The spectacular flowers of Romneya coulteri are to be seen in the Queen Mother Memorial Garden on the north boundary border. The large white pleated petals surround the prominent ring doughnut grouping of yellow anthers. These lightly fragrant flowers are produced on the current season’s growth of glaucous blue foliage and are more prolific given a warm, sheltered situation with well-drained soil. A native to Mexico and California where it will bake in their summer temperatures. Considering the lack of sunshine this month in Edinburgh it illustrates how adaptable the plant is. Resentful of root disturbance, Romneya will sucker away from the parent plant and may become invasive where climate and soil suit. Here it has razzled through the Yew hedge and protrudes through the boundary railings. During the winter these outlying shoots can be severed and transplanted.
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.
This is the time to appreciate the phenomenal growth of Sunflowers, Helianthus annuus and the large yellow head of flowers.
Some, to celebrate their size, go by the cultivar names of ‘Mongolian Giant’, ‘Mammoth Russian’. These names also reflect the huge amount of acreage grown in Russia, the biggest producer of seed for food and oil. Native to the Americas from where it has spread through temperate regions becoming a popular choice for children to grow in competitions.
If you have grown a prize specimen choose the tallest and or finest flowering plant and tag it. This is the one to save seed from to grow on for next year’s flowers, providing it is not an F1 hybrid cultivar. Eat the rest.
In the herbaceous border a fine patch of Coreopsis verticillata ‘Grandiflora’ is attracting pollinating insects as well as the attention of visitors due to the clear bright yellow swath of flowers topping off these compact plants
In contrast the warmth of the soil is allowing weed seeds to germinate giving rise to many unwanted visitors in cultivated soil. When dry run your eye over the border and gently tease out germinating seedlings. When they reach the size of this Sow Thistle make sure the root also comes out. Although this is an annual, if snapped off the base will regenerate. Sending up several shoots each with the potential to flower and set seed before the coolness of autumn.
The graceful small tree in the corner of the Queen Mothers Memorial Garden attracting much attention is a native to New Zealand, Plagianthus regius. Appreciate it now as the gentle shape will change as age catches up with it and alters its form.
A mass of white flowers attracting myriad of pollinating insects it is humming with activity.
Looking closer the female flowers can be seen mixing and matching on the delicate branchwork with the large petals and showy stamens of the male flowers. Much less noticeable, these female have the appearance of eyes looking out. The stigmas are countersunk within the circle of creamy white recurved petals which develop a mauve tinge with age.
Healthy herbaceous Phlox maculata are a great addition to the border at this time of year. Clear fresh green foliage topped by large panicles of pure white flowers exuding a sweet perfumed scent.
Native to the eastern states of America where it colonises areas of moist soil, meadows and stream/river banks. From a dense rootstock the semi woody herbaceous stem pushes up to 1.2m at flowering. This stem is robust enough to support itself without the need for a stake.