Feb 092017
 

The season of gales and heavy rain can conspire to unseat climbing plants from their supports. Take a pair of secateurs and reduce the overhang growth which can be considerable and weigh heavily especially following rain. As in the attached image of Schisandra plena on a south facing wall. This weight puts any supporting wires of framework under considerable stress. Add in the forces a blustery day will provide and there is the recipe for collapse. Pruning at this time of year will allow a rejuvenated framework of mature stems to support new growth. At the same time inspect all supporting material, repair, replace or strengthen as necessary.

Schisandra plena

Schisandra plena

Jan 112017
 

The long arching seed pods of Glaucium flavum are splitting lengthways into longitudinal sections. The seeds long gone, now just sections of the pithy packaging remain within. Found growing along the shoreline with a wide geographical distribution, Europe, North Africa, SW Asia. The specimen at the Garden is in the Scottish native bed where the crown of water repellent glaucous blue foliage holds the many sickle shaped seed pods aloft.

Glaucium flavum

Glaucium flavum

Glaucium flavum

Jan 102017
 

During the short days it is good to have flowering plants in the garden; Lonicera myrtillus is a low growing deciduous shrub. The fresh yellow tubular flowers hang down from the previous year’s growth. Shy to flower, they open in pairs with immature flower buds protected within the calyx.  Seasonally, flowering can be erratic, there may be no sign of blossom should the climatic conditions be adverse. A good summer to ripen the wood is necessary.

Lonicera myrtillus

Lonicera myrtillus

Jan 042017
 
Geranium maderense

January 2016 dawned with a frost, only – 0.4°c, but still a frost. This, following the wettest month for more than a century. December 2015 was also the warmest since 1910 with an average UK temperature of 7.9°c compared to the normal average of 4.1°c for the month of December. Temperatures tumbled as we approached mid-January and with all the moisture in the ground the gravel crunched as the ice crystals yielded to the weight of footfall.

We need the seasons; seasonal differences are what we expect in horticulture. The changes we are now experiencing in climate and weather patterns are causing much consternation to land managers. This winter we cut grass on 17th December 2015 and then again on 25th January. An interval of six weeks, during a season in which we would not normally mow the lawns leading to undue pressure on the machinery and our winter work programme.

The few frosts we did experience were not the overnighters when the ground remained white for days on end but fleeting drops in temperature until mid-morning when the mercury rose and the need for salt on the roads was negated.

The Snowdrops flowered for the longest duration I have known. Due, I believe to the even temperature through the flowering season and a lack of bright sunlight.

The weekend of 19 – 20th March saw two days of warmth and direct heat from the sun. This caused the colour to fade but from late December until well into the second half of March is an exceptional season for Galanthus.

March was a dry month with 23mm of rain falling in comparison to last March when 51.4mm fell. Less rain also meant more sunshine, 103.6 hours over the month.

In addition to the cold spring holding the colour on spring bulbs for a longer duration than normal, the blossom on Prunus and Malus was exceptional during April and May. Moving through to midsummer the colour white became prominent. The Hawthorn hedgerows were full of May blossom and white flowered Lilac appeared from the corners of myriad gardens through the city. Two Geranium maderense planted out in the autumn of 2015 were strong plants and full of flower from late May lasting through to the frosts of November. A reward to see these plants, native to the Island of Madeira, thriving through the past mild winter; the reward tempered by the smell of foxes, from the multitude of blooms, that is overpowering, more so after rain,

June was a changeable month with torrential rain and intense sunshine. All keeping the garden looking green and lush for the late opening on the longest day.  The rain in torrents continued into July, very localised, prompting the Met Office to issue an appeal for home weather stations to download their daily recordings to the Met Office computer. This would then make forecasting of localised storms more accurate and flooding hopefully preventable.

This has been the year of the Rose. The profusion of flowers, the numbers of individual flowers per truss and their longevity have all contributed to the season of the rose. Although there have been torrential downpours the blooms have not turned to mush as is normal in a usual year. With the long, warm summer evenings conducive to sitting out in the garden until dusk envelopes you the sounds in the garden become more pronounced. The falling of rose petals is quite therapeutic on such an evening.

Tetrapanax papyrifer

Tetrapanax papyrifer

Summer provided us with plentiful rain and a fair amount of sun. There were no prolonged spells of hot dry heat allowing vegetation to grow well until early September when we had to set the irrigation systems to run through consecutive nights as the soil moisture levels receded. This did not bother the Tetrapanax papyrifer. The architectural foliage grew to proportions not seen before. It admirably filled the gap between the steps and the south face of the glasshouse range.

Hedera helix

Hedera helix

September was warm, one of the warmest and driest I can remember. A slow, calm run into winter with the added benefit to the wasps and bees of Ivy, Hedera helix, flowering prolifically and providing a source of nectar. One rampant clump overhanging the wall in the back lane was alive with wasps and bluebottles in the October sun. In those first few days of October listening to the sound of Conkers falling and hitting the ground is a sure sign of temperatures dropping and heavy dew forming on the lawns. You know it is cooler when Pete arrives for work in shorts as usual, yet combined with a woolly bobble hat lovingly knitted.

A dry, warm September/October resulted in a display of autumn colour that held on the trees in the still dry climate. The rain finally arrived, falling torrentially, late on Halloween evening.

Euonymus alatus

Euonymus alatus

The morning of 1st November necessitated the first scraping of ice from the windscreen this autumn, temperatures sat just below zero to freeze the moisture in open exposed areas. With sunrise the colours in the tree canopy were highlighted. The deciduous woody shrub, Euonymus alatus was notably vibrant.

A bright sunny start to November and several mornings of frost then a period of yo-yoing temperatures; a white frost on the 10th and awakening to a high of 15.3°c on the 14th. Yet even with 21days of grass frost recorded during November the forecast is that 2016 will be the warmest year on record, following on from the previous two years which were also record breaking as warm years globally.

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

December temperatures in Edinburgh also reached +15°c during the first week of the month with also a few days of frost. This must be one of the most benign autumns into winter we have experienced with only one named storm which was more bluster than substance overnight of 19/20 November. The first Snowdrop of the season, Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’ was flowering on the shortest day.

Storm Barbara and Connor disrupted the festivities. December ends mild and relatively dry. Apples left on the tree have yet to be pecked at by the garden bird population showing that with the mild weather and unfrozen ground there is still a plentiful supply of soil grubs.

Enjoy the open spell of weather while you can, we are now looking at longer days so more time to spend in the Garden. Good wishes for the New Year and through 2017.

Dec 202016
 

As a base layer, the colour brown dominates at this time of year. Ideal as a foundation layer to the glitz of Christmas. Stephanandra tanakae has fine warmth of colouration in the receding leaves. The sterile sepals of the Lacecap Hydrangea, H. macrophylla ‘Lilacina’ remain throughout winter protecting the dormant buds beneath. Now brown, in good light on a winter day the remains of the lilac pigment show through. To make up a trio the even russet brown of the leaves on Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ contrast with the felt white terminal buds.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lilacina'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lilacina’

Stephanandra tanakae

Stephanandra tanakae

Dec 132016
 

Sitting in an exposed site within the rock garden are plants of Alyssoides utriculata. This short lived woody perennial has seed capsules that resemble bladders. It is found in central Europe, growing on cliffs through the Alps and the Balkan ranges. With the onset of winter the delicate cellulose structure disintegrates, leaving the lignin outline to reflect in the sun. When flowers are at a premium it is unusual features such as these that catch the attention within a garden.

Alyssoides utriculata

Alyssoides utriculata

Dec 062016
 

Two Euonymus sieboldianus are planted side by side in the Garden arising from two different collecting expeditions. They are deciduous branched shrubs covered in fruit; each plant having a different hue of fruit, glowing as the low sun sets. Both were collected in Honshu Province where the parent plants grew on Mount Hakusan (20031043) and Mount Akagi (20071451) .

Euonymus sieboldianus (20031043)

Euonymus sieboldianus (20031043)

Euonymus sieboldianus (20071451)

Euonymus sieboldianus (20071451)

Nov 302016
 

Now that the foliage is clearing from the deciduous canopies the full beauty of the trunk of Acer pensylvanicum is revealed. This seedling is now eight years old; it has developed good striations vertically down the length of the trunk and around the branches. A mixture of white, green and grey shades are ideal as winter interest. Growing to 8 metres by 4 metres it will eventually form a sizeable specimen. It is a native of eastern N. America where it grows in association with Acer saccharum, Fagus grandifolia, Tsuga Canadensis.

Acer pensylvanicum

Acer pensylvanicum

Acer pensylvanicum

Acer pensylvanicum

Nov 302016
 
Gunung Ambang volcano, 1795m

Gunung Ambang volcano, 1795m

Following the recent fieldwork update from Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, this report comes from the Gunung Ambang Nature Reserve, part of complex of volcanoes in the Bolaang Mongondow and East Bolaang Mongondow regencies of North Sulawesi.

The nature reserve, named after one of the active volcanoes within, comprises an area of approximately 8,600 hectares. Before being designated its own protected status, the reserve formed part of Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park. Gunung (Mount) Ambang itself has an elevation of 1,795m and its last recorded eruption was around the mid-19th century; however the volcano still simmers away, evidenced by smoking sulphur femuroles and steaming mud pools.

Better known for its superb diving coastline, North Sulawesi’s forests do not have many visitors, and those that do explore are often there to see the avifauna; the relatively small Gunung Ambang reserve boasts at least 135 different bird species, including the endemic Sulawesi serpent eagle (Spilornis rufipectus), Matinan flycatcher (Cyornis sanfordi) and fiery-browed myna (Enodes erythrophris).

Syzygium aromaticum (clove) flower buds

Syzygium aromaticum (clove) flower buds

The nature reserve is best accessed from Sinsingon village, which sits at an elevation of 1,100m. The village is surrounded by farmland with fields of potatoes, onions, cabbages and the Syzygium aromaticum tree, from which cloves are harvested.

The village is scented with the warm spice of clove oil as the flower buds are laid out under the sun to dry.

cloves drying in the sun

cloves drying in the sun

The expedition’s focus is the targeted collecting of particular Cyrtandra (Gesneriaceae family) species; some of these species are only known from their type specimens, and localities were chosen according to the records associated with these specimens. As always, we are also looking to collect members of the other key RBGE research families including Begoniaceae, Sapotaceae and Zingiberaceae, as well as spores of pteridophytes for the RBGE spore bank.

Cyrtandra sp.nov.

Cyrtandra sp.nov.

The first day of collecting rewarded us with some great finds; one of which was a new species of Cyrtandra. We also found key Sulawesi Cyrtandra species, most of which had never been recorded at this locality before, and some which had only been previously studied from dried herbarium specimens. Finding them growing, and flowering, in the wild has allowed for the collection of descriptive data pertaining to flower shape, colour, texture, variation, etc.; information not easy to gather from dried specimens.

Our guide tells us that the young growth on the new species has actually been long foraged as a vegetable by the locals. Despite being new to science, the species grows relatively abundantly at this one locality, but its range appears to be limited; all very useful information for assessing the biodiversity value of these forests.

There is another collection which may be a further new Cyrtandra species, but this was found sterile (no flowers or fruits) and collected as vegetative cuttings. The cuttings will be grown at Kebun Raya Bogor and at RBGE, and only if the cuttings successfully root and go on to produce flowers will the taxonomists be able to determine whether or not it is new to science.

Cyrtandra engleri

Cyrtandra engleri

Cyrtandra engleri and C.serratifolia were collected; both recorded for the first time in this locality, adding to the distribution data for the genus.

We collected from a range of habitats within the reserve; finding a red flowered Vaccinium on summit volcanic rock, an interesting Apocynaceae species Oreosparte celebica growing epiphytically in primary rain forest, and Cyrtandra coccinea growing in deep shade by the side of a hidden lake.

Begonia hispidissima

Begonia hispidissima

We found Sulawesi endemic Begonia hispidissima growing alongside the widespread species of fern, Dipteris conjugata, which can be seen across Southeast Asia, as well as China, Japan, and Australia.

Gunung Ambang Nature Reserve provided us with excellent botanical collections, beautiful and varied landscapes, and particularly warm generous hospitality from the Sinsingon village inhabitants; we hope to return one day.

Vaccinium sp. found at the summit of Gunung Ambang

Vaccinium sp. found at the summit of Gunung Ambang

Begonia aptera

Begonia aptera

Cyrtandra serratifolia, recorded for the first time at this locality

Cyrtandra serratifolia, recorded for the first time at this locality

Oreosparte celebica

Oreosparte celebica

widespread fern species Dipteris conjugata

widespread fern species Dipteris conjugata

Agalmyla brownii

Agalmyla brownii

Nov 222016
 

Sorbus harrowiana is not the best specimen for displaying ornamental fruit but it does have a related back story. It is native to SW China where, as can be seen from the attached image, the leaf size is one of the largest of the genus; composed of up to four pairs of leaflets and one terminal leaflet. The fruits are small, white and borne sparsely on the corymb structure, when crushed these smell of fermenting apples. First collected in Yunnan Province in 1912 by George Forrest it was described by William Wright Smith, Regius Keeper. He named after Robert Harrow, curator at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 1902 – 1931.

 

Sorbus harrowiana

Sorbus harrowiana

 

Sorbus harrowiana

Sorbus harrowiana