The second half of May and we hope the frost is finished for the season. Make sure all half hardy and tender perennial stock you are planting out for summer display is hardened off before sinking a trowel into the soil. As you can see from the attached images a late frost followed by early, bright sunshine can have devastating effects on tender young growth. These woody plants sit out in all weather. Trees and shrubs form the backbone of planting and still thought must go as to where in the garden these plants are situated. The large woolly leaves of Hydrangea sargentiana were full of sap which thawed too rapidly as the sun hit the foliage. The tender tips of Pterocarya fraxinifolia will recover, this is a young plant grown from seed collected in Georgia. There are mature, wide crowned, specimens growing successfully elsewhere in the garden. Decoratively, the most noticeable damage is on the young Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ the showy red shoots are burnt brown, spoiling the display.
The strap leaved Viola spathulata is thriving in the tufa wall that forms the backdrop to the alpine shelter here at RBGE. A native to cliff faces in Iran where the roots push into hairline rock crevices to gain a secure hold and draw up moisture to ensure survival. Here the individual tufa rocks were bound together to replicate these natural limestone landscapes where distinctive flora’s develop.
Covered in the typical viola flowers, V. spathulata is composed of five petals, four facing upwards and the fifth pointing down. Light mauve in colour with a darker colouration in the throat.
Amid the seasonal blossom and mass flowering of spring are interspersed subtle touches. Often unnoticed, these all add to the interest of the garden in spring. Acer davidii ssp. grosseri, a deciduous tree from northern and central China can be seen growing on the Pyrus lawn here at RBGE. At the base of the multiple flowered pendulous inflorescences are recurved delicate pink bud sheaths. These turning deeper red with maturity. These are shed as growth extends and the flowers mature to clusters of the traditional winged seeds.
A mass planting of Omphaloides cappadocica can be seen in the upper woodland garden. This evergreen herbaceous plant clumps and appears as one mass; creating, when in flower, a distinct pool of azure blue.
This member of the Boraginaceae family is naturally found in woodlands and on shaded hillsides to 1000 metres in Turkey. In cultivation it thrives on lack of attention, just requiring a moist root run and light shade provided.
On the grass meadow to the west of the new alpine house are a collection of Fritillarias.
F. assyriaca ssp. assyriaca is in full bloom, drooping flower head with yellow, darkening to orange with age, fringes. At the base of the tepals are well developed nectaties, containing a surprisingly large quantity of nectar. The flower gives off a musty odour on a warmer day than we have been experiencing.
F. elwesii is later to open with a darker purple flower, and thicker, waxier tepals. It also exhibits similar linear striations to the inside of the tepals. No scent from the flower and minimal nectar.
Both are native to Turkey where they can be found growing in cornfields and on screes.
The Magnolia season is well and truly with us, the weather conditions have been perfect for these magnificent deciduous trees to bloom in profusion and for such an extended period with no damaging frost to talk of.
Magnolia campbellii is native to the Himalayas and western China. Associating well with the tree species Rhododendron predominantly around 2500 – 3300m on mountain sides.
The cultivar ‘Charles Raffill’ has much deeper colour through the tepals, a deep rosy purple.
It pays to look up into the canopies at this time of year although; quite often it is the carpet of fallen petals at your feet that gives away the beauty above.
This is the time of year for young growth to exhibit some, not all, of their best characteristics. The young foliage of Anemone x hybrid is pushing through the soil. Sturdy leaf petioles are covered in dense fine hairs. The leaves, a delicate bronze upper surface and showing a frosty white reverse.
An interesting article, it puts our Garden into perspective, here we cultivate plants. Also our role to explore and explain the world of plants becomes all the more essential in promoting the importance of the plant kingdom.
Filling an alpine trough with colour is Primula marginata, a native to the Alps. The rosette of evergreen foliage is toothed around the edges and white farina is found on both the upper and underside of the leaves. Older plants gain a woody appearance as the stem elongates with each growing season, shedding the lower leaves.
A variable species in flower, having a colour range from dark purple through to white, resulting in many named cultivars within the horticultural trade.
On a warm day a faint, most unusual scent, a mix of wood smoke and aged tobacco can be discerned emanating from the flowers. Several flowers are held on a flimsy peduncle.
From this time of year onwards Scottish gardens are coloured with Rhododendrons in flower. At RBGE Rhododendron meddianum var. atrokermesinum is flowering in the lower woodland garden. Native to NE Myanmar where collections were made by Frank Kingdon- Ward. These packets of seed returned to many gardens throughout Britain and are now seen as mature plants through the country.
This evergreen species holds many flower trusses and adds considerably to the interest of the Rhododendron collection at RBGE. Scarlet red petals on opening. In bud it is just as attractive. The flower truss shedding brown papery bracts on opening.
A flowering shoot from a specimen growing at Logan garden was selected in April 1954 by the then owner of the Logan estate, Ronald Olaf Hambro, of the banking dynasty, to exhibit at the RHS show in London where it received an Award of Merit. This was in the decade before Logan was gifted to the nation (1969) and became a regional garden of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Ribes sanguineum ‘Albidum’ is an easily grown and propagated deciduous shrub that never fails to flower.
The racemes of flowers develop as the new growth expands. These racemes of individual white flowers resemble smudges of correction fluid so loved by the typing pool to alter the infrequent mistakes. Single specimens lack the impact that a wave of five or seven in a border provides at this time of year.
The species has long been in cultivation, introduced from Western North America by David Douglas in 1826. An early cultivar, ‘Albidum’ according to WJ Bean, was raised in Scotland in the 1840’s.
It may be of interest to know that the works of Bean are now available on line at:
All the information gleaned from years of study and correspondence with the prolific plant collectors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that Bean transcribed into his original volumes of “Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles” is now freely available thanks to the International Dendrology Society.