, S. ciliata is suitable for open-air culture in the south of England only, but is so handsome and distinct that it should be tried wherever it can be grown. A sheltered nook in the rock garden, partially shaded, suits it best.

Saxifraga Cochlearis

Saxifraga Cochlearis - Among summer-flowering Saxifrages none is more desirable than this graceful, easily-grown species from the Maritime Alps. The pure white flowers issue in elegant sprays from silvery rosettes, and reach 9 inches high. There are several forms of the plant, the most charming being S. c. minor, which in gardens does duty for S. valdensis. It forms dense hillocks of hoary rosettes, the dainty sprays of white flowers appearing in June. A good crevice plant and excellent for rock walls. Both succeed well in loam and old mortar rubble.

Saxifraga Cordifolia

Saxifraga Cordifolia - A Siberian plant differing in aspect from the ordinary dwarf Rockfoils, having ample heart-shaped evergreen leaves on long and thick stalks. Its clear rose-colored flowers in early spring are arranged in dense masses, and half concealed among the great leaves, as if hiding from the cutting breath of March. S. cordifolia and its varieties flower in any soil and position. These Saxifrages are perhaps more fitted for association with the larger spring flowers and herbaceous plants than dwarf alpines, and may be naturalised on banks, in wild sunny parts of the pleasure ground, or by wood walks. They may also be used with effect near cascades, or on rough rock or root work, or on the rocky margins of streams or artificial water; in fact, they are the fine-foliaged plants of the rocks. There are several handsome varieties of S. cordifolia, the finest of all the group being one called purpurea. No plant is handsomer or more imposing when in flower, or affords a greater leaf-beauty in autumn and winter.

Pyramidal Saxifrage

Pyramidal Saxifrage (Saxifraga Cotyledon) - This embellishes with its great silvery rosettes and elegant pyramids of white flowers many parts of the great mountain ranges of Europe, from the Pyrenees to Lapland. It is the largest of the cultivated Saxifrages, and also the finest, except S. longifolia, the linear leaves of which it does not possess. There is considerable difference in the size of the rosettes, which when grown in tufts are generally much smaller than in isolated specimens. The flower-stem varies from 6 to 30 inches high, and about London, in common soil, often reaches 20 inches. In cultivation the plant usually attains a greater size than on its native rocks.

Saxifraga Crassifolia

Saxifraga Crassifolia - A well-known Siberian species of the Megasea section, with large broad evergreen leaves. The flowers rise from the terminal shoots in showy pendent masses, and are pale rose with a suspicion of lilac. The plant fulfils the same purposes as S. cordifolia, but is dwarf and not so ornamental.

Saxifraga Cymbalaria

Saxifraga Cymbalaria - Little tufts of this Rockfoil form in early spring masses of bright yellow flowers set in light green, glossy, ivy-like leaves, the whole not above 3 inches high. Instead of fading, it preserves its little rounded pyramids of golden flowers until autumn, when it is about 12 inches high. It is an annual or biennial, sows itself abundantly, and is suitable for moist spots on or near the rock garden or on level ground, and in large pleasure grounds is readily naturalised on the margins of a rocky stream and elsewhere.

Saxifraga Delavayi

Saxifraga Delavayi - A recent addition to the broad-leaved or Megasea Rockfoils, and probably the most brilliant flowered of them all. Quite hardy, too, and an evergreen assuming rich leaf coloring in autumn and winter, it is of value for these reasons also. The flowering scapes are a foot high or thereabouts, the drooping flowers in handsome umbels of richest wine-red on opening, though paling somewhat later. In general aspect, vigour, and refinement it is about midway between crassifolia and cordifolia purpurea, and a most desirable kind. It is happiest in cool loam and leaf-soil with exposure, though not the least fastidious. March-April. China.

Saxifraga Dr Ramsey

Saxifraga Dr Ramsey - Said to be a hybrid of S. cochlearis and S. longifolia, this excellent kind may be likened in habit to a small compact growing S. cotyledon form. A most genially-disposed plant and an indispensable. Flowers fragrant, pure white copiously spotted with pink, and produced in elegant sprays 6 to 8 inches high. Flowers in June; readily increased by offsets.

Saxifraga Elizabethae

Saxifraga Elizabethae - A garden cross of fine habit, with soft yellow flowers on red stems, early in spring. It grows quickly and is quite one of the best early kinds. There are several forms-seedlings probably-of this plant, varying slightly in flower and habit, though more particularly in time of flowering, the later-flowered ones being of distinct value. Those known as Godseffi and Mrs Leng are not far removed from Elizabethae. All have yellow flowers, are easily grown, and may be increased freely by cuttings or division in spring.

Saxifraga Fortunei

Saxifraga Fortunei - Has large panicles of white blossoms which rise in profusion from rosettes of dark green rounded leaves. It is a desirable plant, for it flowers in autumn and is not particular as to treatment.

Meadow Saxifraga

Meadow Saxifraga (Saxifraga Granulata) - A lowland plant, with several small scaly bulbs in a crown at the root, and numerous white flowers three-quarters of an inch across. It is common in meadows and banks in England, its double form being very handsome; also useful as a border plant in the spring garden or in the rougher parts of the rock garden.

Saxifraga Grisebachii

Saxifraga Grisebachii - A little gem, with early flowers unfolding slowly from a crimson bud, and very distinct in their crimson-purple color. It is quite a new plant, from Albania, and at certain stages not unlike a small form of S. longifolia, but at other seasons plainly a very different plant. It is without doubt the most remarkable of the red-flowered Rockfoils, and an attractive garden plant withal. It forms rosettes of silvery leaves 2 to 3 inches across, from which issue leafy, glandular, brilliant-colored stems terminated by a nodding inflorescence of reddish-crimson flowers. No species of the genus is of greater ornament or more worthy of specialisation by the gardener. Quite happy in gritty loam in sunny well-drained spots. Colonies of it in the rock garden are very effective. Easily raised from seeds, which are freely produced in those instances where artificial pollination is resorted to. The plants should be given dry conditions meanwhile. Macedonia.

Saxifraga Haagei

Saxifraga Haagei - Said to be a hybrid of sancta and Ferdinandi Coburgi, this is unique among golden-flowered Saxifrages, and the most prodigal to bloom of the whole race. Of carpeting habit and the easiest culture, revelling in cool loamy soil with full exposure, it is a plant of indescribable beauty and utility. Flowers in March and April.

Mossy Rockfoil

Mossy Rockfoil (Saxifraga Muscoides) - A beautiful little plant, forming a dense bright-green cushion-like tuft. There are several forms of it, one of the best being atro-purpurea, which produces a dense mass of deep red-purple blossoms on stalks a few inches high. Other forms bear yellowish or rosy flowers, the best being S. Rhei, with large bright pink flowers, borne very freely on long stalks, and Guildford Seedling, a new kind, with large crimson-purple flowers of fine effect. The varieties pygmaea and crocea are pretty, also the allied kinds, S. exarata, S. pedemontana, S. aromatica, and a few others; they grow in almost any soil.

Saxifraga Irvingi

Saxifraga Irvingi - A pretty hybrid kind which originated at Kew in 1909, S. burseriana macrantha and S. Frederici-Augusti being the parents. In effect it is a tiny pale pink form of the first-named parent, the whole plant less than 2 inches high. It flowers with remarkable freedom, and has already become popular. S. Kewensis is of the same parentage and appeared at the same time, the hybrid leaning strongly to the red-flowered parent-a rather interesting fact. Both are of easy cultivation in gritty loam.

Juniper Rockfoil

Juniper Rockfoil (Saxifraga Juniperifolia) - From the Caucasus, and probably the shyest flowering member of the genus. Leaves deep green, spiny tipped, the rosettes arranged in cushion-like tufts, not in mat-like masses, as in S. sancta, with which it is often confused. The flowers are yellow and are produced in clusters on inch-high stems in spring. The plant grows well in strong cool loam, and may be increased by division or by cuttings.

Nepaul Rockfoil

Nepaul Rockfoil (Saxifraga Ligulata) - This has broadly obovate leaves, bearing flowers in small cymose panicles. The flowers are white, with a rosy tint towards the margin of the petals and crimson anthers. Its early growth renders it tender, and repeated injury is fatal. It should therefore have shelter and a little shade. The varieties rubra and speciosa, particularly the latter, are finer than the type, and thysanoides bears pale flowers. S. ligulata may be associated with others of the Megasea section.

Saxifraga Lingulata

Saxifraga Lingulata - A charming plant from the Maritime Alps, characterised by very long linear leaves with a conspicuously encrusted margin. The flowers are of the purest white, and are produced in elegant sprays in May and June. S. l. lantoscana is a form of this species, easily distinguished by its short, blunt, spathulate leaves and arching racemes of white flowers, the latter closely arranged on the upper surface of the inflorescence. The twain are most desirable and of the highest ornament. Loamy soil with a third old mortar rubble or pounded brick suits them well. Division and seed.

Saxifraga Longifolia

Saxifraga Longifolia - This Pyrenean plant has single rosettes often 6, 7, and 8 inches in diameter. Its greyish leathery leaves are beautifully dotted with white on the margins, and in early summer it pushes up fox-brushlike columns of white flowers from 1 to 2 feet long, the stems covered with short, stiff, gland-tipped hairs. It is perfectly hardy, and may be grown in various ways. In some perpendicular chink of a rock garden, where it can root deeply, it is very striking when the long outer leaves of the rosette spread away from the densely-packed centre. It may also be grown on the face of an old wall by carefully packing a small plant of it into a chink with a little soil. The stiff leaves will, when they roll out, adhere firmly to the wall in the form of a large silver star. S. longifolia will thrive on a raised bed or border if surrounded by a few stones to prevent evaporation and injury. Increase is by seeds, which should be sown as soon as ripe. As the species perishes after flowering, it is necessary to raise it from seeds periodically.

Saxifraga Maweana

Saxifraga Maweana - A handsome species of the caespitosa section, and larger than any other in foliage and flowers. The latter, about the size of a shilling, form dense white masses in early summer. After flowering this species forms buds on the stems, which remain dormant till the following spring. Though rare it is of easy culture. Similar, but finer, is S Wallacei, which is far more robust, earlier, and freer as regards flowering, but which does not develop buds during summer.

Mossy Rockfoil

Mossy Rockfoil (Saxifraga Muscoides) - A beautiful little plant, forming a dense bright-green cushion-like tuft. There are several forms of it, one of the best being atro-purpurea, which produces a dense mass of deep red-purple blossoms on stalks a few inches high. Other forms bear yellowish or rosy flowers, the best being S. Rhei, with large bright pink flowers, borne very freely on long stalks, and Guildford Seedling, a new kind, with large crimson-purple flowers of fine effect. The varieties pygmaea and crocea are pretty, also the allied kinds, S. exarata, S. pedemontana, S. aromatica, and a few others; they grow in almost any soil.

Saxifraga Mossy Hybrids

Saxifraga Mossy Hybrids - These are great garden gains, the brilliant patches of color they afford in the nature of a revelation. They have descended chiefly probably from Muscoides atro-purpurea, Rhei, Guildford Seedling, and the bolder-growing decipiens, and are welcome additions to a great race. Bakeri, Clibrani, Fergusoni, an early-flowering form of Guildford Seedling, and sanguinea superba, are of dwarf habit of growth and richly colored flowers, the last of rich velvety crimson, the most brilliant of them all. None are more desirable or effective when freely massed. Bathoniensis and decipiens grandiflora are bolder growing, plus a little coarseness also, and attain 9 inches or more high. They have large rich red colored flowers. All are easily grown in cool, moist soil, and may be increased at will, every rosette making a plant if pricked out in moist sandy soil in a cold frame.

Saxifraga Paulinae

Saxifraga Paulinae - A cushion sort of gemlike habit of growth, and one of the easiest to cultivate. Yellow-flowered and with rosettes of pronounced glaucous leaves, it is quite distinct from all. Quite happy and free in gritty loam, and flowering abundantly in April.

Saxifraga Peltata

Saxifraga Peltata - The shield-like leaves of S. peltata make it unique among Saxifrages, and on this account some have classed it apart under the name Peltiphyllum. From a thick fleshy root-stock rise stout erect leaf-stalks to a height of 3 or 4 feet, where they are terminated by target-like leaves 18 inches or more in diameter. The white or pale pink flowers appear in spring, a little before the leaves, on stalks 1 to 2 feet high, and in loose clusters 3 to 6 inches in diameter. It is found beside streamlets and also in woods throughout the Sierra Nevada of California, and is best in deep, moist, loamy soil. Division or seeds.

Saxifraga Purpurascens

Saxifraga Purpurascens - A brilliant member of the Megasea section. The stem is 12 to 16 inches high, and the flowers are produced in pendent masses of red and purple. The ample foliage takes on charming autumn tints in purple and crimson. Succeeds best in a moist peaty soil in a rather sheltered spot. Himalayas.

Saxifraga Sancta

Saxifraga Sancta - A beautiful species, forming a dense mass of deep green foliage, studded in early spring with bright yellow blossoms on short stems. It grows freely in any position in the rock garden, but needs moisture and free exposure to flower well.

Mother of Thousands

Mother of Thousands (Saxifraga Sarmentosa) - A well-known plant, with roundish leaves and numbers of slender runners spreading Strawberry fashion. It grows freely in the dry air of a sitting-room, and may often be seen in cottage windows, but is most at home running wild in the cool greenhouse or conservatory, where it flowers during summer. In mild parts of England it lives in the open air, and may be used with Ferns and other creeping plants. There is a pretty but rather delicate form in which the leaves are finely variegated with yellow and crimson. China.

Saxifraga Stracheyi

Saxifraga Stracheyi - A strong-growing plant of the Megasea section, with leaves nearly as broad as long. Its flowers, produced on broad branching panicles, are of a light pink with a shade of lilac. It is hardier than its closest ally, S. ciliata, blooms in March, and should be sheltered against bleak winds. It is suited for borders and rock gardens.

Saxifraga Tenella

Saxifraga Tenella - A handsome plant, forming tufts of delicate fine-leaved branches, 4 or 5 inches high, which root as they grow. The flowers, which appear in summer, are numerous, whitish-yellow, and arranged in a loose panicle. Similar in growth are S. aspera, S. bryoides, S. sedoides, S. Seguieri, S. stelleriana, and S. tricuspidata, all suitable for clothing the bare parts of the rock garden and slopes, but require moist soil and cool positions. Division in spring or the end of summer.

London Pride

London Pride (Saxifraga Umbrosa) - This is abundant on the mountains round Killarney, and has long been grown in our gardens. It is naturalised in several parts of England, and grows freely in dwarf herbage or in rocky parts of woods.

Rochel's Rockfoil

Rochels Rockfoil (Saxifraga Rocheliana) - A compact and dwarf kind, forming dense mounds of silvery rosettes of tongue-shaped leaves with white margins and distinct dots. In spring appear large white flowers on sturdy little stems. There is no more exquisite plant for the rock garden, pans, and for small rocky or elevated borders. Any free, moist loam suits it, and in London it thrives on borders exposed to the full sun. Austria.

A Very Diverse Genus of Plants

The Saxifrages, or Rockfoils, are such an enormous genus of plants in the northern and temperate world, and so many species in gardens have lately been added to, in the shape of numerous hybrids, that for these and various reasons it is impossible that any garden, generally speaking, could grow so many kinds. As the best and rarer kinds can only be grown in rock gardens, their shortness of bloom excluding them from the flower garden, the result is that only a limited number can be grown with profit.

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