Vaccinium arctostaphylos, a deciduous shrub showing full autumn colour. All foliage shines with the vibrancy of this single deep red colour that is attracting so much attention. Amongst the foliage are sporadic, out of season ivory white flowers. Growing in the peat walls, it is naturally found on acid soils below the tree line on slopes and mountainsides, native to SW Asia.
Even on holiday many RBGE staff are on the lookout for interesting plants. On a trip to Cyprus one member of staff took resulted in the Garden growing a gigantic thistle. Resplendent with silvery foliage, with spines abounding over the surface, the colour tends to wash out with our torrential rain. Forming a statuesque plant not ideally suited to the rock garden, but being monocarpic will die following flowering and to keep it going seeds will be collected.
The original seed was collected from stunted plants of Onopordum cyprium. In the Gardens moist, fertile soil the plants have grown double the height, it was observed in the mountainous stony substrate near Salamiou. An area containing abandoned vineyards amongst a parched landscape all watched over by hungry vultures.
The vigorous cross, Anemone x hybrida makes a dash of colour in the copse here at the garden. This shaded area with moist soil proving a perfect home to grow and develop.
A vigorous plant reaching 1.5m bearing simple terminal flowers with pink petals. It is however a variable hybrid with many colour forms. This group producing a succession of flowers with overlapped petals cupped together as a shallow dish. As the petals drop the ring of yellow stamens gains prominence.
In contrast, to exhibit the diversity of the hybrid, A. x ‘hybrida ‘Whirlwind’ has pure white petals and can be seen in the roadside planting opposite the rock garden.
Clintonia andrewsiana is sending out a mass of berries on a long stalk. The colour sets them out amongst other ground flora, a shiny lustre setting off the metallic blue. These plants are native to California and struggle to retain good foliage through the summer with us. A member of the Liliaceae family producing a whorl of basal leaves from which the flower spike appears. Usually one umbel of flowers leading, in this season of above average temperatures, to a healthy crop of berries.
It prefers semi shade and high humidity so ideally cultivate in a woodland garden where an annual, early spring top dressing of compost or other organic matter aids healthy growth.
Larkspur is an easily grown annual that repays the cost of a packet of seed many times over.
Sow early spring under glass and transplant into moist soil in a group of twenty or more for a stunning swathe of colour.
In the demonstration garden are two groups, the darker blue cultivar ‘Blue Spire’ growing in the student’s plots and the lighter blue Delphinium consolida or Consolida cultivar is planted within the herbology plots. Don’t fret about the Latin, look in a seed catalogue and choose a packet of seed for next year or if you want early flower spikes sow these annuals directly in the open ground in September. Both grow to a height of about 1.2m so allow room to develop.
In a sunny spot to the south of the rock garden are several plants of Penstemon filiformis. Revelling in this summer’s warmth and flowering profusely in response to the high sunshine levels that replicate the native California these plants originate from.
The seeds were collected in Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California. Found in the foothills of the forest in areas with romanticised names that evoke thoughts of wild America; Damnation Peak, Chicken Hawk Hill and Whisky Bill Peak. Making an upright plant, growing to 500mm. A short lived perennial with a terminal inflorescence of pink/lilac flowers.
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.
Corylus ferox is a native to the Himalayas and NW China, found in association with Acer, Viburnum, Hippophae, Salix, spp. Seed was collected from a 6m x 5m deciduous tree in Sichuan Province where the parent plant was growing in a gravelly loam at 2410m on a NW facing mountainside. The multi stemmed plant growing in the copse is fruiting for the first time since grown from seed in 2005. A mass of spikes not dissimilar in looks to that of a Horse Chestnut carcass. However, these spikes are attached to both the nut and cup as protection and not as a complete shell casing. The colouring is intense red going creamy white as it matures.
Moving away from mid-summer and there are signs that autumn may soon be with us. An ungainly specimen of Rosa sertata is producing hips. These are a deep red colour with a shine that makes a cars paintwork seem dull. Having a shaped narrowed neck at the stalk end and persistent sepals at the other, within it is full of seeds.
A native to Western China where it is found growing on lightly wooded slopes from 1400 – 2200m and at stream and road sides.