As observed during August 2011
A prickly customer.
Eryngium amethystinum var. euspinosa was collected from grassland in the Tuscan hills in which mature plants were growing in abundance at c. 900m. The plants can be found through the Mediterranean region, preferring an alkaline soil. A mature plant is now thriving in the rock garden.
The clump does fall apart in the centre as the weight of its growth develops. The flowers, opening metallic violet, attract all manner of pollinating insects. It is a desirable specimen when in full open bloom, one which needs an open sunny situation, plenty of space and ideally support to utilise its full potential.
Aster macrophylla ‘Twilight’ is proving its worth this season. Monsoon like downpours have characterised August and many herbaceous plants have bowed to the weight of the rain. Not so this strong growing and mass flowering of this Aster.
Reaching a height of one metre it produces prolific amounts of blue ray florets. The plant becomes home to swarms of hoverflies in the warmth of early evening, just as twighlight time arrives.
The twin colours of the Saltire, the national flag of Scotland, are the feature of this cultivar. The species has blue petals; this reversion has a mixture of white and striations or blotches and splatters of blue. A member of the family Campanulaceae, native to China, it is a compact herbaceous perennial with good habit and much flower. The terminal flower buds swell rapidly becoming balloon like then burst open to reveal the flower parts to pollinating insects. Flattened, twisting brown anthers and an icicle like stigma.
Choose an open situation where the sun will warm the soil for this plant to give of its best. A light well drained soil is another prerequisite to maximise growth and flowering. The leaves are serrated around the edges and arranged spirally on the sturdy stem.
Planted to nestle down in the streamside within the Chinese plant collection this herbaceous Composite; Sinacalia davidii, has foliage shaped for effect. A native of China, the seed collected from a plant growing in Sichuan Province. It thrives on grassy slopes, roadsides and forest margins in the wild. Growing to one metre the flower spikes are made up of a multitude of thin cylindrical yellow flowers.
Individual leaves lie flat and have straight edges with severe angles. Mid green in colour they are an attractive feature of this plant.
An avenue of Zonal Pelargoniums leading visitors into the Victorian Palm House. Single colour block planting; what better way to make a statement. This is Pelargonium ‘Pentland Deep Red’, a cultivar raised from seed and grown on from plug plants. Planted out in early June and now showing scarlet bloom in profusion welcoming visitors taking respite from the Edinburgh Festival. By continuously dead heading the display will prolong well into the autumn.
The containerised Olive trees, Olea europaea, are showing tight flower buds. A native of the Eastern Mediterranean where it fruits on hillsides baked by the sun. Here these are given shelter in a polytunnel during the winter months.
As observed in 2010
A long time developing
Initially photographed on 26th June as the flower buds were emerging green from the heart of the plant it has taken a further five weeks for the colour to fully form and open out as a developed flower.
Cirsium purpuratum is a short lived perennial from Japan. It grows in open broadleaved woodland in association with Alnus hirsuta, A. firma, Betula ermanii and Aster scabra at 1295metres near Mount Haku.
The cut, jagged foliage expands forming an herbaceous clump of one metre diameter from which the flower spikes emerges. These grow to 1.2m and have purple shading to the stem. The intense purple spherical inflorescence can be 70mm across. It hangs down making the reticent beauty of the composite flower a challenge to observe. Enjoying an open situation in the garden border where it receives full sun.
Crocosmia, or if you are of a certain generation; Montbretia.
The name Montbretia came from a young French botanist, Coquebert de Montbret, who accompanied Nelson on the invasion of Egypt in 1798 where he unfortunately died.
The genus of semi evergreen corms originates in temperate Africa from where they have successfully colonised swathes of ground through Britain. Patches of C. x crocosmiiflora are well recognised in the Western Isles having spread successfully.
A walk through the Garden will reward you with clumps of C. masonorum. Foliage to 1 metre and the flower spike above a good orange colour.
Then we have the large flowered, vigorous cultivar L. ‘Lucifer’. This will reach 1.2m with the monocot leaf sheath and the bright red flowers often topping this height.
The Dierama collection growing at the Garden has this season been spectacular. Delicate and delightful images of arching fishing rods come to mind, a slight breeze causes the hanging flowers to nod gracefully.
Brush through the swaying spikes of D. trichorhizum and D. drachomontanum. Both species collected by Hilliard and Burtt during their botanising trips to South Africa. These plants are found at c.1900m altitude within grassland near the border with Lesotho where they are easily visible.
The flowers drop like earrings from the wiry stalk. Several are held in a line and swathed in tissue paper thin bracts that reflect the sun. The pink petals open out and splay bell shaped at maturity.
If offered divisions these are best accepted during spring. The offshoots have a tendency to sulk for the first two years after transplanting thereafter they lead a trouble free existence.
A Gentian with goatee beard.
Sitting atop the limestone wall at the alpine area where the roots are guaranteed a growing medium with good drainage is Gentiana paradoxa. Enjoying exposure to full sun this is a bright compact plant to grow.
The flower terminates the seasons’ growth; blue cupped fused petals make up the corolla tube. Sprouting sporadically are hair like shreds where the edge of the corolla has divided as if by scissor action.
Peer further down and white and dark purple mottling appears. Ice white anthers make this all in all a very attractive flower.
Native to the Caucasus where it develops a central rosette from which the stems shoot up from. Flowering height of 300mm the thin linear leaves are arranged in tiered whorls.
As observed during August 2009
Hybridising a hybrid
Escallonia 'Iveyi' A strong growing, glossy leaved, white blossomed evergreen shrub. A hybrid between E. x exoniensis and E. montevidensis.
E. x exoniensis is itself a hybrid of E. rosea x E. rubra bred at Veitch's Nursery, Exeter.
The three parent species are of South American origin, all introduced in the first half of the 19th century. Iveyi, the hybrid, originated at Caerhays garden in Cornwall in the 1920's. A chance seedling in the leaf litter spotted through the keen eye of a Mr Ivey, gardener at Caerhays. Nowadays it would be identified through DNA analysis and a counting of chromosomes then registered with plant breeders rights.
One detraction from perfection is the plant's habit of holding the previous season's dry flower spikes which are noticeable due to the size of the terminal clusters. Just now the laterals as well as the leading shoot are headed with panicles of massed white flowers. In bud the base of each is touched pink. Opening the green stigma is surrounded by five anthers. Well worth growing where space permits as it will reach 4 meters in height.
Packaging; one of the 21st century's environmental issues. The Poplar has a similar issue. How do you protect the gene pool of the next generation? Take a walk to the Birch lawn and be met by a cloud of soft silky strands floating in the breeze.
These silk like hairs protect the seed of Populus maximowiczii, a native of eastern and northern Asia where it is a forest tree. Here in the garden it leafs very early in the spring, often showing damage on the young leaves after an overnight frost.
The seed pods are arranged down the catkin which can reach 300mm in length. Well spaced to allow the capsule to split reflexing into (generally) four segments releasing the compressed cotton and seed to the wind. On a calm day the ground beneath is covered in a carpet of white hairs.
Forget ideas of the Dandelion clock. The Dandelion seed head is composed of a multitude of seeds directly attached to the pappus or parachute whose aim is to lift the seed from the parent plant and take it away in the wind for dispersal. In the Poplar seed pod there are several light brown seeds held independent of a parachute mechanism.
These microscope images taken by Frieda Christie show the seed cocooned within a mass of compressed hairs. As the seed capsule ripens the four way split across the seed pod allows the dense mass of silky hairs to expand out and separate. Buried in this protective cocoon are seeds, less than and up to 2mm in length. They use these light strands of hair to piggyback a ride on, floating off in the summer air currents.
Kirengeshoma palmata, a woodland plant that devours shade. Here in the woodland area it has bulked up in the two seasons since transplanting. The plant does show signs of drought stress when we are the beneficiaries of a dry spell during summer.
The flower bud emerges grey bullet like parting the green sepals; a spiralling arrangement follows with the fully developed flower a fresh yellow with thick petals.
The terminal peduncle is a collection of buds but also clusters of buds are found at each descending leaf axil.
Tall tree story
The Garden has several collections of Koelreuteria paniculata. One, growing in the copse is flowering profusely, collected by Joseph Rock in 1926. In his notes he mentions that at 12 metres it was the tallest tree in the village of Nyiba, Gansu Province, China. Here seen growing by Rock in the drier regions of a river bank.
Other collections were made on the west coast of the Republic of Korea at sea level; Honshu Province, Japan from a group of naturalised shrubs again at sea level; Sichuan Province, China, in a south facing dry valley bottom at 2070 metres.
Covered in panicles (hence the specific epithet) of individual yellow flowers. These fall and in their place watch the seed pod develop. Initially a swollen red triangular shape, ballooning conically as it matures.
An added bonus - good autumn colour from the deciduous foliage.
The beast blooms
Over the weekend we have had torrential rain, strong winds and still this hybrid Ligularia looks good.
A strong growing plant, Ligularia dentata ‘Hybrid' can be seen in the border at the pond. A mass of bright composite flowers shine out and entice visitors to discover the name of this bright, showy orange flowered mass.
The ray florets, the long petals that give the flower head its prominence, fan out from the central disc florets. The filaments explode from these like a pin cushion. Developing into musical notes as the anthers split and curl yellow.
The species is a native to Japan where it establishes on forest margins and in clearings. Enjoying a position on a stream side with exposure to the sun.
Hydrangea aspera the young stems are frosted white with a covering of minute hairs. The bark on older wood becomes papery and peels from the stem. The deciduous leaves are felty to the touch with precision incisions to the edges and a white reverse.
In the borders above the fern house it grows in overhanging shade and flowers well as can be seen from the images. W.J. Bean in Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles describes the inflorescence as a flat topped or slightly convex cymose corymb. It is a very distinct colour in that the central mass of fertile flowers is almost at the blue spectrum of purple. The outer sterile ray flowers are pink.
Native to an area stretching from the Himalayas to Java. A worthwhile addition to a woodland garden for late summer colour.
We have Ernest Wilson to thank for the more vigorous sub species; H. a. ssp. strigosa. He collected this in Hubei Province, China in 1907. His notes say thicket; which may refer to the habit of growth as the plant in the border has sent up a congestion of intermingled shoots which increase the size of its rootstock by continually sprouting new wood from the base. More vigorous and less showy than the species and with rougher hairs on the new growth.
To Bushman's Nek for Glorious Gladioli
As summer touches autumn the South African flora rises to the challenge of shorter days and cooler temperatures. Observe the Gladiolus dalenii in the border south of the Arid Land House. From a dry corm the sword like growth reaches 1.2 metres with the flower stalk splitting up through the leaves which act as a protective sheath.
This species has a wide geographical spread; South and East Africa to Arabia. It is also variable in flower colour. This was collected from Bushman's Nek, Natal Province, South Africa in 1975 by the late Bill Burtt. The herbaceous corms we grow have striated orange flowers with a delicate green inner lip. Catch the anthers at the right time and the pollen will leave a purple smear on your finger. Introduced into Europe in 1825 this species was used as a parent to produce the cultivars sold as dry corms in the spring. Unlike the species these will not overwinter in the ground and then produce successful flower spikes the following year.
An easy summer task
Surely you have something better to do with your time? In the border enjoying the sun to the south of the Herbarium is a large group of Kniphofia caulescens. Not the brightest flowers in the genus but with the glaucous grey foliage and masses of muted orange flower spikes another welcome introduction from South Africa.
As the elongated buds pop open the lemon filaments extrude terminating with a yellow anther. As these fade they congeal around the stalk in a brown mass. If time allows pull these off to keep the clump looking fresh. I have to admit there are better jobs and do beware of wasps.
As observed during August 2007
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva' beauty indeed! Medium sized shrub with a stunning display of white flowers arranged in panicles. The blooms look fresh on the shrub for a long time. Even after they've faded, they look like white moths dancing around the shrub. The bed to the west of the Fern & Fossils Glasshouse.
Tilia tomentosa The Silver Lime/Linden named because of the silvery underside of its leaves. Currently blooming, the heady honey scented flowers are a favourite of bees. This pyramidal tree becomes more oval as it ages and reaches up to 70' in height. On the edge of the road just before the lower west entrance of the Chinese Hillside
Prunus armeniaca 'Early Moorpark' is bearing ripe Apricots in Edinburgh. A combination of climatic effects probably allowed these fruits to fully develop; the warm autumn of 2006 to ripen the wood; the warm temperatures of March / April when the blossom was self fertilised. Growing on a south west facing wall the root zone is in a rain shadow area in the lea of the roof.
Prunus persica c.v. As you cross the Tay in Aberfeldy look down from the bridge to the north west bank. A peach stone tossed down probably 20 - 25 years ago is producing a prolific crop of ripening fruit. Again a sheltered spot for this Chinese native to thrive.
Agapanthus campanulatus ssp. patens. A Hilliard and Burtt collection from Temperate South Africa. The strong stems holding a mass of blue flowers. Look up and across the boundary wall of this Alpine House border, to appreciate the slender formed and slightly windswept Eucryphia x nymansensis covered in white blossom.
Berberidopsis corallina Growing against the south facing wall in the alpine area, collected in 1996. Originally thought to be almost extinct but the ICE expedition to Chile firstly identified the habitat in which likely to grow and then using this information identified sites where plants did actually grow. Seed and cutting material were collected to establish an ex situ conservation collection of living plants of which this is a very successful example.
Producing arching growth with sturdy holly like leaves, chlorotic look to the mid rib and laterals, the red petals are waxy in appearance, and attract wasps.
Rhododendron auriculatum A native to Central China, growing in F15, a focal position at the top of the stove brae. Large trusses of pure white flowers with a slight scent. The buds are sheathed in vermillion red sepals. A species that is always late into growth but successfully extends the flowering season of the genus Rhododendron into late summer.
Species Dahlias and cultivars growing to the south of the front range, T borders.
- Dahlia coccinea a Gardner and Knees collection from Mexico in 1993. Bright orange flowers held on a strong purple stem growing to 2 metres +. This is one of the parents of many hybrids and cultivars
- Dahlia merckii also from Mexico, purple petals with yellow anthers, held above light green foliage
- If you are looking for mass colour then D.'Bishop of Llandaff' is in full bloom. As with all Dahlias, the key to prolonged flowering is deadheading.
- Native to the Southern Hemisphere the Eucryphia are a mass of white this year. In the border south of the herbarium E. glutinosa shows a delicate wave to the petal formation. Initially the anthers are red oxide colour gradually fading. Planted next to this is E. glutinosa Plena Group, multi petalled, each white petal reduced in size
- A wild collected specimen of E. glutinosa is growing to the north of the front range collected by Martin Gardner and Sabina Knees at 850m in dry forest in Chile
- The less vigorous multi-stemmed E. cordifolia is in the upper woodland garden. Single leaves light shade to the reverse. Also with white petals, the flowers are less prolific in this species and tend to hang down so are not as showy as E. glutinosa
- The hybrid E. x nymansensis 'Nymansay' has parentage of cordifolia x glutinosa, E. cordifolia evergreen and E. glutinosa deciduous. Showing variable leaf characteristics it remains evergreen throughout the winter. Specimens of these are at Inverleith House, towering and in scale with the building and a mass planting to the west of the peat walls.