Despite their reputation, alpines are surprisingly easy to grow even for first-time gardeners
Mix John Innes No 1 compost with a multi-purpose compost 50/50. Add a little grit to help drainage. Make sure the trough has plenty of holes in the bottom. If using a sink with only one hole put a layer of gravel in the base at least an inch deep, more if you have room, to allow water to seep away. Place a layer between gravel and compost, e.g. an old towel. With shallow troughs, use old crocks over the drainage holes to allow water to escape.
Use compatible varieties of alpines, with similar growth rates and soil preferences. Aim for year-round colour. Add some dwarf bulbs but not varieties that become too leafy once flowering has finished. Cyclamen coum and C. hederifolium are ideal. Choose mostly evergreen varieties with contrasting foliage for year-round interest.
With alpines, use rocks (as lumps or slices) to create a small rocky landscape. Top dressing helps to keep compost moist in summer and suppresses weeds. Use fine gravel or grit to complement any rocks. Rinse gravel well, as sediment can mark plants.