As observed during June 2011
Black lace in a fritter
This year the black foliage cultivar of the “Elderberry”; Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ has blossomed; magnificently and with exuberance. It has the scent of the white flowered hedgerow “Elderberry” but the leaves are finely divided and of a deep black colour. A vigorous deciduous woody member of the family Adoxaceae. Should you decide to grow this hollow stemmed shrub then be sure to allow plenty of space. It will become a very large plant in the border restricting light to more delicate plantings that surround it.
The panicles of flowers are a deep violet shade. Cut and dipped in batter and fried at a high temperature these make an unusual addition to the traditional Scottish cooked breakfast, complimenting the fried egg, black pudding, tattie scone and Lorne sausage.
The longest day and a plant that appreciates good light levels
The pink daisy like flowers of Delosperma lavisiae appreciates good levels of natural light. Sunlight is essential to persuade the buds to open revealing the ring of narrow linear petals. The plant hugs the ground, rarely growing more than 20mm in height. The root system delves down through, ideally, a raised growing area where rapid drainage is guaranteed. On a sunny day a group of these succulents bring a garden to life with their radiant colour. The sun and heat of the Drakensberg escarpment in SE Africa is the natural habitat of this drought tolerant spreading succulent.
The Garden remains open today until 10.30pm to allow visitors to take advantage of the longest day. Hopefully it will be a fine one. If you visit, the Delosperma can be seen on the Alpine wall and in the stone trough beside the Palm House.
Time to take stock
Walking through the garden you will notice plants that did not survive the severe winter weather. It is now time to be ruthless with the dieback that spoils the appearance of a midsummer border.
Cistus ladanifera, from seed collected in Spain. This plant is doing its best to show face. The large white paper petals and mass of yellow anthers are a delight but the base of the trunk shows severe bark split. The flowers and few leaves will soon shrivel, there is minimal water flowing through the cells upwards from the roots. Time to grub this out.
Eucalyptus coccifera is more resilient. The foliage was desiccated by the cold winter winds and some frost split on the bark is evident. However these Australian plants are used to bush fires tearing through and drying out all aerial parts. Regeneration occurs from the base of the trunk, making a multi stemmed specimen in later years. As can be seen in the image this is exactly what is happening to this specimen, a multitude of buds have burst to give rise to fresh growth. One clean cut with a bow saw will allow this growth to reclaim the space.
Look through your plant collection and deal with similarly affected plants. Use the opportunity to replant as necessary.
An ideal descriptor for Dianthus callizonus growing tucked into the lee of a rock on a south face of the rock garden. Of low growing habit with terminal carmine red single flowers that easily catch your attention. Unfortunately, there is an absence of scent.
Added attraction comes from the irregular white markings towards the inner centre of the petals which surround the blue anthers.
It is a native of Romania, where it enjoys a limestone root run within the Carpathian Mountain range.
A woody poly to go.
Atraphaxis frutescens is a woody member of the Polygonaceae family. A family more readily recognised for giant herbaceous invaders. A native to Central Asia through into Eastern Europe where it can be found growing within stony, rocky river banks A. frutescens is a scandent sub shrub of deciduous habit. The flowers are composed of papery sepals of reddish colour, held in terminal racemes.
Plants were introduced into Britain in 1770 but despite this long association are not widely grown in cultivation.
The Azalea bank
Mix and match from the early Mollis Hybrids leading through the Exbury and Occidentale Hybrids to the late flowers of the Ghent and Knaphill Hybrids.
Fragrance is deepest from Rhododendron luteum, one of the earliest to flower, a member of subsection Pentanthera.
As a complete contrast the calming white of R. ‘Persil' is covered in bloom.
Find out more about RBGE's world famous collection of rhododendrons.
Snow white on the scree slope
Celmisia hookeri in full bloom on the scree at the rock garden is a stunning sight. A composite flower; the single layer of large ray florets are pure white ringing the multitude of yellow disc florets.
The flower stalk, covered in papery sheaths, rises from the strong tuft of foliage. A native to South Island, New Zealand where it is found in well drained rock and herbage communities.
With mid summer approaching plants have taken the opportunity to maximise growth with the longer day length.
Two plants with variegated foliage that lighten up dreary corners are Hosta fortunei var. albopicta and Iris pseudacorus ‘Variegata'.
H. f. var. albopicta has a mass of creamy yellow variegation throughout the leaf. This is one of the most attractive of the variegated Hosta's. The leaf colour darkens through late summer. It possibly arose as a vegetative sport on a green leaved specimen of H. fortunei. This was introduced from Japan to the Botanic garden at Leiden in the Netherlands by a German doctor; Philipp Franz von Siebold. Siebold amassed a collection of native Japanese plants which were donated to the Leiden garden during the 1830's.
The cultivar ‘Variegata' of the "Yellow Flag Iris" is a coloniser of marginal land around ponds and water courses. The sharp pointed linear shape to the foliage develops and spreads as the vigorous rhizomes take hold. Floriferous; at the rock garden stream it is now producing spikes of yellow flowers. Again; with the passing of the season the colour tends to fade from the variegation.
Buzzing with life
An unusual plant in cultivation; Schinus polygamus when observed on a warm day humming with bees and other pollinating insects deserves to be more widely planted.
Growing through the Andes in full sun and often in soil that is predominantly sand.
Profusely covered in delicate white flowers that as a mass give the tree a yellow appearance are full of nectar. The flowers are dioecious with usually separate male and female plants.
This thirty year old specimen has developed a sturdy trunk with good bark detail. Set against a south facing wall near the Arid land house the evergreen canopy composed of leaves with a simple form now towers above this wall and obviously did not require this protection during the winter months.
Planting of the Biodiversity Garden; the area of ground that reaches out to the south and east of the John Hope Gateway provided an opportunity for recently collected plants to move out of the nursery to permanent planting positions.
Philadelphus schrenkii was an ideal choice, collected in 2005 during a plant hunting expedition to Japan. It eventually makes a huge deciduous shrub, 4m in height x 2m in breadth, a shrub the size of which seed to produce these plants was selected from.
Found growing in dry stony loam on a steep SE facing mountainside in dense mixed woodland in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Companion plants included Lindera sp, Corylus sieboldiana, Philadelphus satsumi, Cephalotaxus harringtoniana.
It is presently covered in flower, white petals and prominent anthers make up the multi flowered racemes. These exude a delicious fragrance. Walk through the Garden just now to appreciate the vagaries of fragrance emitted by the many species of these "Mock Orange".
A Mediterranean treat for the fine weather.
At 4.30 am on the 29th May the sun rose and burnt a continuous groove in the sunshine recording card until a cloud passed over the garden at 6.50pm.
The following day, Saturday 30th was perfect; continuous sunshine from 4.30am until 7.20pm with a maximum temperature of 24.9oc. The 31st saw two clouds pass over and a lower maximum temperature of 18.9oc. Ah; summer at last.
Tucked behind the Orchid house is a clump of Scilla peruviana. Large strap leaves fall flaccidly about the base of the sturdy flower stems. Found in the Mediterranean region, Europe to Africa. This sheltered east facing border provides the winter protection these bulbs need.
The flower buds are conical on developing, opening from the outer circumference of the raceme first. Prior to opening bracts are seen pointed above the tight mass of unopened buds. These persist on the pedicels, becoming papery in appearance, light green in colour.
The individual flowers are a deep bright blue composed of six flattened yet shapely blue filaments topped with yellow anthers. The central stigma is a pyramidal shape also blue in colour.
On the Appalachian trail
Native to the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern North America; Diphylleia cymosa is an herbaceous member of the family Berberidaceae. A leafy perennial with large peltate leaves, deeply cut with serrated edges.
The inflorescence is composed of small white petalled flowers are arranged in a cyme held above the foliage canopy. Yellow anthers add to the interest of this rhizomatous plant.
Papaver lateritium collected by Peter Davis on a river bank in the hilly Ikidere district of Rize in Eastern Turkey. Researching the flora of Turkey was Peter Davis' life work. He edited 10 volumes of The Flora of Turkey and the Aegean Islands putting all his knowledge and experience in print for future generations of scholars and plantsmen to develop. This work has now been continued by Professor Dr Adil Güner of the Nezahat Gökyigit Botanic Garden, Istanbul, Turkey.
P. lateritium has large, gloriously bright orange petals. The multiple anthers which surround the pepper pot like central stigma are laden with dusty dry black pollen. This when released is spread over the inner petals. As the light fades in late evening the petals rise up, drawing together. On some irregular black markings appear like a swift brush stroke.
Helichrysum ecklonis named after Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795 - 1868). A Dane who first visited South Africa in 1823 as an apprentice apothecary. Developing an interest in the flora he co authored a catalogue of South African plants; 1835-37.
This is one of the everlasting flowers, and has the common name Ecklon's Everlasting. From the evergreen leaf stock scale like shoots terminate in a ray of crisp paper thin pointed petals. Light pink outer rays with a yellow centre these bleach white with time. In bud there is a covering of silvery hairs protecting the young growth. A similar covering is found over the ground hugging vegetation, giving an almost cobweb lie appearance.
Seed from the parent plant was collected in Lesotho, although this perennial's range extends to Natal and South Africa. Found growing on a rough rocky hillside within scrub at 2750m. Well worth growing in a hot sunny open situation. Just make sure the soil is open and free draining.
For David and Jane; at midsummer, the scent of ripe pineapple
Scents are powerful joggers of memory and a place in time. Competing with the heavy lingering scent of Philadelphus at this time of year is Cytisus battandieri an outstanding shrub with loose growth habit. Planted against a south facing wall at the Alpine area, catching the sun the terminal flower cluster glows yellow. Complimented by a silvery sheen of the young leaf growth, add in the most delicious and wholly believable scent of pineapple and you realise this is a plant that should be more widely grown.
Native to North Africa, found in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco this plant flowers reliably. Seed has been collected from plants growing at 1500m and higher near Jebel Hebri. The raceme is tubular 110mm long with a diameter of 50mm. Composed of multitudes of individual pea shaped flowers. Needing shelter from the most severe winters a well drained soil is the prerequisite for successful establishment and continued growth.
Once flowering has finished, be ruthless, prune back all the long lanky growth to a framework. By midsummer these shoots can extend by half a metre. Neglect this for a year and yes, you will have flowers but the plant soon becomes unmanageable especially if wall mounted.
Don't expect longevity, source seed, and grub out after 10 -15 years of growth.
This eye catching combination of colour is a cross continent collusion. The shrubby support is Hypericum forrestii and the scrambler; Tropaeolum speciosum.
This combination would not occur without the help of plant collectors. The Hypericum was originally introduced by George Forrest in 1906 from South West China.
Tropaeolum speciosum is a native to Chile and often called the "Chilean Flame Flower". Found growing in interior valleys and up to the timberline in south central regions of Chile and generally in humid areas where almost constant rainfall is experienced.
It loves the cooler moister climate of west coast gardens but does exceptionally well here. All the plants within the garden have the same accession number. At Logan it is a 1959 introduction. With the warmer winters we are now experiencing it sometimes does not die back to the white fleshy rhizome as it once did when in late autumn the weather deteriorated.
Scent, seed and a stink
Valeriana officinalis, a prolific seeder which is possibly why the geographical range is Eurasia. If you grow this herbaceous perennial you are in good company, found in the border by the pond but also selected by Gertrude Jekyll, (1843 - 1932), a lady who described herself as a working amateur. She created around 400 gardens having an appreciation of natural and formal design.
Do make sure you are quick with the secateurs to remove the flowered stems immediately the flower colour has gone. Conversely you may wish the natural garden look as Jekyll appreciated. Bare soil will rapidly become colonised with self sown seedlings. This is a tall growing plant, reaching two metres at flowering, so does have the propensity to take over an area rapidly.
Slightly scented, light pink / purple flowers populate the terminal inflorescence. The stems are ribbed longitudinally, linear red and a shiny green between.
Anyone who cultivates this plant will be aware of the unusual smell given off by the roots when handled. It does tend to linger even after a good handwash.
In the F beds near the Gateway building is a group of Hemerocallis exaltata, the flower stalks reach two meters and then the buds burst open. Each trumpet like, bright yellow, flower only lasts for a day. Bees and other pollinating insects take the opportunity on a warm muggy day to fly from bloom to bloom as the opportunity arises.
Native to Japan this species is not suited to modern suburban gardens due to the amount of space the mature plant sprawls over. The long linear leaves collapse under their own weight, more rapidly after heavy rainfall. Dried, the foliage toughens and can be used to fashion rudimentary footwear.
As observed during June 2008
Strawberry fields forever
A visit to the Demonstration Garden will reveal a mass of strawberry flowers. Fragaria 'Pink Panda' is a carpet of pink bloom. This vigorous herbaceous member of Rosaceae covers ground through stolon production. A simple and effective means of vegetative propagation, these overground runners radiate away from the mother plant, rooting to stabilise at a node then continuing to arch over the soil, forming second and third plantlets. Decorative rather than productive, few fruits result from this prolific flowering.
Heading further west to the areas of calcareous grassland reveals Fragaria vesca, the wild strawberry, a native of the temperate northern hemisphere. These plants were growing and seeding one mile north of Loch Achall near Ullapool in the vicinity of a limestone quarry overlying granite rock, on a north-facing slope of grazed grassland among rock outcrops growing with Thymus, Alchemilla, Sedum, Blechnum and Gramineae. The plants were brought to the Garden in 1997 when the area of quarry was extended, leading to destruction of habitat.
This white-petalled species of wild strawberry was the basis of strawberry production in Europe. Cultivated since the 1300s, initially in France, production was prolific at the gardens of the Louvre in Paris. When travel and exploration extended the boundaries of knowledge, larger fruited species from North America were collected and shipped to Europe. Thus the soft fruit industry bred and refined selected forms for fruit production.
A Monocarpic Campanula
Campanula thyrsoides is a monocarpic species that is well worth cultivating for the flower dome that is clothed in individual creamy white flowers. From a distance the spike looks yellow. Within the individual flowers are thin anthers in the cupped base. The stigma pushes the green styles out of the fused petals which are pointed with six tips.
Sow seed annually to keep a succession of plants growing as this has a biennial life cycle. In year one the vegetative work is undertaken. A rosette of foliage develops to bear the flower spike which appears in the second growing season extending to 350mm and c.200mm in diameter to resemble a retro light bulb and disseminating a delicate scent.
The leaves are mid green, covered in hairs, long pointed shape and nestle close to the ground during the first year as growth commences in the second year with the development of the flower spike leaves are taken up from the ground hugging rosette and appear to twist and curl at the ends.
Native to the Alps of Central and Southern Europe it can be seen at the very east end of the alpine wall growing in a free draining root zone.
The lantern tree: lighting the way towards midsummer
A young plant in the south area of the Rock Garden is the Chilean lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum, so called by the shape and orientation of the flowers.
This evergreen reaches 3.5m in the Valdivian rainforest of southern Chile, where they are seen growing on riverbanks from sea level to 600m. Fruit production is abundant in the native populations.
Here at the Garden, flower bud production commences in autumn but it is now that the pink shades of the lantern-shaped corolla are fully appreciated. The fused petals that make up the corolla are waxy thick; on fading, they disintegrate apart revealing the decorative flower parts. When complete, the top is a serrated circle which would double as a pastry cutter. Take a moment to appreciate the artistic twist of the anthers and filaments. At the base of these are the buttercup-yellow nectaries.
The flowers are held on stalks from the leaf axil on the previous year's growth. As the wood ages the brown stems are covered in white lenticels.
An unaccessed hidden gem
A botanic garden holds a unique collection of plants. These are given individual accession numbers of eight digits: the first four refer to the year of introduction the second four are sequential for the number of introductions in that year. Individual numbers recording data from plant collecting trips across the globe, donation information, images and verification notes. There are occasions where a self-sown seedling springs up and merits attention but not accession.
Tucked away to grow in peace behind metal barriers at the access gate on the west boundary is an interesting biennial, Silybum marianum. This, the best specimen I have seen growing in the Garden, is a reclusive escape from previous introductions to the Garden.
The species is native to the warmer climes of the Mediterranean, south-west Europe and into Afghanistan.
Silybum marianum is a composite milk thistle that produces and sets multitudes of viable seed after the large, purple flower heads fade. These are protected, like the leaf edges, with sharp spines, defying any predator to use this plant as fodder.
This truly magnificent specimen spreads and towers to 1.6m. It's just disappointing to realise that it will die back and compost into the ground as flowering and seed production guarantee the next generation.
Native Yellow Flag Iris
Planted in groups through the garden and a common sight in less well drained locations around the country is one of our native Iris, Iris pseudacorus. Collections have been made from populations near Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland and on the edge of Loch Lubnaig in the Trossachs. Also found through Europe, North Africa and S.W.Asia this is a vigorous rhizomatous spreading monocot, loving moisture retentive soil in full sun.
The sword shaped foliage has a beautiful sheen that holds rain water droplets even on those leaves curling to a 60 degree slope from which rain would normally shed. A pronounced mid rib runs the length of the leaf, distinctly felt when running the leaf between finger and thumb.
Leaf growth rises to two metres sitting proud of the flower spikes. These spikes produce five or six blooms with outstanding vivid yellow flowers. The buds unfurl from a perfectly pointed pencil shape into three large yellow petals. The centre of each has a darker yellow blotch radiating from which are vein markings in brown. Loved by bees which delve between the lower petals known as falls and the upper (standard) petals in their hunt for the nectar pools hidden at the base. Often overlooked are the stigma and style, which resemble petals, standing prominent in the centre of the flower. The stamen is tucked beneath the fallen, lower petals.
A giant lily with stature and scent
Cardiocrinum giganteum is one of the prizes of the Himalayan flora. Collections in the Garden have come from the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan in south-west China. In the wild, it grows at 2400-2600m in degraded open forest with Abies and Larix sp. in Yunnan and within damp glades in mixed woodland with Acer sp. and Rhododendron rubiginosum in Sichuan Province. This giant lily is a gem to collect - its seed, tightly packed in the pods, burst out like coins from a cash machine.
To get the best out of these seed-grown plants, they are introduced into woodland areas at Edinburgh. Being monocarpic it is essential to sow seed each year bulking up plantings for successive flowering. Initially growth is a basal rosette of leaves these develop over five to seven years until the bulb reaches flowering size.
Leave the flowering stalks once flower colour and petals have dropped - these make bold statements during late autumn and winter when they dry naturally to a handsome brown shade.
Grouped in dappled shade, the plants are showing their variability in form; the tallest exceeding three meters in height in the Copse and the most densely packed heads in the Woodland Garden sporting in excess of two dozen individual blooms with stems thicker than a hand's grip. Flower colour varies from white to cream to a very delicate shade of green. Most are suffused with shades of vermillion in the throat of the bloom and on the outer of the petal less so.
Each and every one is laden with scent, all the more powerful and heavily intoxicating this rainy mid-summer.
Eyelashes to die for
Look into the carmine pink petals of Geranium psilostemon: the black lines spaced evenly and radiating out from the base to the tip of the petal resemble a geisha girl's perfectly manicured eye lashes. Our specimen was collected in Turkey near Trabzon on the Black Sea coast at an altitude of around 1,450m.
This herbaceous geranium is a vigorous clump former, reaching 1.6m and still able to withstand a battering from wind and rain without additional support. Though it enjoys a warm climate, it nevertheless colonises and grows to good effect here.
The distance between nodes can be 600mm; swollen basal nodes split and shoot away. The leaves are soft to the touch, deeply divided and held on long petioles. The flower buds nod downwards in anticipation of opening. The petals are cupped initially and reflex with age. On dropping, the spider-like floral parts remain encased by five green sepals with prominent tips.
For previous years' highlights during this month, see the June Garden Highlights Archive page.
As observed during June 2007
A selection of Rhododendron from the sub section Ponticum.
- Rhododendron catawbiense, a mass of plants growing in the copse covered in purple flowers. Inside on the top petal is a splay of orange dots resembling a peacocks fan. S.E. USA
Looking up from the Palm House towards the Herbaceous Border, there is a smattering of colour on the edge of the copse,:
- R. ponticum (Iberian form) from S.Europe, purple flowers
- R.x sochadzeae, a hybrid between R. caucasicum x ponticum. Native to E.Turkey, N.Iran, Caucasus
- R. ponticum, purple flowers, S.W. Asia and S.W. & Southern Europe
- Berchamia polyphylla var. leioclada. Growing against the west facing wall that runs down the back lane by the research corridor. Leaves very attractive, mid green, prominent veining on both sides. The older stems have snake bark colouring, insignificant white star shaped flowers produced on short stalks from leaf axils, slight scent, followed by small red berries
Iris chrysographes. Native to S.W. China, a selection of plantings:
- L. S. & T. collection from 1938. Much variation in flower colour through the clump, through blue to yellow. The result of cross pollination
- L.S. & E. 13309, strong stand good purple shade in F06, dark form, F05 and bottom of Chinese hillside, new plantings. Superb form.
- Primula bulleyana, a bright spectrum of colours yellow - orange - red, on the bottom edge of the Chinese hillside. Behind these is P. poissonii, the long elegant stalks bear whorls of purple flowers
- Nearby P. bulleyana var. beesiana has an even show of purple candelabras
- P. burmanica, cabbage like leaves on these strong growing plants. A white farina covers the flower stalks holding red / purple flowers
- P.prolifera, a yellow candelabra with a slight scent.
- Worth looking for is Weigela coraeensis var. fragrans. Collected by Kurashige in Korea, 1994. Growing in the west border to the north of the Arbutus menziesii beneath the Tilia insularis. Finger like light green bracts encircle the flower bud, white, tinged green. The petals open white with a yellow throat
- W. decora. Clusters of lime yellow flowers, fading red. Native to Japan.
- Geranium pilostemum, collected by Balls in 1933, E. Turkey, N.Iran, Caucasus. Forms a robust clump to 1.5, mauve flowers
- Picea purpurea, pendulous purple cones. Himalayas and W.China
- Abies homolepis var. umbellata, dark purple, almost black in some lights sat upright on current growth. Japan.
This member of Gesneriaceae is one of the few hardy species. It grows most sucessfully when in constant humid moisture. Seen in the rock garden, clinging to a rock on the west side of the waterfall ravine. It is growing and flowering sucessfully here. Red flowers, small leaves flattened against the rock. Climber to 4m, flowers velvet red, striped within on lower lip, fruits speckled black.
Iris setosa. Planted in the border to the west of the pond. Perfect buds open deep velvet purple, fades to a lighter shade with a narrow band of yellow on the throat. 1.5m tall. W.N.America.
- Echinacea tennesseensis to the N.E. of the yurt. Hairy stems hold a spidery flower head of washed out pink petals, to 1m. N.America
- Mahonia eutriphylla Mexico. Terminal clusters of ivory white flowers, hanging over the border edge to the north of the Arid Lands Glasshouse to get the light. Growing beneath Schinus polygamus, wild origin by Hayward from the Andes. Covered in small yellow flowers. Look through the canopy to the strong trunk with almost papery plates of bark resembling a Platanus trunk.
- Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'. Wonderfully showy bottle brush growing in the border to the south of the front range. Multiple red filaments encircle the base of the current season's growth
- C. pityoides, insignificant looking plant to the east of the entrance to the peat and rock house E & S.E. Australia. Lemon yellow filaments.
Both flowering well in these sheltered locations, combined with the good autumn of 2006 to ripen the wood and the mild winter that followed.