Sep 302014
 
Begonia 'Non Stop Yellow'

Begonia ‘Non Stop Yellow’

Begonia 'Non Stop Yellow'

Begonia ‘Non Stop Yellow’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two entrance borders to the Palm House were filled with the tuberous Begonia ‘Non Stop Yellow’ in May. True to their name these plants have provided continuous colour throughout the summer and autumn season. Still in full bloom they will soon be remove to make way for winter bedding, so admire while you are able.

Sown and then grown as plugs these compact plants produce multitudes of flowers, single and double of varying forms. As they fade each bloom naturally drops, taking away the task of deadheading.

Begonia 'Non Stop Yellow'

Begonia ‘Non Stop Yellow’

Begonia 'Non Stop Yellow'

Begonia ‘Non Stop Yellow’

Aug 042014
 
Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

Today marks the 100 year anniversary since this date in August 1914 when Britain entered what was to become the First World War. As a tribute to all those who fell during the war RBGE sowed a poppy field on the front lawn. We are pleased to see the red petals of the Corn Poppy, Papaver rhoeas, reflecting this sombre moment in time.

Preparation for this display started in 2013 with timed sowings of Poppy seed to gauge the optimum sow date to ensure flowering at the start of August, we are of course weather dependant as no two consecutive growing seasons will replicate climatic conditions. We also had to take into account the much shorter growing season resulting from a later sowing as traditionally Poppies in a cornfield would germinate the previous autumn or from late March with spring sown wheat, in this case an extra 7 or 8 weeks of growing, allowing them to flower above the sheaves of grain. Native to Eurasia and North Africa the poppy is associated with agriculture and probably spread with the transport and sale of seed crops. Loving sun, the crooked neck of the flower stem will straighten with the bud opening to flower for one day as the sun shines.

In early May we marked out the area, lifted the turf, rotovating and power harrowing to create a tilth. In mid-May we were joined by veterans from Poppy Scotland who helped sow the seed. The seeds are small, round and black in colour, about 10,000 per gram. They are long lived in the soil, germinating when soil is disturbed as in agriculture or more poignantly on battlefields.

This area of the garden was established during 1968 when the front range glasshouses were completed and the area of lawn to the south of these graded and seeded. As you would expect of an area that has been down to turf for almost five decades many seeds, in addition to the cornfield annual mix we sowed, germinated once the soil was disturbed through cultivation. The most prolific of these weed seeds to germinate being Shepherds Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, with its characteristic seed pods. Fast growing it rapidly exceeded the height of the Cornflowers and if not removed would, as it ripened, give a brown sheen to the area. In addition to exploding and adding to the seed bank in the soil.

We used a mixture of native cornfield annuals to complement the Poppy; Cornflower, Centaurea cyanus; Corn Marigold, Glebionis segetum; Mayweed, Triplospermum inodorum. This mixture extends the flowering season as Poppies flower for a couple of weeks at most. It also draws in pollinating insects and will later act as a host to seed eating birds.

In France the Cornflower or “Bluet” is used on Remembrance Day. The French soldiers of the First World War known as les bleuets from their grey/blue uniforms, the flower of the same name is used to remember them.

Many staff members from the Garden volunteered for service; some returning, some did not.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914, 110 staff worked at the Garden of whom one fifth were women. Of the men, 73 joined the Forces. Twenty men lost their lives, mostly in Flanders or Gallipoli.

The War Service Roll indicates that one RBGE staff member was killed in 1914; nine men fell in 1915, two in 1916, three in 1917 and five in 1918.

There are three interpretive plaques in the vicinity of the poppy field, one detailing what happened at RBGE during WW1; the story of the men who fought from the Garden especially David Hume who died three weeks into the start of the war; how Poppies became symbols of remembrance.
The Regius Keeper of the day, Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour, decided to commemorate some of the staff who lost their lives by naming plants in their honour.
Roscoea humeana for Private David Hume, killed 26th August 1914, Flanders.
Buddleja fallowiana for Sergeant George Fallow died 19th August 1915 from wounds received at Gallipoli.
Syringa adamiana for Private Thomas Adam, killed 16th May 1915 at Flanders.
Primula menziesiana for Private Alan Menzies, killed at Loos, 25th September 1915.

In addition there is a memorial tablet, unveiled in 1925, set on the wall in the Herbarium reception area as a lasting testimony to the members of staff who sacrificed their lives in the Great War.

In the library foyer the display cabinet holds an exhibition; “The Garden at War 1914 – 1918”. A wealth of information and artefacts collated by Leonie Paterson, the archives librarian.

Apr 292014
 
Beech hedge

Beech hedge

 

Maintenance

Maintain a weed free root zone.
Water establishing plants in a prolonged dry spell.
Only cut when the bird nesting season is over.

Forming the shape
Initial pruning should be with sharp secateurs. As the hedge thickens use hand shears. When the shape is formed electric or petrol hedge trimmers. It goes without saying that all blades should be sharp and clean. Sap builds up and dries on blades, this then results in a poor cut.
Showing up as shredded cut ends that brown off in the wind.

Straight sides and an even flat top are the easiest to cut.
If you let the hedge grow above 1.8m tall then consider tapering the top to a point. This allows cutting from the ground, saving time and effort with a ladder.
At the end of the day you are the one looking at the hedge, the shape you form it is your choice.

Deciding on ultimate height
What do you want to screen? From where?
Sit in the garden and decide on your sight lines to block out undesirable views.

When to cut
Evergreens in very early spring; deciduous species when dormant.
Never during the nesting season. Avoid cutting during freezing conditions.

How to cut
Stay firmly on the ground cutting as much as possible. Once you go above ground level onto steps stability becomes an issue and the propensity for an accident increases.
Always make sure steps are well grounded and do not stretch to reach and cut the last section; move the steps. We don’t all have access to a mobile elevated work platform!

Apr 092014
 

Holly windbreak and cut as hedge on right a

When does a hedge become a windbreak? The attached image illustrates Ilex growing in the Garden. As a windbreak the plants are left to grow, gaining not just height but spread also. An increase in width, annually encroaching into the surrounding planting, if not curtailed will smother out desirable plantings. On a regular cycle these gigantic Holly’s are pruned back ruthlessly, always re-growing to shelter the garden and its collection. As a hedge we cut the Holly once a year, composting the clippings.

Feb 252014
 
Iris unguicularis ssp. cretensis 19750060A 1 popup

Iris unguicularis ssp. cretensis 19750060A

Continuing from last weeks post with the theme of flowers requiring warmth to release their scent is Iris unguicularis ssp. cretensis. A delightful compact species with, at bud stage, tightly rolled petals. Unfurling a dominant blue reveal yellow splashes of colour with net vein lines on the falls resembling a peacock feather in miniature. A native of Crete and areas of Greece where it is baked by the intense sunlight.

In the garden, growing at the base of a conifer where the soil is dry and moisture from rainfall hard to come by.Iris unguicularis ssp. cretensis Here the rhizomatous root system manages to imbibe and store enough water to throw out fresh growth of the narrowest pencil thin foliage and produce a crop of flowers annually.

 

 

Nov 112013
 
John Hope Gateway
John Hope Gateway

John Hope Gateway

The John Hope Gateway opened in October 2009, it is RBGEs biodiversity and information centre, and the main entrance to the garden at Inverleith.

Within the Gateway visitors are able to find out more about the research staff at RBGE are carrying out across the world, with a mixture of permanent and temporary biodiversity displays. The Real Life Studio provides a dedicated area for talks and interactive sessions. Alongside the biodiversity displays, there is also an exhibition space, with a frequently changing series of exhibitions and performances.

The building has been built to be sustainable and has used green construction techniques throughout. This includes the striking ‘quietrevolution’ wind turbine which provides power for the building and a green roof planted with sedums, providing natural insulation to the building.

The building was named after one of RBGEs former Regius Keepers, John Hope (1761-1786). He was one of the leading botanists of his time and a teacher. It was under his guidance that the Physic Garden at Trinity Hospital and the Royal garden at Holyrood were unified at the one site in Leith Walk in 1763.

Nov 112013
 
Rock Garden
Rock Garden

Rock Garden

The first rock garden at Inverleith was built in 1871 by James McNab. Whilst rockeries (landscaped features with rocks) were popular, the concept of a rock garden designed for true alpines was new.  The first rock garden was made up of small compartments, each planted with single specimens and clearly labelled. This garden became a major attraction at Inverleith.

A new rock garden was completed in 1914, creating the more natural plantings which can be seen in the garden today. A scree bed was added at the front of the garden in 1933. The work on this area was done in consultation with George Forrest, to draw on his experiences of this mountain habitat in China.

The collection of alpines grew rapidly, as plant-hunters returned from expeditions with new botanical treasures. Today there are approximately 5,000 species in the Rock Garden.

A stream runs through the garden, starting with a waterfall at one of the highest points in the area, and running through to a pond, planted with semi-aquatic species around the margins. The stream then leaves the rock garden, eventually feeding the main pond lower in the garden.

There is interest in this garden throughout the year, with snowdrops emerging in late winter, followed by Crocus, Muscari, Pasque flower (Pulsatilla) and Primula. In the summer there are numerous penstemon from North and South America, Dianthus and Campanula continuing the colour and interest. In the Autumn structural plants such as Cotoneaster add their red berries to the colour from Colchicum and Gentians.

Nov 112013
 
Redwood grove in woodland garden
Redwood grove in woodland garden

Redwood grove in woodland garden

The woodland garden was developed during the 1930s and 1940s, with large conifers planted to create a climate for Rhododendrons and other woodland plants which benefit from a more shaded aspect.

A striking feature of this area is the John Muir Grove, a circle of Sierra Redwoods (Sequoiadendron gigantea). They were planted in the 1920s, and now stand over 24m high. This area is now a popular choice for weddings and other commemorative ceremonies.

The shelter provided by the established tree canopy has allowed Rhododendrons, in particular large leaved species from the lush forests on the lower slopes of the Himalayas, to flourish. The woodland garden continues behind the Caledonian Hall, further plantings of Rhododendron provide a wonderful display from late February through to early summer. Primula, Hosta, Trillium and Anenome also thrive in this area. During June and July the vibrant blue of the Himalyan poppy (Meconopsis) forms a beautiful display.

Within the Woodland Garden are the Peat Walls. These were originally constructed in 1939, using the technique pioneered at Logan. These beds allow plants which prefer moist, acidic soils to thrive within the gardens at Inverleith, in particular the large number of ‘treasures’ being brought back by plant hunters from the Himalayas. This area has recently been renovated (2010), as a pernicious weed had become established in the beds. Plants in the Peat Walls include dwarf species of Rhododendron, Meconopsis, Trilliums and Gentians.

When these bed were originally established at Inverleith the environmental and ecological impact of the loss of Peat Bogs was not understood. RBGE now try to keep the use of peat to a minimum within its gardens, and use peat extracted from low impact sites.

 

Nov 112013
 
City View
City View

City View

The lawn in front of Inverleith House provides an opportunity for visitors to relax and take in a spectacular panorama of the city, stretching from Calton Hill (left), along the length of Princes Street to Edinburgh Castle rising up on the mound (Right).

The lawn area is a popular place for visitors to relax and enjoy a picnic, as well as offering a space for exhibitions of art and biodiversity projects to be displayed.