A good selection of young plants of Bergenia pacifica from a sowing in 2015 are flowering for the first time in the nursery. From the attached image can be seen the development of the flower bud and growth leading to a succession of the plants flowering. The flower spike holds a selection of flowers in the terminal cyme that are a welcome warm pink in the last days of winter. A heavy bearer of nectar that can be observed as droplets on the inner surfaces of the petals. A rhizomatous evergreen perennial with rounded foliage, deepening red as temperatures drop through the winter. Native to east Russia and Siberia where it is found in damp woodland and open meadows, this plant is ideal grouped in semi shade growing in moist border soil.
Muscari azureum has sent up its instantly recognisable inverted cone of azure blue flowers. Native to Turkey this is a bulb that appreciates good drainage and a sunny aspect and will naturalise through borders. Just look along the alpine wall later in the year, it is full of M. azureum naturalised in this free draining sun baked environment. The flowers within the raceme are mainly fertile and a minority, paler in colour are sterile.
The forecast last night was for an overnight frost that would clear quickly. How right the forecast was, bright sunshine soon warmed the ice crystals with damaging consequences to the Viburnum bodnantense cultivars. The attached image shows the rapid browning and discolouration that occurs to the open flowers when direct sun expands the frozen ice crystals within the petals.
Rhododendron dauricum, in flower since mid-January. A good show of purple flowers on this native to east and north Asia, the seed from which this plant grew was collected on Hokkaido Island, Japan. A hardy species that is one of the first of the genera to flower, it does rely on a frost free winter to prolong the flowering as early sun directed on frozen blooms is fatal.
Two different collections of Helleborus orientalis can be seen in the woodland garden. Both collected from Georgia. The smaller, with petals shaded pink and red was growing at 1210m on a grassy slope with Primula spp and amongst Picea and Carpinus. The more vigorous growing and consistent white flowered plants were found at a lower altitude 632m on a hillside of deciduous woodland. The variability of the wild species and its wide geographic location; Southern Europe to SW Asia, gives rise to many selected and named cultivars. Often sold as H. x hybridus cultivars.
Carpets of Ivy, Hedera helix, are wonderful for ground cover but once the vigorous shoots start encroaching on tree trunks, walls and through the base of woody shrubs competition is fierce. The juvenile growth has smaller leaves. After several years mature, more woody growth is produced and this holds flowers and subsequent fruit. A giant in the ecological world, Ivy provides cover to myriad organisms, stability to soil, food in the form of pollen, nectar and berries, as a foil to mature trees, bird nesting cover. It does, however, need to be kept within acceptable bounds in a garden. Rampant Ivy saps vigour from other plants and on buildings will unseat coping stones and disrupt roof tiles.
Daphne ‘Spring Beauty’ is indeed a beauty and scented too. An evergreen shrub hybridised in the 1820’s it has a mass of flowers in a terminal cluster. Purple in bud, opening a lighter shade of pink and when open a heavy powerful scent fills the air around and about. Enjoying an open situation Daphne will flower reliably from an early age. Choose a permanent position as they do dislike being transplanted. Ideally sheltered from drying winds and too bright summer sunshine, in soil that drains well.
Ficus carica needs a warm corner to produce a reliable crop of Figs in autumn. As a native to the Middle East as much for winter protection of the embryo fruit which populate the branches on the previous season’s growth. But this shelter and warmth is also essential through the year to ripen the fruit to split perfection. For the tastiest fruit, resist the temptation to harvest until the fig splits slightly and starts to ooze juice. As growth commences in spring additional fruit buds will form. Given a good growing season these too will swell and ripen.
The sand bench within the alpine house contains a swathe of colour. Spring bulbs in full bloom are always a welcome show after the winter.
Yellow, the predominant colour, with Narcissus pseudonarcissus the first of the large trumpet Daffodils to bloom.
Lonicera caerulea var. glabrescens; sparse to flower and when it does, the terminal and auxiliary cluster are small and relatively insignificant. This is a late winter flowering multi growth shrub of deciduous habit where growth becomes a criss-cross of shoots.
It has flowered through from early January into February. The cold frosty nights have not damaged the small creamy white flowers.
The species is widely distributed geographically through the northern hemisphere and consequently exhibits many variants. Several of these wild growing varieties have been described and named, of which this is one. Plants are found growing within deciduous forest areas, reaching around 2+ metres in height.
Unfortunately Bean in his book , “Trees and shrubs hardy in the British Isles” notes “it has little or no merit for gardens but is interesting botanically.” Where better a place to cultivate than in a botanic garden? The botanical interest lies in the make-up of the ovaries that give rise to the pair of flowers.