As observed dring July 2011
Salt and pepper
The terminal flower head of Dipsacus chinensis is worth growing this straggly lank herbaceous perennial for, alone. The plant itself will not look a picture in the border but the salt and pepper effect of the black anthers which nestle down amongst the white petals of this “Teasel”; make it a good plant for the back of the border.
The inflorescence is a globose cone shape with extended spine tipped bracts protruding. These are often collected for winter decoration as dry seed heads once seed dispersal has occurred. The seed for this plant was collected from an open grassy area near Zhongdian at 3190 metres during the 1990 CLD expedition to SW China.
The Japanese Water Iris
A late flowering display of Iris is always welcome in the garden and Iris ensata var. spontanea in the Biodiversity garden fulfils this task admirably. Collected in Japan in 2007 this wild occurring variety of I. ensata was found on flat open grassland at 1075m associating with Scabiosa, Miscanthus, Hemerocallis.
Tight upright leafy spears of growth with stature; this herbaceous perennial deserves a place in the border with the bright purple flowers and delicate yellow stripe on the falls. Looking through the clump colour variation is evident which is consistent from progeny arising from wild collected seed.
Plant at pond margins or in moisture retentive soil where it will reach an ultimate height of 1.2m. Numerous cultivars have been raised, many in Japan and latterly in the west, many characterised by large petals and a flat profile over the top of the flower. Several cultivars are grown at the garden as well as the species.
A favourite of bees and chefs.
Thymus praecox ssp. polytrichus is one of the 250 or so species that make up this genus. This is a ground hugging woody perennial, rarely making 35mm in height. Growth follows and moulds itself to the contours of the land. In bloom it is a mass of individual light purple flowers. A native to Spain, Portugal and the Azores where it appreciates the heat from the sun. Here it is at home in the alpine area absorbing heat from the sun and indirectly through the paving it colonises. The scent from thymol contained within the foliage and flowers is released on warm days or by bruising the plant parts.
As observed during July 2010
A rare first flowering
Planted in 1996 and fourteen years later Carrierea calycina produces its first flowers.
The tree in the Garden at the base of the Chinese hillside is a male; the flowers are full of stamens of multi length; the anthers laden with pollen. The terminal inflorescence is composed of three and more flowers which open in stages.
The calyx is ribbed and light green in colour as an immature bud. It expands and opens gradually whitening in colour. Now get up close and appreciate the accompanying scent. On a still humid day this is sweet and heavy; if the tree was laden with flowers it would be quite overpowering.
Native to SW China where it is found growing through the margins of forests within the range 1300 - 1600 metres. Rarely seen in cultivation in this country due to a perceived lack of hardiness. The past winter cold has cut back some of the smaller branches through the framework of this small tree. Leaf shape is good, held to the wood by a red petiole. The leaves have a waxed feel to both surfaces, almost as if a candle had been rubbed over the surface leaving a residue. A serrated edge all around terminates in a drip point.
High temperatures and intense sun have consequences. This is often seen in early afternoon where direct bright sun has shone on unprotected leafy material. Superficial wilt occurs which can be disturbing to see. No need to worry; with the coolness of the evening comes recovery.
At this time of day the transpiration rate slows and allows the plant to uptake water via the roots from the soil to replenish that lost in the heat of the day. Recovery is gentle and very rarely needs the use of a hose. The image shows Kirengeshoma palmate in mid afternoon exhibiting sun wilt. The following morning turgidity had returned to the plant.
By incorporating bulky organic matter into the soil during autumn and winter the humus content will increase. This in turn improves the moisture holding capacity of the soil and the soil biology increases.
The attached image shows the effect of lack of ventilation in a glasshouse on a growing tomato crop. The effect of the sun is intensified through the glass. Shading to the south or west elevations will be beneficial.
Save valuable water for food crops and where possible install a rain water collection system or use washing up or bath water to maintain moisture levels in the soil.
If you do use mains water direct it to the plants most in need through a micro bore drip system or a watering can. Avoid sprinklers or hoses as much water is wasted through these.
Torrential rain and twisted leaves
Much needed rain fell during the past week. After a prolonged dry period the soil bakes and ideally gentle rain is needed to allow rainwater to absorb into the surface. Torrential rain fell through the nights and days last week resulting in run off and silt slicks draining from rivulet tracks in the soil. Three consecutive days of rainfall in double figures from the 13th to 15th July giving a combine total of 45mm. It does not sound a lot but the ferocity of the downpours makes it seem worse.
With the heavy rain comes damage; weaknesses in mature trees cause limbs to fail under load from the increased weight of water the joints and branch unions are expected to bear.
The image shows failure of a double leader on a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa'. The joint was fundamentally weak due to the infolded bark. As girth increased the expanding growth put opposing strain on each leader. With the added weight of rainwater held within the canopy a definite split occurred.
As you walk about the city appreciate the heavy scent from the creamy white flower panicles of hedging "Privet", Ligustrum ovalifolium, or L.vulgare made more noticeable with the warm humid atmosphere.
In the Orchids and Cycads House has one of the strangest flowers. It bears the most amazing resemblance to a Sea Anemone. The flower is a complex structure of crenulated fused petals. These may wrap around a twig if in the way of its development. There is also an upward ring of fused ribbed petals with a ring of free stamens surrounding and pushing back. A strong red compliments the orange shade which is the predominant colour. It is thought that sap sucking thrips may be the pollinator of these flowers during their feeding.
Native to Tropical West Africa where as a shrub or small tree it grows in humid forests and near the coast. The bark is sometimes ground and used as cough medicine. Alternate evergreen leaves are of simple form.
As observed during July 2009
Will Derek travel home?
This is the year of the Homecoming; a year when the Scots Diaspora are encouraged to return to the country of their roots. Over the weekend of 25 - 26th July there is an opportunity to experience and celebrate Scotland's culture at the Gathering in Edinburgh.
South Island has a cooler climate than North Island and is the home of Chordospartium stevensonii. The red data book lists its status as vulnerable in the area near Marlborough, where it is endemic, due to habitat deterioration. It has a pendulous habit growing to eight metres in the wild. In Edinburgh it appreciates a sunny sheltered position a south or west facing aspect is ideal. The main stems producing leafless green shoots hanging down towards the ground.
The plant does belong to the Leguminosae family but grouped in a raceme, 80mm in length, the individual flowers resemble a miniature Cymbidium in shape. Emitting a slight scent white striated pink, each a gem.
Plumes of bloom.
Aruncus dioicus, from its dense woody herbaceous rootstock, develops into a mass of foliage bedecked with plumes of white flowers. Reaching 2 metres and as much across, much appreciated by bees.
This is a plant that consistently produces a well developed head of flowers, both striking and architectural. A welcome addition to the border or as a stand alone specimen. The foliage is deeply cut, light green and holds its colour. Take time to appreciate the individual flower panicles as well as the mass of bloom.
Native to the temperate northern hemisphere where it enjoys a moist root run and partial shade. Growing in the F beds it competes well with a coniferous canopy and surrounding herbage.
It's all in the detail
Dierama pendulum is a fabulous plant from the Cape of South Africa. From the base of the long linear foliage the tall statuesque arching flower spikes emerge.
White tepalled flowers held on stems resembling thin, taught fishing wire. Arching over with resilience to the wind they move gracefully.
A detail that bears a closer look is revealed by turning the flower upwards; inside the corolla at the base of the petals are single marks. Alternate on each tepal are circles and solid marks etched in dark pigment. Occasionally the solid mark expands to an elongated diamond. Growing in the rock garden and well worth a look.
Seed was collected from plants growing in high grassland near Sehlabathebe village, Lesotho.
Sanguisorba; cartoon character
There is a large patch of Sanguisorba hakusanensis planted to the west of the Garden in F05. Looking at the flowers sitting atop the foliage they could be crawling with hairy pink worms. The compressed, cylindrical flower bud erratically bursts with 18mm long filaments and then becomes a thing of beauty when fully developed at c. 80mm length. The stigma is held slightly below, not being as long as the filaments.
There is a slight scent to the vivid pink flower terminating the spikes which are freely produced. The foliage which has a grey reverse and perfectly serrated edge emerges with the leaflets folded together, with maturity opening flat.
A member of the Rosaceae family this species is native to Japan and Korea. It has been collected from Mount Chiri at 1300m where a humid atmosphere and an average annual rainfall of 1300mm provide good growing conditions.
In the upper woodland is a spectacular and colourful group of Hosta aff. rhodeifolia. A strong growing herbaceous clump with mid green leaves and stunning off blue flower spikes.
The species name is based on the genus Rohdea whose leaves it resembles. The genus Rohdea was named after Michael Rohde a German botanist (1782 - 1812) Thus making the spelling rhodeifolia a spelling error although it was a published name in the Journal of Faculty of Science in 1940, again by Maekawa.
Ah taxonomy; art or science? This is where the Gardens unique accession number holds its own.
Seeds were collected on an expedition to Japan in 1988. The parent plant found growing in mixed grassland at the roadside in Hokkaido Island, to the north of Japan. On collection it was thought to be affiliated to the species (aff. rhodeifolia) and on germinating given the accession number 19890473. Even if renamed this unique number will follow the plant making it identifiable back to the seed source.
The original Phygelius
A popular plant for summer borders and now bred to visually stun garden centre patrons in various colours.
A walk in the rock garden will enlighten you to the original flower colour of Phygelius aequalis, now in full bloom. Tubular salmon pink flowers cluster down the terminal spikes. The protruding red anthers contrast with the yellow throat. Collected in Free State South Africa where it was found at c.2300m as a lush growing plant to one meter on a streamside.
It is a vigorous semi evergreen sub shrub. Depending on the severity of the winter and the type of shelter it has will determine the degree of die back or just a shriveling and blackening of foliage. This plant is c.1 meter tall with a spread of 1.5m.
European Water Lily
The European Water lily, Nymphaea alba graces still freshwater with its pure white flowers. A cosmopolitan plant that is found through Eurasia and into North Africa.
Preferring a depth of water between 200mm and 2 metres. The plants rely on a covering depth of water of 250mm above the herbaceous rhizome to give frost protection.
The pure white multi petalled flowers open during the day floating on the water surface. A slight scent is detected when close up. The centre of the flower is filled with a mass of yellow stigmas. As daylight fades the petals slowly fold together for the night.
Leaves, almost circular with a deep indent, are dark glossy green with a red tinge on the lower surface. These plants love full sun and to maximise flowering keep surrounding vegetation low.
Fleshy flower spikes sent from zero to 1.7meters in the space (it seems) of days. Galtonia candicans sheltered in the glasshouse borders has reached flowering stage. The upturned white blooms hang on long stalks at positions around the central stem like the grandest stately home's candelabra.
Native to Temperate South Africa where it is found on streamsides, enjoying moist shady conditions. The linear strap like foliage is untidy and detracts from the beauty of the flowers. A bulbous member of the family Hyacinthaceae; often referred to as the "Summer Hyacinth".
The genus was named after Sir Francis Galton (1822 - 1911) who was a distant cousin of Charles Darwin and also of considerable intellect. He classified fingerprints into categories, identifying patterns and individuality for identification purposes.
As observed during July 2008
The specimens in the Rock Garden were collected in the Pirin Mountains of south-west Bulgaria, but the species is endemic to the Eastern Carpathian Mountains and now showing variation in the flower colour within the batch of plants.
The five petals emerge rolled is a swirl formation, expanding to show their common feature: the feathered edge. A slight fragrance can be detected with the nostrils close by.
This is a worthwhile member of the genus to cultivate, reliable in flower and retaining its vegetative form.
Stinking woody Solanaceae
Cestrum parqui, a woody member of the family Solanaceae, is making healthy growth in the Garden. It is native to South America, from Brazil to Argentina. This specimen was collected as seed in Chile at an altitude of 1,000m on steep valley sides of the Rio Maule, where vegetation was dominated by Nothofagus species.
Sited in the Garden in the shelter of a dominant Maytenus boaria to the east and a brick wall to the north, this usually semi-hardy deciduous shrub is flowering profusely. There is evidence of winter dieback in dead shoot tips that have not flushed this year, but generally this is a healthy 4m high and broad specimen producing luxuriant growth. The wood, as it ages, resembles Forsythia with the multitudinous covering of raised lenticels.
The greenish-yellow flowers are produced in inflorescences on the current season's growth. At night they emit a smell not dissimilar to that of gloss paint drying. When trying to place the scent, do not disturb the foliage which has a pungent odour, distinctly unpleasant. The cigar-shaped buds open at the top only to display five flattened petals, leaving the long corolla intact as a tube protecting the flower parts.
The greatest asset of Actinidia kolomikta, a member of the kiwi fruit genus, is its leaves. The leaf colouration on young plants is not so pronounced as on an older plant which is growing in sun or partial shade, in soil where the roots can get a good deep run.
The colour of the leaf changes randomly during the growing season to deep pink or white. Some are metallic shades, but in all cases the colour only shows on the upper surface of the leaf. Beneath, the original green pigment remains with red venation.
Often starting to colour from the leaf tip back towards the petiole, some leaves will turn a completely separate colour, others only partially.
The vigorous shoots, when split open, reveal a chambered pithy core, brown in colour. This helps to provide flexible strength when buffeted by wind.
Growing high in the Kaghan Valley of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan is the prickly-leaved Morina longifolia. The flower spikes are populated with creamy white buds. The corolla gradually extending in a lax fashion and colouring pink with a scalloped head. These buds are all held in whorls progressing up the stem.
The leaves develop from a basal rosette and are edged with spines; these become significantly smaller at the bases of the floral whorls. At the apex of the spike these are a shade of dull red. The internodes are soft and felty to the touch in contrast to the sharp spikes.
Planted in a vantage point atop a mound in the Rock Garden, the metre-long spikes are well appreciated from below. This provides the drainage needed for successful cultivation and longevity of this perennial species.
Cool and crisp as a freshly laundered white shirt
Setting a striking pose in the sunken courtyard of the Front Range Glasshouses is a mature clump of Zantedeschia aethiopica. Native to temperate South Africa, this lush foliaged fleshy rhizomed plant exudes confidence in this cool, damp and shady situation. Here it remains semi-evergreen though in a less favourable position will die back during winter.
The spathe unfurls from green to a pure white, cool to the touch, with the yellow finger-like spadix arising from the centre of the funnel. The flowers are set above the leaf growth to a height of 1.6 metres.
It is now becoming a popular house plant and many cultivars of the species within the genus have arisen in a range of colours. These are sold for interior use and the larger cultivars for garden planting.
A scent of summer
Lavender is one of those plants, easily propagated, that is found in many British gardens though native to the Mediterranean. It has one drawback: as it ages the plant becomes woody and falls apart in the centre.
Semi-ripe cuttings taken during this month will root readily and make a decent replacement plant for setting out next May.
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' is a reliable, even-flowered cultivar. The tightly packed lilac flowers are set on stalks that keep the blooms an even distance above the green foliage with the classic lavender scent. The oils from lavendar plants are used in many herbal extracts and distilled as lavender water.
L. lanata, native to southern Spain, is covered with grey lambs ear foliage. Bruising the leaves releases a menthol scent. Long, gangly flower spikes reach to one metre, dividing two or three times as growth progresses.
Lavender is also a host to cuckoo spit, as seen in the attached image. This is produced by the nymph of the froghopper, a sap-sucking insect. Eggs are laid in the plant tissue in late summer and hatch the following spring. As the emerging nymph feeds on the host plant, it excretes sap which it pumps full of air. This frothy spit-like exudate protects the immature nymph from drying out. Closer investigation of the spit reveals the small green nymph.
Castanea sativa, the Sweet Chestnut
A dominant tree with deeply fissured and twisting bark. The mature specimen at the rock garden divides into three giant limbs at a height of two metres. The fourth, ripped off in a long forgotten storm, now produces epicormic shoots.
Passing by there is a distinctive scent given off by the flowers. The long catkin holds the male flowers; the anthers and filaments. Tucked in at the base of these are the embryo sweet chestnuts, easily recognisable as an immature shape of the prickly shelled husks holding the brown nut.
Requiring a warmer climate to fill out to edible status than Edinburgh usually provides the nuts are disappointingly empty in late August - September when the harvest occurs in its natural geographical zone of southern Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.
An observation picked up by the Phenology team is that of the four examples of C. sativa growing in the Garden; the rock garden tree is the only one to produce male flower parts on the catkin. The prominent white anthers are evident in the attached image.
Late July sees Clethra delaveyi clothed in long racemes of scented flowers. These are held gracefully at the ends of the shoots. The fused, cupped white petals shelter the green anthers. These individually open from the base to the terminal point of the raceme in succession. As the petals drop the prominent style is left held in the folded sepals.
This is a tall, open, deciduous shrub with dark green leaves, the under-surface lighter to grey in colour. The terminal buds are distinctive with a bulbous shape.
At this time of year, the hidden feature deep in the canopy is the sea-washed shades of brown and grey bark on the mature wood.
A native to Yunnan Province in south-west China, it has been cultivated since the early part of the 20th century when it was initially thought to be tender. The Garden's specimen was introduced from seed collected by George Forrest when travelling through the Cangshan mountains near Dali in Yunnan Province during the 1930s.
More recent collections have been made at heights of 2,700 to 3,270 metres on ridges in rhododendron forest and through mixed evergreen and low deciduous forest.
As observed during July 2007
- Tropaeolum speciosum "Chilean Flame Flower", a scrambling climber covered in red flowers, growing through the woody planting west of the Fern & Fossils Glasshouse exit. Also found colonising other plantings throughout the garden
- Genista tenera Growing in the bed opposite the fern house a proliferation of yellow flowers. Native to Madeira
One of the flower spikes in the group of Primula vialii in the demonstration garden on the edge of the QMM garden
- has developed a fasciation. The spike has flattened out and now resembles a favourite lollypop covered in sprinkles
- Also in the Demonstration garden is Campanula latifolia, collected by Douglas McKean, native to Europe and northern Asia. Light blue 1.2m flower spikes
- Stachys macrantha 'Robusta' provides a welcome splash of colour at the north east corner of the herbaceous border.
- The first seed heads of note this season are on Dryas drummondii 'Grandiflora' growing on the alpine wall
- Iris ensata, south of the pond. E & C Asia, Large white flowers, petals plate like splayed down at edges, yellow markings on the inner centre. The cultivar 'Landscape at Dawn' growing to the north of the pond has light blue petals, very worthwhile growing. In the rock garden, c.v. 'Rose Queen' is shy to flower with washed out purple blooms.
- Chordospartium stevensonii a woody Legume from South Island, N.Z. The pink bands of tiny flowers have a delicate scent. Growing by the South facing wall next to the Chilean Area & the Linnaeus Monument
- Lilium regale three clumps straggling the pathway to the QMM garden, leaning into the light. Muted red buds open white and have a heavy perfume, intensifying as the day warms up
- Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' . A fine group with dense lilac flower spikes is growing in the demonstration garden
- Three hybrid tea roses in the QMM garden, 'Princess Alexandra', 'Golden Jubilee', 'Diamond Jubilee'
- Philadelphus x purpureo-maculatus 'Sybille' Large white flowers growing in demonstation garden
- Viburnum henryi Awash with creamy white panicles of flowers, these scent the corner of the wall and path to the east of the Orchid house. A native of Central China, look out for the fruit in autumn
- Nepeta 'Six Hills Hybrid', middle of the herbaceous border release essential oils as the temperature rises.
The top pathway of the Chinese plant collection is buzzing with bees amongst the Hypericum species growing here. All wild collected in China on a selection of expeditions
- H. maclarenii an earlier collection, 1987 by Roy Lancaster, lighter yellow petals, interestingly reflexed
- H. subsessile, again reflexed petals, CLD 1991.
- H. forrestii cupped yellow petals CLD 894.
- H. beanii CLD, a mass of yellow flowers, the immature seed pods are bright red. Set under a canopy of Rosa rubus, having a profusion of slightly scented white flowers, reaching to 5metres. Collected by Howick and McNamara in1991, C & W. China
The collection of Astilbe cultivars in the garden has never looked better. The continual rain this season has ensured the usual crisping of the foliage has not occurred. Family Saxifragaceae.
- Astilbe 'Etna' Strong growth to 2 metres +. The pink flower spikes have not been damaged by the weather, loved by bees
There are many cultivars planted to the back of the herbaceous border:
- Astilbe x arendsii 'Venus' pink pagodas of colour
- A. x a. 'Gloria' resembles a smaller sister to Venus
- A. x a. 'Amethyst' a deeper colour almost purple
- A. x a. 'Irrlicht' compact white
- A. x a. 'Federsee' compact, muted pink spikes
- A. 'Meta Immink' Slightly later to open, flower spikes leaning south to the sun.
Also worth looking for in the herbaceous border is Filipendula rubra 'Venusta' in the Rosaceae family, producing 2 m flower spikes covered in minute pink balls that open out to a fluffy candy floss like mass.
Rhododendron maddenii ssp. crassum Growing and flowering profusely in the east gate lodge garden, a sheltered microclimate. Collected by Keith Rushforth in 1995, Found in the Himalayas to Indochina. Handsome white flower trusses with a slight scent.
Roscoea purpurea. Found in the east side of the upper woodland peat bed. A Hardy flowering ginger with bright purple flowers. Widely distributed along the eastern Himalayan range from Nepal to Bhutan. Known as rasagari in Nepali. Rhizomes used as a rejuvenative tonic.