Saturday, 11 April 2015

Narcissus 'Beersheba'

'Beersheba' on Thursday - just a hint of creaminess remains in the trumpet.
One of my annual pleasures is to have a vase of Narcissus 'Beersheba' on my desk for a few days each spring, enabling me to be distracted easily by its beauty. It was introduced by the Rev George H Engleheart in 1923 and very quickly became popular, as the first all-white trumpet daffodil of its size. Although an 'old' daffodil it is not small, reaching 12 cm across these flowers, and with the potential to be bigger if they were grown in rich conditions - but this is plenty big enough for me. Despite its size it remains elegant, with enough 'movement' in the corolla to avoid stiffness, and the narrow trumpet expands into a nice flange at its mouth. Bowles described this as having the outline of a Convolvulus flower, though I don't see it, but his observation that the corolla lobes form two perfect triangles is perfectly true.

It is a great shame that this beauty is not easy to obtain, with the crass 'Ice Follies' or lumpish 'Mount Hood' being the standard white daffodils of commerce. No source is listed for 'Beersheba' in The RHS Plant Finder 2014, but it's offered by Croft 16  Daffodils in the UK, and by Old House Gardens in the United States, so it can be acquired - and I very much recommend its acquisition.

The play of light within the flowers is wonderful: pure white by today.

Early morning in the garden, 6/4/15. The flowers open with a pale lemon trumpet, but it quickly fades to ivory then pure white.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Rhododendron species portraits from Ray Wood, 6 April

Rhododendron calophytum

R. mucronulatum

R. fulvum 'Windlesham White'

R. piercei

R. pocophorum var. hemidartum Rock 11179

R. temenium var. gilvum 'Cruachan'

R. lanatoides KW 5971

R. diphrocalyx

R. barbatum: the Blue Tits have discovered that this species (and R. mallotum, also with red flowers) contains nectar , which they drink from the flowers. In perching on the truss, however, they damage the flowers, and sometimes rip them apart.

R. meddianum Forrest 24104

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A wet day in Maidenhead

Magnolia 'Star Wars' at its best - the buds burst but not blowsy.
I was at my parents' in Maidenhead on Sunday, and although it was an unpleasant wet day their garden was looking nice, with lots of interesting and attractive plants in flower. Here are a few pics.

Self-sown primroses of the sibthorpii persuasion in the front garden.

Recycled hyacinths by the pond

Asarum maximum in the cold greenhouse where it gets very little attention, but obviously thrives on it. 

A fine pot of jonquils, but the label is missing: Narcissus henriquesii, or N. cordubensis, I think.

A melange of plants on the conservatory bench: Impatiens sodenii in the centre.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

University of Leicester Botanic Garden - an unexpected gem

Formal garden with traditional (immaculate) box hedging and spring bedding.
With a colleague I attended a Plant Network meeting on Friday, at the University of Leicester Botanic Garden. Had I been pushed I might have recalled that there is a botanic garden in Leicester, but it would seem to be effectively unknown in the horticultural world. This is a pity, because it is actually rather interesting, as well as being attractive and very well maintained.

The garden occupies the grounds of four large Edwardian mansions built in the English Domestic Revival style, purchased after the war by the University of Leicester for use as student residences, which must have been very pleasant for those lucky enough to live in them. The grounds, totalling 16 acres, became the botanic garden in 1947 and the characters of the original gardens are retained. It is certainly not a traditional botanic garden, though rather more than a park: there are family beds, greenhouses, medicinal plants and herbs, etc, but also a rather attractive formal water garden and sunken garden as well as wide lawns. Sadly we didn't have time to see it in its entirety, but it's only a few miles off the M1 and it would be worth going back in summer to see the National Plant Collection of hardy fuchsias in flower, for example.

We were shown round by the Director, Prof Richard Gornall, who also curates the garden amid a busy academic career.

The Knoll is one of the mansions whose grounds now form the botanic garden.

There is a good collection of conifers: this is the rare Cypriot endemic Cedrus brevifolia, looking very well.

Although with an unfortunate lean caused by previous shading, this is the national champion Pinus aristata (Bristlecone Pine), standing 9 m tall.

A number of interesting plants from the Balearic Islands are grown in the alpine house: this is Senecio rodriguezii.

Prof Gornall's long-term research interest has been in the genus Saxifraga. Also flowering in the alpine house was this S. wendelboi, from Iran.

Secure behind locked doors in the research greenhouse is this collection of wild-origin clones of Japanese Knotweed. Funnily enough they are mostly too tender to survive an English winter: the clone that is such a menace is exceptional. Amazingly, the same (and only) clone is found throughout Europe, parts of North America and Australia: it was introduced by Philipp von Siebold from Japan in 1825.

The last remnants of the Crocus display. LUBG holds 'Crocus Sundays' in season.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

48 hours in Ireland

The flowers of Chrysosplenium macrophyllum contrast with and are complimented by the reddish foliage.

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum is perhaps a little too happy on the banks of the Hunting Brook! The bright green foliage by the stream is the native C. oppositifolium.

Spring comes to Hunting Brook Gardens, Co. Wicklow - the first wave in a season-long shift in colour and interest, through this bed, as planned by Jimi Blake, Proprietor (visible in red). The upright stems are the fabulous and rare Aralia echinocaulis, one of the garden's signature plants, and probably the largest stand of it outside China..

A rare gleam of sunlight on an otherwise overcast and chilly weekend falls on Helleborus x ashwoodensis 'Briar Rose'.

The delicate-seeming but easily-grown Ypsilandra tibetica, which has a lovely strong scent reminiscent of marzipan.

A charming combination at  Mount Venus Nursery. It is surprising how seldom one sees Pachyphragma macrophyllum.

Jimi Blake and I had a happy prowl round the remarkable Mount Venus Nursery, just outside Dublin. It offers a tremendous range of good perennials, many of which are hard to find elsewhere. Not the best time to survey the selection, perhaps, but we were charmed by this corner, with rustic columns, Borinda and mossy stones - the latter being the most important aspect.

This morning ewe went to Kilmacurragh, the National Botanic Garden of Ireland's country estate in Wicklow. Wild-type Crocus vernus has been naturalised in the lawns there for centuries, and has outlasted the house, now in a sadly derelict state. At least the Office of Public Works is going to re-roof it this year to prevent further deterioration.
Kilmacurragh was actively gardened by generations of the Acton family, who in the 1850s received young plants of Joseph Hooker's Rhododendron introductions from Sikkim: Seamus O'Brien, Curator, admires a Hooker R. grande.

Now actively gardened by Seamus, Kilmacurragh is again a vibrant place. This is his new Monkey-puzzle avenue, with 36 pairs of trees.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

A good gardening day

Eranthis Tubergenii Group 'Guinea Gold' is the last to open here and perhaps the most spectacular.

A really productive session working on the main border. A big clump of Nepeta was edited out.

Today has been the first decent day of the year - far better than decent actually - very lovely. Warm and sunny, with the Curlews, Lapwings and Skylarks in voice all round, and the flowers wide open - pure pleasure to be outside and working in the garden. Shirt sleeves, and tea outside too - though I don't suppose winter has completely receded yet. However, with these temperatures the snowdrops and crocuses are going over fast, so this will be the last weekend to see a good show from them.

Narcissus 'Bowles' Early Sulphur'

Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles'

Galanthus nivalis 'Susan Grimshaw' is just getting going, unfurling its large flowers for the first time today.

The (mostly) Crocus Bed, where I grow selections that I'm observing or bulking up.

This 4x4 white one turned up in one of my submissions to the RHS Crocus Trial a few years ago: it's rather good. It must've been an unflowered seedling in the clump I dug corms from.

I was not the only one enjoying the crocuses today.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A damp day at Colesbourne Park

Cyclamen coum with Galanthus 'S. Arnott'. The Cyclamen have been spreading well now for about ten years, enjoying the thin, short turf.

The reasonable weather of Saturday turned on Sunday to leaden skies; cold heavy rain began before lunchtime. It was an unfortunate day to be visiting Colesbourne Park, but it was pre-planned and my only chance this season. Despite the rain it was lovely to be back and top se how the garden continues to develop..

Several people have said that Colesbourne is looking better than ever this year and so it is. In a wild garden of this kind, where plants are left to multiply and spread, or are spread deliberately, it's inevitable that the show gets better. The single snowdrop of three or five years ago is now a robust clump, and the aconites, crocuses and cyclamen have had that time to produce annual seed crops and abundant seedlings. Trees and shrubs develop too, and there's a real pleasure seeing trees I grew from seed now reaching 5-6 m in height and fruiting themselves, making a significant contribution to the landscape.  In the more formal area of the garden, around the house, my successor Chris Horsfall has made some lovely colourful plantings, blending other bulbs with snowdrops and foliage plants, that give great pleasure. Here are some pictures that I hope give an impression of this great winter garden.

Galanthus nivalis in the wood near the entrance. There were no snowdrops here twenty years ago!

The Spring Garden, with 'S. Arnott' and 'James Backhouse' in profusion.

The original inverse poculiform snowdrop, G. plicatus 'Trym', planted in the grass in the hope that its genes will pass to seedlings.
Planted by Chris Horsfall, the virescent G. elwesii 'Margaret Biddulph' and G. nivalis 'Pusey Green Tips' with winter aconites and the wonderful Corydalis temuliflora 'Chocolate Stars'

G. plicatus 'Seraph' is a distinctively shaped poculiform.

My 'Spring Bling' bed is developing nicely.