Jan 272016
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

The Hamamelis have been in flower since mid-December but it is only now that the scent from the flowers is becoming distinctly evident when walking past the palm House. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ is a worthy cultivar, reliable to flower and with showy bronze red petals, coloured and shaped like rough zest from an orange. The calyx has a brown downy exterior and red within. A hybrid between H. mollis and H. japonica, the cultivar of which was originally raised at Kalmthout Arboretum in Belgium.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' 19923716A  12a


Dec 282011
Euryops chrysanthemoides. Photo by Tony Garn

Euryops chrysanthemoides

Following the coldest and snowiest December (2010) on record, the respite from fresh snow over the New Year period lasted until 6.00pm on the evening of January 7th. Yes, at 7.30am on the 8th January, we were snowploughing the Garden’s roads again. Over the New Year the weather had been dry and the temperature a few degrees above freezing. With the snow melting there were signs of emerging Snowdrops. Frosty nights and crunchy snow underfoot then returned.

The Hamamelis were the main survivors sending out bloom as the lingering snow of the coldest winter, since the snowdrifts of winter 1962-3, melted. The paper thin petals contain minimum water compared to those of the Viburnum x bodnantense hybrids which were slaughtered by the devastating cold. So, as gardeners, we were pleased to see temperatures rising and appreciate the lengthening days as spring unfolded.

The lawns were slow into growth and just as the clocks were about to change and the longer evenings arrive a spell of dry settled weather commenced. This added to the slow recovery of the lawns. We eventually made the first cut on the 4th April, the latest date to commence mowing for the 24 years I have kept these records. In contrast, the Beech hedge leafed out from the 10th April, the earliest date I have recorded.

In the middle of April a mature specimen of Staphyllea pinnata flowered profusely. This was the first time this tree had flowered so noticeably, covered in pendulous racemes of creamy white blossom. This was just one, among many, of the tree species that flowered this year; outdoing previous year’s displays.

Easter became a pink season due to the amount of ornamental Cherry blossom; the traditional Easter Daffodil had flowered and faded.

Woody material continued to flower profusely into mid summer.

Early June saw gale force winds batter the tree collection. As the collection was in full leaf there was significant damage with limbs torn down and a couple of small trees uprooted.

The longest day again disappointed, rainfall and cloud cover. Not a sight of the sun. Just to keep it in perspective there was a frost on June 10th recording – 0.58C

The weekend commencing Friday July 8th saw torrential storms with thunder and lightening. Silt washed down and blocked drains and a lightening strike disabled the alarm panel controlling the fire alarms and climate controls for the glasshouses. Some areas of Edinburgh experienced flash floods with consequential damage. In total over the three days 43.6mm of rainfall was recorded falling in the Garden. That compares to 112.6mm throughout July 2010.

Storm damage to rock garden path. Photo by Tony Garn

Storm damage to rock garden path

Summer was a wash out, cloud, torrential rain and when the sun made brief appearances it was of a burning intensity that sent those follicly challenged dashing for the sun cream. Home grown tomatoes did not have the sweetness of previous sun drenched years and spinach grew like rhubarb.

During August the lawns puddled and squelched as footsteps were placed on them. Mowing became a challenge due to the weight of the machines running over the lawns. Interestingly, seedlings of Plantago major ‘Rubrifolia’ appeared in the lawns. These easily spotted weeds have originated from the red leaved parent colony in the demonstration garden. They had not been noticed as a lawn weed at RBGE in seasons past. Here at the Garden we keep an eye on invasive species and an initiative to look through the Gardens database of living plants and reduce or de-access those plants which are deemed to be invasive is underway.

September arrived with early signs of autumn colour. There was sporadic flowering in many woody species, probably caused by the cold summer and low light levels. The plants confused into believing they had gone through winter and it was now spring and the season to send out flowering shoots. At the garden we were of the opinion we lived through a continual winter this year.

The last few days of September saw a period of warm sunny weather that was all too brief but most welcome. Visitor numbers peaked as the Edinburgh populace strolled through the green space.

It brought its own horticultural problems as the temperature in poly tunnels rose and humidity increased. The foliage of potatoes planted for a Christmas day lunch succumbed to fungal infection and mildew was found on salad leaves.

Ventilation, good air circulation and less water splash is the key to preventing these outbreaks.

The afternoon of 19th October became colder and on the morning of the 20th we had the first frost (-1.58oC ) whitening the lawns. This; coincidentally, is the same date as the first frost of 2010.

November continued mild; the Gardens’ weather station recorded the highest daily temperature in Scotland according to the Lothian’s area of the Met office, 17.2oC on Thursday 3rd November.

One of the downsides of the continuing mild weather are the midges. The team at Benmore were plagued into the tail end of the year. Highly unusual for the midge population to be active so late into the year.

Storm force wind heralded the start of December. The Garden closed twice due to the gales this month and a fall of snow melted overnight as we were reaching the shortest day. A benign end to the year, birds attempting the dawn chorus as we walk to work, cloud cover trapping the warmth, only a few days of frost and the incessant rain. One plant that is taking advantage of this mild weather is Euryops chrysanthemoides, this native South African is flowering with profusion in a sheltered corner of the back yard.

In conclusion, it has been a year that has shown extremes of weather stretching the limits of horticultural practices. One word of advice, the snowdrop and daffodil foliage is well advanced; take the opportunity to work through the borders now, any delay and your boots will crush these spring flowers.

Wrap up warmly and enjoy the New Year celebrations.

Best wishes for 2012.

Dec 202011

Preparing the site for the new alpine house involves taking stock of the existing plant collection and then embarking on ground clearance. Within the Hamamelis Border some plants were de-accessed but others merited a move.

The mature specimen of Hamamelis japonica var. arborea required considerable root ball preparation prior to cutting under with the extended planting bucket on the tractor front loader frame. Once on the plate of the bucket the hydraulics take the strain as Paul lifts it gently from the redevelopment area transferring it carefully across the road to the newly prepared site.

Here the protective hessian is removed from the root plate and it is back filled with top soil ameliorated with compost to give a good start. Keep an eye on it for flushing out in the spring.

For more information on the new Alpine House and Alpines CLICK HERE

Best wishes for the Christmas season.

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea. photo by Tony Garn

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea. Photo by Tony Garn

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea. Photo by Tony Garn

Hamamelis japonica var. arborea

Feb 152011
Sycopsis sinensis. Photo by Tony Garn

Sycopsis sinensis

Sycopsis sinensis is an evergreen shrub in the family Hamamelidaceae. A native to central and western China where it grows as understory in evergreen forests on hillsides at 1300 – 1500m.

The flower parts burst out of their protective bud casings as the weather warms.

Relatively small, but colourful, citrus yellow anthers splay out in a spray pattern. These fade to a shade of orange as they mature. All held within bud scales the colour of a coconut and as hairy.

Last Thursday, the 10th February, was the first day this winter that the sun shone for a prolonged period, a total of 7.5 hours. The previous time we had a sunnier day was on November 11th. The weather records sun show what a sun deprived winter we have experienced. This sunny weather released the much appreciated winter scents. The relative warmth drawing the floral perfumes out into the air from the Hamamelis and Sarcococca species now in bloom through the Garden.

Sycopsis sinensis. Photo by Tony Garn

Sycopsis sinensis

Sunshine card 10 February 2011. Photo by Tony Garn

Sunshine card 10 February 2011

Apr 112008
Parrotiopsis jacquemontiana

Parrotiopsis jacquemontiana

The deciduous woody shrub Parrotiopsis jacquemontiana is a member of the Hamamelidaceae family and hails from the Himalayas. Plants are found growing in the north-west frontier province of Pakistan on west facing slopes with scree at 2700 to 2980 metres.

The terminal brown felted buds open slowly to reveal the conglomerate mass of flowers, of which the yellow anthers are prominent. Further opening of the bracts reveals the inner white colour. The combined flowering gives a light appearance to the mass of twigs. At this time the new leaves are forcing through at the corners of the flowers. Planted near the road edge within the Hamamelis collection, the twiggy mass is flowering well this year. The individual flowers are relatively attractive but don’t expect the seductive scent that the Hamamelis plants provided. It’s not a thing of beauty when in flower but will attract the botanically interested.

Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'

Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’

For a delightful scent and showy blooms, walk over to the Demonstration Garden, here Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ is changing from tight red bud to open white blooms. The scent thrown out from the rounded cymes by a mature plant on a warm day is exceptional.

The species is native to Korea and Japan’s Tsushima Island, in the Korean Strait from where seed was sent to Slieve Donard Nursery in Northern Ireland. Here Leslie Slinger selected out seedlings and introduced ‘Aurora’ to the trade in 1958. It received a well deserved Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 1984.

Our plant is a very good form, displaying a mass of flowers. In bud, they are carmine red and on opening they’re white tinged pink. Within some of the individual flowers the anthers are prominent, on others subtended. The stigma lies at the base of the tube red in colour.

Leaf growth and development is well advanced, highlighting the flower colour. The plant has a rounded shape with vigorous water shoots arising from its centre.

Jan 252008
Hamamelis mollis

Hamamelis mollis

The thin, ribbon-like petals and delicate scent of the Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, welcomes you on entry to the Garden via the East Gate.

This deciduous shrub readily scents the area around it – it is best appreciated in the early morning when the air is still and other competing smells are reduced. The Phenology team recorded this plant’s first flowering of the season on 5 December 2007 but not until 11 December in 2006. From these dates it then takes until early January to be appreciated in full bloom.

Frosted Hamamelis mollis

Frosted Hamamelis mollis

Flowering magnificently this month, the paper-thin petals, being almost devoid of moisture, are rarely damaged during frost unlike Viburnum x bodnantense, of which a combination of frost and early sun will cause mass discolouration.

The flower clusters are produced on the previous season’s growth. Encased in brown felted sepals the hardly discernable flower parts are held deep within these. Individual flowers are grouped in clusters of three or four, accentuating the mass colour and the contrast of the recurved ruby red sepals and yellow ribbon petals.

The growth buds are covered in minute hairs and resemble the hoof of a deer. Deciduous, the plants also come into their own during autumn with yellow and red pigments through the leaves. This is a strong growing plant that appreciates full sun and a well-drained root run. It dislikes root disturbance and pruning but appreciates a top dressing of well rotted organic matter after flowering.

Hamamelis mollis with Hamamelis mollis 'Pallida' in foreground

Hamamelis mollis with Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’ in foreground

The cultivar H. mollis ‘Pallida’ also flowers reliably each year and boasts sulphur yellow petals. It tends to initiate bloom slightly later than the species. Both are in full colour west of the Alpine House, where the contrast in flower colour can be appreciated.

Kalmthout Arboretum in Belgium is holding a Hamamelis festival, from 14 January to 17 February 2008. Here the collection of Hamamelis species, hybrids and cultivars can be appreciated. Also, from 7 to 10 February, Kalmthout is staging an International Helleborus show.

Oct 102007
Parrotia persica

Parrotia persica

The autumn colours on the deciduous tree canopy are now reaching their best. The yellows of the Betula and Hamamelis collections, reds of the Sorbus and Euonymus species are all evident in the Parrotia persica whose canopy colour ranges from yellow through orange to an intense red.

Walking past the Cercidiphyllum japonicum and C. magnificum growing in various locations throughout the garden the sweet smell of decay is evident, this emanates from the rotting leaf litter around the base of the plant.

However in amongst these giants is a herbaceous treasure which colours up to rival any of the woody specimens; Euphorbia jolkinii collected during 1996 in Yunnan, China by Derek Beavis and John Main. The stems deepen to a vibrant red with leaf colour to match. Growing in the border at the alpine wall and near the ting on the Chinese hillside.