Yet more Mediterranean scents
Continuing with the theme of flowers requiring warmth to release their scent is Iris unguicularis ssp. cretensis. A delightful compact species with, at bud stage, tightly rolled petals. Unfurling a dominant blue to reveal yellow splashes of colour with net vein lines on the falls resembling a peacock feather in miniature. A native of Crete and areas of Greece where it is baked by the intense sunlight.
In the garden, growing at the base of a conifer where the soil is dry and moisture from rainfall hard to come by. Here the rhizomatous root system manages to imbibe and store enough water to throw out fresh growth of the narrowest pencil thin foliage and produce a crop of flowers annually.
Clematis cirrhosa is the strong growing evergreen climber that hangs around and above the wooden door leading through from the alpine area into the growing on area beyond. The petioles grab at any available supporting appendage keeping the plant attached through gusting winds and blizzards.
The four creamy yellow petals surround the sturdy flower parts. On maturity these all give way to long achene’s that later curl in typical Clematis seed style. A native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe so ideally placed on a south wall or free draining sheltered position thus maximising flowering potential.
Not needing the protection of the Alpine House but cultivated to perfection therein is a pot of Eranthis cilicia. This species has much smaller, narrower and linear foliage than the Winter Aconite, A. hyemalis, commonly associated with mass plantings of Snowdrops in woodland areas of gardens at this time of year.
They work well as an understory planting as the foliage yellows, dying back to the stumpy tuberous rhizomes and is then camouflaged beneath expanding herbaceous and shrub cover in a cultivated situation.
Dig out and divide
A vigorous mass planting of white stemmed Rubus sp. had spread to the detriment of neighbouring, weaker growing plants. The ideal time to dig out the extensive mass of growth is during a dry spell while the leafless canes are dormant.
Dig down deeply to ease out the rootstock taking care not to damage the soft young buds that will develop to form the showy stems for winter 2014/15. Work quickly and have a new planting site prepared to prevent drying out of the propagules.
Don’t be tempted to leave the canes full length it will result in wind rock. Cut out older brown canes and reduce back current season shoots to 300mm.
As observed during February 2013
Plants grown from seed collected on expeditions often take several years to germinate, grow and mature into flowering sized specimens. Initially they are grown in the nursery and then given a place in the living collection. When flowering occurs specimens are taken to the Herbarium for comparison against type specimen material and published type descriptions.
Forming a dense barrier of glossy evergreen leaves; Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Variegatum’ is worth growing in a sheltered situation. The foliage of this cultivar has white banding and shows tinges of pink. Strengthening strands of fibre providing structural integrity are evident when the leaf is pulled apart.
Appreciates a well-drained root run and will reach 5metres by twining around supports. Often used as a glasshouse specimen, indeed when first introduced the species was commonly grown under glass. The heady scent from the summer flowers filling the growing area. Gradually as growers experimented with propagated material it was planted in sheltered microclimates outdoors. Here plants have survived temperatures down to –13°c.
Betula calcicola is one of a number of dwarf Chinese Birches, it has a covering of dense white hairs over the buds and young shoots which act as insulation, protecting from drying winds. Look and the lenticels can be seen well insulated on the twiggy growth.
This villous characteristic gives the young growth and buds a distinct sheen and allows the plant to survive harsh weather at high altitude. The plant is a slow growing shrub found colonising cliffs in SW Sichuan and into NW Yunnan Provinces.
In the Garden specimens can be found in the rock garden where the stunted characteristics are perfectly to scale.
The Grey Squirrel population cause occasional damage through the Garden. Bark is stripped from young shoots and bulbs are dug up and eaten. Shoots are cleanly cut with their chisel edge incisor teeth to use in dray formation.
All this pales to insignificance when the devastation in a well budded swath of Pulmonaria angustifolia ‘Munstead Blue’ is seen. The most apt description from one of my colleagues is of an overgrazed pony paddock.
A spring favourite leaping continents
Used as we are to the yellow flowers of the Primrose, there are colour variations of this species which we are less familiar with. A native to three continents; Europe, N. Africa and SW Asia; in Britain this low growing perennial herb colonises hedge bases and open woodland.
Seeds of this Primula vulgaris were collected in Eastern Georgia. Growing amongst Beech forest with spring bulbs; Scilla and Galanthus. The flower colour ranges through shades of white to violet. Some botanists would defer to a sub species status thus acknowledging the status and stability of the petal colour.
The plant exhibits the thrum eyed and pin eyed morphology of the species by which making anthers or stigmas prominent in individual flowers on the same plant prevents self pollination.
A frosty reception
A tough, squat evergreen shrub from Australia and New Zealand. The felty grey young stems hold the green leaves which have caught the frozen moisture in the atmosphere giving them an edge of white ice to our benefit. Daisy like flowers appear during the summer. The remains of one at seed stage can be seen in the attached image.
The plant enjoys full sun with a root zone that drains rapidly.
Reminders of romance
Seed pods; bright yellow, tucked into the evergreen canopy of Euonymus wilsonii. Splitting apart into even segments revealing the red coated aril. A spectacular find at this time of year; just prior to bud burst and a new season commencing.
Well worth growing here as a vigorous shrub with an open canopy reaching 3+ metres. Covered in shiny green leaves, simple in shape leading down to an elongated drip tip, edged with an uneven indent.
Shoots leaves and flowers
With the days lengthening and the soil warming; growth, especially in herbaceous plants, is shooting away. Helleborus vesicarius is looking promising with flowers colouring optimistically. Opening green these squat cylindrical flowers slowly develop a wide mauve red band on the petals, drooping down to face the ground.
Found in localised clusters amongst Juniperus sp. in SE Turkey where it grows in limestone rock on dry steep exposed hillsides. Summers in these areas are dry and the plant dies back to below ground; shooting out again in November as the rains come.
Keep an eye on the development of any seed pods; these are unusual as they inflate during development. As the foliage dries up during the summer dormancy these brown pods are broken away from the remains of the foliage and disperse further from the parent plant.
Grey skies, moisture laden leaves
Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘John Tomlinson’ is brought to life after rain. The droplets collect on the grey blue waxy cuticle of the leaf and reflect light. Arranged spirally on the stem the leaves are long and linear with a red tint to the new growth.
When cultivating around Euphorbia’s be aware that the sap can cause skin damage. This plant prefers a well drained soil and a sunny situation reflecting its Southern European origins.