Look inside the open flower of Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’ at the base of each of the six petals is a perfect white circle that magnifies the nectar pool. A botanical feature to attract pollinating insects deep into the cup of petals thus brushing against the pollen laden anthers to disseminate to the next flower.
There was a double take when looking up from the new growth of Polygonatum x hybridum shooting up with closed stems to the hooded parasols on the terrace. These shoots develop rapidly at this time of year sent up from rhizomes spreading horizontally just beneath the soil surface. A good plant for naturalising in a woodland situation.
Two Daffodils, two completely different flower forms. Narcissus ‘Golden Cycle’ a clump filling a crevice in the rock garden with the early morning sun making the golden colour stand out perfectly. In comparison; N. ‘Telamonius Plenus’, a misshapen, ugly cultivar that is grown as a botanical curiosity. Double or semi double green tinged flowers. Originating in the Netherlands it dates back to 1620. Having many synonyms through the centuries, one of which was ‘Master Wilmers Great Double Daffodil’, none of which would make me want to grow it. However as a Botanic Garden we grow a wide range of botanical specimens that exhibit the diversity of the botanical world.
Warmth in the air and a lack of frost will give a good flowering season amongst the Rhododendron collection. One worth searching the copse for is Rhododendron davidii. Collected in evergreen forest within Sichuan province, China near Dujinyan at 1900m. A strong growing evergreen with magnificent trusses of almost purple flowers. Appreciate the colour, being so different to the rest of the plants set out through the copse. But also look more closely at the individual flower, up to 14 can form one truss. Inside the corolla one or two of the fused petals have a subtle mottle mark.
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.
Maintain a weed free root zone.
Water establishing plants in a prolonged dry spell.
Only cut when the bird nesting season is over.
Forming the shape
Initial pruning should be with sharp secateurs. As the hedge thickens use hand shears. When the shape is formed electric or petrol hedge trimmers. It goes without saying that all blades should be sharp and clean. Sap builds up and dries on blades, this then results in a poor cut.
Showing up as shredded cut ends that brown off in the wind.
Straight sides and an even flat top are the easiest to cut.
If you let the hedge grow above 1.8m tall then consider tapering the top to a point. This allows cutting from the ground, saving time and effort with a ladder.
At the end of the day you are the one looking at the hedge, the shape you form it is your choice.
Deciding on ultimate height
What do you want to screen? From where?
Sit in the garden and decide on your sight lines to block out undesirable views.
When to cut
Evergreens in very early spring; deciduous species when dormant.
Never during the nesting season. Avoid cutting during freezing conditions.
How to cut
Stay firmly on the ground cutting as much as possible. Once you go above ground level onto steps stability becomes an issue and the propensity for an accident increases.
Always make sure steps are well grounded and do not stretch to reach and cut the last section; move the steps. We don’t all have access to a mobile elevated work platform!