As observed during August 2013
Sunshine on a stalk
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.
Visitors; welcome and unwelcome
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 eyes have it
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.
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.
Scented white Phlox
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.
As observed during August 2012
Look out for berries
Dichroa febrifuga is of borderline hardiness in Edinburgh. It requires a warm sheltered spot and protection through the worst of the winter to make a modest shrub ultimately reaching two metres. Observing it now the plant has a prolific amount of flower, each inflorescence held as a corymbose panicle; the petals of individual flowers reflex as they age. Flower colour varies from pink on an alkaline soil to blue when growing in acidic conditions.
Under a hand lens the anthers can be seen to release their pollen through side slits opening along their length. This very effectively drops down onto the stigma sitting beneath. Blue berries should follow.
Our plant has flowers a delicate pink colour and you do wonder if washes with aluminium sulphate will turn the following season’s flowers blue. This is a traditional method of altering the colour of mop head Hydrangea flowers; Dichroa is a member of the family Hydrangeaceae and should respond to the availability of Aluminium which is locked in and unavailable to plants in an alkaline soil.
The evergreen foliage has a serrated edge and the smell of fresh cucumber when crushed.
A scent of languid honey
The foliage consists of long strap like leaves, from the centre of the crown the flower spikes develop. Each spike is crowned by a distinctive head of light green bracts. Often known as the “Pineapple Plant” due to this resemblance to a Pineapple.
The individual flowers amassed around the flower stalk have a sweet fragrance during warm weather nectar spills over the petal.
A mature clump of Cimicifuga japonica is in full flower on the edge of the conifer walk. The scent wafting down from the long plumes these past mild mornings is reminiscent of a delicate disinfectant, not unpleasant but a distinct aroma. These terminal inflorescences develop with rotund white buds, bursting open to reveal a multitude of filaments. It is at this stage the scent develops.
A vigorous herbaceous member of Ranunculaceae, native to China, Japan and Korea where it grows at the margin of forests in the altitude range 800 – 2600m. A vigorous plant with rhizomes and a mass of fibrous root. It exceeds 1 metre in height and needs room for the flower spikes to flop about when considering a planting position.
Blood on the blade
Planted in the corner of the herbaceous border is Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’. The leaves; blood red in colour from the tip down. Plant where the sun will reflect on or through the leaves which then appear translucent as the season progresses. This is a rhizomatous species that can become a problem as it spreads. In some countries listed as a noxious weed. Native to Japan where it is used to control soil erosion.
Growing in the student plots is carpeting annual awash with flower.
Growing to 120mm with almost succulent mid green foliage covered in minute white hairs. The flowers are born singly and are deeply lobed. Looking into the rounded bowled lobe, with good eyes the white centre absorbs a multitude of spidery white hairs revolved around the base.
Deep velvet purple on the inner surface; a powder white outer colour to the petals, both faces with prominent veining.