Daphne ‘Spring Beauty’ is indeed a beauty and scented too. An evergreen shrub hybridised in the 1820’s it has a mass of flowers in a terminal cluster. Purple in bud, opening a lighter shade of pink and when open a heavy powerful scent fills the air around and about. Enjoying an open situation Daphne will flower reliably from an early age. Choose a permanent position as they do dislike being transplanted. Ideally sheltered from drying winds and too bright summer sunshine, in soil that drains well.
Aipyanthus pulchra was growing in association with Daphne, Pulsatilla, Scabiosa in grassland when collected on Mt Kazbegi in Georgia at 2298 metres. Found throughout the Caucasus and western Asia it is a low growing herb with leaves and stems covered by the finest of hairs.
The flowers make the plant noticeable, bright yellow terminal clusters, the petals blotched with a dab of black. Despite the strength of this black pigment in the petal it fades to oblivion as the days pass.
Thriving in the cultivated beds of the rock garden it prefers a stony free draining root zone and winter cover from excessive damp is advisable. This protects the rootstock and clump forming centre. If in doubt about survival take root cuttings in the early winter.
A late flowering, ground hugging evergreen member of the sweet scented genera Daphne; Daphne blagayana is just now opening its spear shaped buds.
Terminal sulphur yellow flower buds turn frosty white as they open up. Under a hand lens the crinkly iced surface of the corolla tube is evident. Enclosed within are the flower parts, anthers, laden with pollen are held at two stages within the tube. Whereas the stigma is buried deep at the base of the corolla. A reliable plant to flower when in a well drained alkaline soil in partial shade.
A native of the Balkans where, legend has it, Count Blagay was instrumental in the naming of this then new species, in Slovenia in 1837.
With the sun on the petals this Paeonia coriacea is seen at its best. Each herbaceous shoot bestowed with flower. A native to Morocco where it was collected from a valley slope of limestone, west of the Rif Mountains at 1495m. An area of high rainfall it associates with Cedrus atlantica, Taxus baccata, Daphne sp., and Berberis sp.
The pink petals surround an explosion of yellow anthers interspersed with three pink styles appended atop their stigma; resembling the two sections of a scallop. The stigma is curled as a shepherds crook loosing this delicate shape during maturity. Similarly; as the days progress the colour drains from the petals leaving the pollen shed from the anthers visible.
A strong plant reaching 1m in height and similar spread. Just now standing unsupported. As with most Peonies it will splay apart as the growing season progresses. Ideally, a discreet support framework should be in place before this happens.
Continual snow cover since 18th December until 15th January; cold desiccating winds and low temperatures. The 100mm soil minimum reached -13.7oc on 24th December. The air temperature recorded below zero from 1st December 2009 until 10th January, with the exception of Tuesday 15th December when we recorded +0.1oc. These factors combined to make life very difficult for evergreens. With frozen soil around the roots these plants could not take up soil moisture to replace that lost through transpiration. The evapotranspiration rate during periods of cold winds is high and the following plants illustrate damage that has occurred at the Garden this winter.
Two plants with thicker leathery leaves that did not appreciate the cold were the Kadsura japonica at the bridge in the rock garden and the well established Gordonia in the M beds. Both have severe discolouration to the leaves.
Nearby are patches of Bergenia which have “gone flat” with the cold. The normally messy clumps of evergreen leaves almost looked tidy as they reduced their surface area and flopped.
The tightly rolled leaf bud spires of Lysichiton americanus show burnt tops; these will rapidly grow out of this damage as only the outer sheath bears the brunt of the cold damage.
Surprisingly the two metre tall woody Phygelius ‘African Queen’ has remained green to the tip of its fresh soft shoots. Nearby, last seasons growth on Penstemon c.v. is browned.
In the south facing borders at the front range Callistemon citrinus ‘Splendens’ has desiccated growth, yet still gives off it’s citric odour. Erica caffra from the Cape resembles a Christmas tree on twelfth night having dropped 50% of its needles due to the cold. The east facing border with the Crinum collection is a mass of mush, the leaves having turned prematurely to compost.
Plants are resilient, don’t be tempted to grub out or prune cold damaged vegetation until rising temperatures and a more benign climate returns as spring arrives. A mention of spring must include the scented pink blooms of Daphne bholua standing sentinel in the corner of the sunken courtyard to the north of the Front Range. Always a positive sign of better things to come.
Various forms of Daphne bholua are planted throughout the Garden. The earliest to flower is towering up 5 metres from the sheltered courtyard to the north of the Glasshouses Front Range. Carefully lean over the railings and breathe in the heavy scent exuding from this plant. The flower clusters terminate last year’s growth, a light violet in bud, opening white.
This plant is native to the Eastern Himalayan mountain range and is found as an understory plant beneath Tsuga dumosa forest, with evergreen Magnolia and Quercus sp. The image shows a plant with white flowers in November on the road from Dochula, Bhutan at c.2900m where views to the snow capped summits of the Himalayan peaks border Tibet. As with cultivated specimens, the evergreen leaves have a chlorotic appearance to the edges which are prone to curl in on themselves.
The flower colour within the species is variable and the plant growing to the west of the Orchids & Cycads glasshouse is very lightly shaded pink in bud. From a distance, the overall appearance is of a mass of white bloom. This plant is one of the seedlings collected at an altitude of c.3000m by Peter Smithers on the Daman Ridge, Nepal.
Another collection from Eastern Nepal, growing at a slightly higher elevation c.3200m, was made by Spring-Smyth, who was an officer in the Gurkha regiment. His find was given the cultivar name ‘Gurkha’. Differing from the evergreen type species this cultivar flowers on deciduous wood. ‘Gurkha’ has fusty purple pointed buds. These elongate and emerge from a sheath of sepals as terminal clusters on the previous year’s growth. This growth is highly polished wood pitted by leaf scars. A good specimen grows in the south-facing border adjacent to the Alpine House. Again, as if to prove the variation within the species, this has an overall deep pink appearance and an upright form of growth.
Avoid standing or walking on cultivated soil when appreciating these plants. Constant foot traffic over cultivated areas will result in compaction and loss of pore space in the root zone resulting in a reduction in vigour of the plants.