Observed during May 2013
Age class representation
Continuing the centuries old tradition of plant collecting, staff from RBGE travelled to Japan in 2005 and collected seed. Returning to the Garden this was sown, nurtured and planted out in the garden.
On the Pyrus lawn is a mature specimen of Malus sieboldii from Ernest Wilson’s expedition to China in 1908, now a wide spreading loose canopied tree full of light pink blossom. Nearby is a young M. sieboldii sapling, not ten years old, awash with flowers collected on the BBJMT trip to Japan in 2005. Seed of both was collected from trees growing in woodland; however, Wilson did not have a ski resort in the surrounding mountains as backdrop! Times change and the demands on our environment also change. The need to study, research and classify living plants remains a priority to RBGE especially as the pressures on the plant kingdom from an increasing population are impinging on all aspects of our lives.
There is a desperate need in gardens to manage a range of species that represent various age classes. Mature stands of trees, ornamental or otherwise, need a youthful and mid age class of tree within the canopy to ensure shelter and representation for study and appreciation.
Continuing this ethos within the garden at home, if you have space in your garden and are appreciating the diversity and colour of spring blossom; now is the time to invest in your garden and develop the age range of planting.
This has been an uncertain twelve months for plant sales in the nursery and garden centre trade due to the wet summer of 2012 and this season’s cold, late spring. Help to boost their sales, invest in a plant and appreciate its growth and form for years to come.
A descriptive specific epithet
Ribes longeracemosum tucked away on the south border is an uncommon plant. A vigorous deciduous shrub whose individual flowers may be insignificant but these sit like a string of pearls on the stalk hanging 400mm in length. In effect a long raceme as the name describes.
An elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The bell shaped flower has frayed reddish edges to the tube. Looking into the corolla, the anthers are set on a twist and the formation of these resembles an aeroplane engine fan.
Harking back to the first sentence the mature plants observed in Sichuan Province, China were said to have black juicy fruit. Growing at c. 2600m in deciduous forest.
I took the first image on 25th April and the second on the 11th May. In these 17 days the colour faded to a light green more in keeping with our deciduous tree canopy. The chameleon effect of transient colouration stabilises as leaves mature. The anthocyanin pigment causing this redness also gives autumn colour to the deciduous canopy. At this time of year this pigment may provide protection against strong sunlight levels in the tree’s native Japan, where it grows to 30m with a sturdy trunk; here it is not as robust but with foliage of merit and flower spikes developing, worth growing.
The plant formerly known as …………
Here, as in the wild, (Northern Myanmar into Southern China), it colonises the woodland floor enjoying a moist soil. Growth is rapid at this time of year. The leafy stem dividing into three and then three again, soon producing a mass of foliage, reaching one metre in height. Later in May the terminal flower stalk is nodding with pendulous flowers.
A highly regarded member of the genus Rhododendron
A recent collecting trip to China (1990) resulted in seed being collected from plants growing as understory to Abies delaveyi forest. There are now several good specimens of R. lacteum growing in the lower woodland area at RBGE. Terminal trusses of yellow blooms with wide corollas. Each a delicate yellow with distinct red blotch to the inner base.
These young plants are of vigorous habit and will make impressive specimens of 5 – 8 metres in height. Covered in flowers and given a frost free spell these will be stunning in a decade.
The clump of Pulmonaria angustifolia in the copse that was grazed by a grey squirrel, (4/2/2013), has regenerated and is now a mass of flower. Well worth a look to appreciate the power of herbaceous regeneration.
Observed during May 2012
Late to leaf; worth the wait
Struggling to flower in our climate, it is heartening to find a scattering of soft lilac coloured buds held tightly to the older wood of Cercis griffithii. It has a natural range stretching from Southern Europe to central Asia. Here the wood is baked in the more extreme continental climate.
The leaves emerging from the deciduous large shrub framework are heart shaped, dark red in the juvenile stage, turning green as the season progresses. On the edge of its survival zone this plant will not tolerate heavy soil or a wet root run. To be sure of success plant young specimens in sheltered situations.
A native to Western China, found on steep slopes around 3000m, where it was collected as seed in 1991. Dark green leaves, prominently veined, cover the plant and at this time of year awash with delicate purple buds bursting open a white shaded pink.
Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’, this cultivar of the Ericaceous family is growing in the sheltered and shaded sunken north facing courtyard of the front glasshouse range. Lush shiny foliage is held on strong arching stems. This year these growths are terminated with masses of ivory coloured bell shaped flowers.
In ideal conditions such as these this evergreen will make a mass 900mm high and spread 1metre around. It tolerates hard pruning and regenerates from basal shoots. Reddish tinges to the new growth and silvery flecks through the more mature foliage.
A fine introduction
The truss of blooms on Rhododendron sinofalconeri is worthy of show merit. The colour and form are first class. Give this 16 year old plant time to mature and it will equal the best of the Rhododendrons collected by the most renown of plant collectors through the past century. Thirty and more individual flowers the colour of rich cream cows milk group together as the terminal inflorescence.
A relatively recent introduction (1995 Kunming/Yunnan Expedition) from the south facing slopes of the mountains south of Kunming, China; an area near Wenshan at c. 2550m. Here it revels in a cool moist climate where growing in mixed scrub this Rhododendron makes a small tree reaching 4 metres. This is the maximum extent of the altitudinal range according to the Flora of China which gives the distribution range as Southern Yunnan Province into Vietnam from 1600 – 2500m.
Caltha palustris, a lush growing plant with a wide distribution covering the temperate northern hemisphere. It has the most unfortunate common name; “May blob”, referring to the golden yellow buttercup like flowers that appear through the month.
Grown in optimum conditions with semi shade overhead the rounded leaves are glossy and the fast growing green stem will huddle to the ground rooting in at every opportunity.