Aug 202014
 

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.

Delphinium consolidata 'Blue Spire'

Delphinium consolidata ‘Blue Spire’

Delphinium consolidata

Delphinium consolidata

Aug 112014
 

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.

Penstemon filiformis

Penstemon filiformis

Penstemon filiformis

Penstemon filiformis

Aug 042014
 
Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

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.

Jul 292014
 
Corylus ferox

Corylus ferox

Corylus ferox

Corylus ferox

Corylus ferox

Corylus ferox

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.

Jul 232014
 

Rosa sertata

Rosa sertata Rosa sertataMoving 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.

Jul 152014
 
Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mass planting of Lilium formosanum var. priceii in the peat walls is eye-catching. Two hundred or more trumpets on short stalks, max height of 300mm, give the area a spectacular look.
The bulbs each send out one spike bearing 2 – 5 blooms, predominantly white but with reddish striations on the outer surface. Held horizontally these fragrant flowers have a narrow perianth tube gradually expanding along the length to an open trumpet.
A native to Taiwan where it is found on grassy banks.

Jul 082014
 
Calceolaria integrifolia

Calceolaria integrifolia

Calceolaria integrifolia

Calceolaria integrifolia

Calceolaria integrifolia

Calceolaria integrifolia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excelling in its position as dominant member of the tufa mound, the recently planted area in front of the alpine house, Calceolaria integrifolia has flowered for several weeks and looks set to continue. Masses of clear yellow flowers are held in terminal cymes. The lower lip of each individual flower is inflated and resembles a slipper. Hence the name, from the Latin, calceolus: slipper. Originating from Chile where seed was collected from wind pruned shrubs in the coastal area near Conception. A sub shrub here at RBGE and dependant on a free draining root run, which is achieved through the tufa mound, below which a 50:50 mix of quartz sand and soil was used to build up the root zone area.

Jul 012014
 
Gillenia trifoliata

Gillenia trifoliata

Gillenia trifoliata

Gillenia trifoliata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The delicate long light linear white petals making up the flowers of Gillenia trifoliata contrast with the red calyx. An herbaceous member of the Rosaceae family native to E.N. America. Of sturdy growth, the stems have a rough surface growing to about one metre. Not strong, they gently collapse under the weight of the branching growth and foliage.

Enjoying a dry, sunny border in the alpine area where the rhizomatous roots spread forming a clump of dancing white petals in the slightest of breezes.

Jun 242014
 

The weather during the past ten months has ensured a flowering season like no other. A long autumn to ripen wood followed by a benign winter and warmth through the late spring. One of those plants to benefit is Kalmia latifolia, an evergreen shrub from E.N. America.

Clusters of bright pink flowers terminate the previous season’s growth. This is one for the bees. Tucked flat inside the corolla are ten equally spaced stamens. Each anther is nestled into a tiny recess in the corolla. Turn the flower upside down to fully appreciate these, a jelly mould in miniature. Watching a bee pollinate these flowers is a true Linnaean pastime.
If the anther is ripe and ready to shed its pollen as the bee nudges against the filament the anther is released from its recess. This action flings pollen grains over the bee or towards the stigma of another flower to aid pollination.
Putting an individual flower under a hand lens and gently nudging the filament with a pen nib reveals the pent up tension within the filament and the exploding nature of the anther as it showers pollen grains around the inside of the lens.

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia latifolia