Tsuga heterophylla, the Western Hemlock, neat and dense, withstands close clipping and retains its shape. A tree of forest proportions in its native Western North America. A Pacific coast plant introduced to Scotland in 1852 as seed from the collector John Jeffrey, previously a gardener at RBGE.Jeffrey, although not as famous as David Douglas, travelled extensively from Hudson Bay in 1850 through North America until he was no longer heard from in 1854.
T. heterophylla has two other characteristics as a hedge, by mid-summer the even fresh growth gives the hedge a soft appearance. During autumn myriad cobwebs cling to the sides of the hedge and show up in the seasonal droplets of mist that cling to the webs. At the Bio Blitz of June 2013, 15 species of spiders were recorded – 14 of them were new Garden records. Hedges again proving their worth as ecological habitat.
If you have been watching the Masters 2014 Golf from Augusta, Georgia, USA you may have spotted the Rhododendrons (Azaleas) in flower particularly at the 12 and 13 holes; there will be an equally spectacular display at RBGE in the coming weeks. One of the first to flower on the Azalea Lawn is Rhododendron (Azalea) albrechtii from Japan.
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.
Hedges are integral to the design and ecology of the garden. Forget the quick fix provided by larchlap panels, take time to make a choice of the many species that will give privacy, act as a windbreak, divide areas and provide a home to insects, birds and shelter to many mammals. A hedge is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, and adds to the biodiversity of the area. Hedges are structures that benefit from initial soil preparation, remember these are planted by you and have the potential to be in place a century later. Double dig the stretch of ground incorporating, ideally, well-rotted farm yard manure into the bottom of the trench. The roots will soon draw down into this zone and your investment in this preparation will soon show in extension growth. A favoured species to plant as a hedge; Beech, Fagus sylvatica. One proviso, choose seedlings that are collected from a tree of low elevation provenance. The Beech hedge in the Garden here has a leaf unfurling date around mid-April. There are seasonal variations depending on the weather, 10th April being the earliest and 28th the latest. Keep your eyes open as you travel about Edinburgh and compare when other Beech hedges leaf out. There is a 6 week variation between earliest and latest date. Choose wisely, ask the nurseryman. The longer growing season from an early flushing plant will result in a better formed hedge sooner than later. At the end of the first growing season when dormancy has set in and outwith a spell of heavy frost, with secateurs, lightly cut back the previous season’s growth to form the shape of the hedge. If the hedge is at the back of a border the young plants are easily swamped by competing vegetation. Through the summer make sure this does not occlude light from the base of the hedge. The lower shoots when young are susceptible to die back when swamped with competing foliage. If this happens there will be an open bare base to the hedge. Not a desirable look. It will take three growing seasons for the individual plants form a hedge that provides a worthwhile screen and depth of cover to attract nesting birds. From the first season there will be habitat benefit, raising the ecological stakes in your garden.
This, a deciduous suckering shrub, native to the Pacific coast of North America making a straggling untidy plant. Oemleria cerasiformis, leafs out from the last days of February. The unfurling foliage is of theOemleria cerasiformis lightest green and with a smell of fresh peas. The embryo flower racemes slowly elongate and then on a sunny day the first colour shows with a hint of white petal exposed. A dioecious plant with male and female flowers on separate plants scented of spice. Ours is covered in male flowers so no chance of the pendulous cluster of plum like fruits appearing in autumn.
Scoliopus bigelovii is referred to as having quaint flowers by the Alpine Garden Society in their Encyclopaedia of Alpines.
The RHS dictionary of Gardening is more specific, mentioning a malodorous smell. Quite unpleasant when you take the time to reach down and let your senses appreciate the odour. As did Jane, one of our Garden Guides who brought it to my attention tucked away in the alpine peat steps.
Forming a tight clump of fresh green shoots sprouting up in open cylinders with the flower spike above. These unusual flowers comprise linear marked sepals surrounding again three thin much reduced petals all surrounding the flower parts. A native to NW America, in cultivation preferring a moist, shady situation sheltered from excessive cold.
A mass planting of Chrysosplenium macrophyllum in the woodland garden is looking its best with a profusion of flowers. Botanically, a terminal cymose inflorescence, a selection of Chrysoplenium maesphyllumstamens, tinged pink rise from the top of the fused calyx. With, at a distant glance, Bergenia like foliage closer inspection reveals leaves covered in hairs. The low growing foliage arises from stoloniferous stems that make this an exceptional ground covering plant for the edge of woodland.
It must be spring, the Forsythia has coloured up. Noticeable colour in the buds clothing the bare stems is the first sign that we are pulling out of winter and day length is increasing. Forsythia x intermedia ‘Spring Glory’ is the first to break ranks in the two beds planted with species and cultivars of the genus Forsythia.
A plant as reliable in its flowering as spring follows winter. The buds respond to the increasing warmth and open exposing the bright yellow petals. Expanding to splay out and recurve slightly. One of the many cultivars resulting from the hybridisation of F. suspensa and F. viridissima. ‘Spring Glory’ is a further hybrid from an earlier American cultivar ‘Primulina’. All to the benefit of gardeners who by planting add to the colour of spring.
Secondary to this, although a sighting of equal importance confirming that spring has indeed arrived was the sight of not one but three of the finance department staff on a lunch time perambulation through the Garden on a day when the maximum temperature reached 11c at midday. This on the 25th February when the sun shone from 8.30am continually until 3.45pm and then again made a spot appearance at 4.15pm.