Seasonal Plants of Interest, October 2011
A second flush
Francoa appendiculata, a Chilean native that looks, by the leaf size, to be settling into the soil and situation on the Chilean Terrace at the garden. This is now sending out a second flush of flower spikes, 300mm tall and with stunning magenta pink flowers. The dried seed heads remain in place bleaching to a light brown standing sentinel to a job well done. This is a clump forming evergreen herb that degraded and shredded through last winter but recovered admirably to flower profusely in mid summer and again through this present month.
From the image ants can be observed within the flower. Searching for nectar and in the process pollinating.
A mass of Miscanthus
In the Biodiversity garden is a planting of Miscanthus, the silvery strands of the flowers are most attractive. As a mass, with the sunlight playing on the flowers an attractive purple hue appears through the flowering canopy.
This is the cultivar Flamingo of the sturdy herbaceous species M. sinensis. Forming a dense rhizomatous rootstock it grows up to 1.8metres. In America the species is now an escapee and not welcome in the wild. The vigorous mass of growth it produces annually makes it a suitable candidate for bio mass production.
Waxing and waving
Saxifraga cortusifolia bears large waxy deciduous leaves and is one of the plants of this genus that thrives in damp soil within a shaded overhang. Native to N.E. Asia where it colonises shaded stream sides. The flower stems shoots up to 300mm and are covered in white star like flowers. The pink dots that are the anthers stand out, borne at the end of the filaments. The flower is composed of five petals; two longer and three shorter. Taking a closer look the longer pair have staggered indents to the edges. These all drop leaving the stamens surrounding the pointed green double ovary capsule.
These deciduous leaves have taken on the deepest red shades that autumn will produce. A suckering shrub growing to one metre and similar in dimension. It is native to C & N Japan where it is found growing on mountainsides at the margin of forests. Here it is sometimes referred to as the “vinegar tree”; the leaves when chewed are sour and leave an acrid taste in the mouth.
Seasonal Plants of Interest, October 2010
Candles in the breeze
Lighting the way towards the shorter days of autumn is the late flowering Cimicifuga simplex.
Long, musty scented spikes towering up to 2.5 metres are covered in a mass of white starry flowers. The plant favours a woodland setting and happily flowers in shade.
Commonly known as “Bugbane” derived from the generic Latin Cimicifuga, roughly translated as bug and drive away or distasteful to insects i.e. the bane of a bugs life.
Siebold’s autumn selection
The autumn colours are setting in through the deciduous canopy.
Two named in honour of Philipp Franz von Siebold, 1796 – 1866 who contributed greatly to the collection at Leiden Botanic Garden, are worthy of note.
Magnolia sieboldii ssp sinensis has produced bright waxy red seed pods. The leaves will turn golden yellow as the season progresses. Named as the national flower of North Korea, it grows through Korea and the south of Japan.
The foliage of Acer sieboldianum, a native to Japan, colours many shades of red and has the typical winged seeds of this genus. Closely related to A. japonica it is a spreading small tree with a delicate framework of brittle branches.
Plant selection and harmonious plant associations are often talked about, rarely achieved. Covering the gabion baskets in the nursery is an intertwined partnership; Parthenocissus quinquefolia and Clematis vitalba. The Clematis, a mass of seed heads with a sprinkling of late flowers. The Parthenocissus taking on brightness with foliage of autumn tints. All growth successfully covering the industrial bank that is formed from gabion basket full of rock. These are the wire mess squares often seen retaining and strengthening motorway banking. In the nursery they act to retain a bank where a change in level occurs.
After a prolific fruiting season the autumn colours step up to the mark.
Take a therapeutic tramp, scuffing, and scrunching through a carpet of ankle deep dry leaves to throw off the weeks worries.
The foliage of Quercus ellipsoidalis from eastern North America is burnishing red, the nearby Acer palmatum 'Garnet' is a fiery mound of deep red.
Climbing plants of note include the genus Wisteria, always good for a mass of yellow against a wall or through a tree.
Seasonal Plants of Interest, October 2009
String of pearls.
Within the Montane Tropics House are several Rhododendrons of subsection Vireya. Rhododendron konori, a variable species is native to the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The large pure white flowers exude a powerful deep scent. Many collections were made and introduced through the Forest Research Centre at Lae in Papua New Guinea.
In full bloom just now the pollen grains hang from the anthers as a stringy dry powder. These anthers are on long slightly curved filaments which push the pollen strands towards the edge of the petals. This ensures a greater hit by the pollinating insects attracted by the overpowering perfume. I took two flowers to the SEM suite late afternoon, by the following morning the perfume had filled the corridor of the building. From the attached light microscope images the pearl like strands of pollen grains can be seen.
It is the parent of many popular hybrids. In Australia and America where Vireya's are hardy outdoors much work has been carried out on these species. One such is R. leucogigas ‘Hunstein's Secret' x konori. This has distinct pink markings at the base of each petal. On opening there is a distinct pink tinge to the corolla, lost as it matures.
The John Hope Gateway
Opening on Wednesday 7th October the Gateway building will be the first stunning impression many visitors will have of the Garden. Caithness slate dominates and the glass foyer with its majestic tree ferns will draw you in to the exhibition space. Discover what we do in horticulture, science and education through the interactive exhibits.
The entrance resembles a gigantic vivarium, an enclosed environment in which plants are cultivated from countries and climates far removed from ours. Appreciate the height to which the tree fern trunks rise and then spread their fronds to provide shade for the ground flora.
Within the hall is a more modest free standing glass vivarium. A collection of Tillandsia species are set on the water washed trunk within. These members of the Bromeliacea family, more at home in Tropical America, are establishing well in the case. Vivariums are similar to the wardian case developed by Dr. Nathaniel Ward in the 1820's. He noticed the potential for protected plant growth in closed glass structures. Primarily functional; the wardian case contrasts with a vivarium's decorative purpose. Wardian cases were then used by many plant collectors providing a protected environment for living plants on the long sea journey back to Britain from foreign lands. During Victorian times many ornate cases were constructed; a reconstructed example of which can be seen in the Plants and People Glasshouse.
The dark leaves and spectacularly defined veins of Alocasia reginula show a completely different form of the plant kingdom. A member of a predominately tropical plant family, Araceae, the simple foliage contrasts with the deeply divided green of Asplenium and Selaginella spp. Many of the other plants growing in the vivarium require no soil in which to root, surviving in the moist humid environment of this closed glass cabinet.
A season for spiders
Chlorophytum; a large genus of more than 200 species. Sitting serenely on many a window sill is a "Spider plant", Chlorophytum comosum. Often variegated; almost always pot bound. The common name arises from the form of the plantlets which sprout randomly from the flower stem and hang by a thread suspended in the air about the mother plant.
Growing in the upper woodland garden is a hardy member of the genus, C. nepalense. This is one of the plants collected on the Edinburgh Nepal Expedition in October 2001. Found growing in Alnus forest crawling over moss covered wet rocks within the Langtang National Park of the central Himalayas.
The arching flower stem is sparsely furnished with flowers. Those that are fully open have six bright white petals touched at the tip with green enclosing closely set yellow anthers which exude much pollen.
Linear strap like leaves, mid green in colour. These are glossy above, matt beneath, with a deeply indented channel formed with the prominent mid rib.
This weekend sees a celebration of apples in the John Hope Gateway. Cultivars from gardens and collections grown throughout Scotland will be laid out on tables for comparing and contrasting. This is your chance to shake a Cox's Orange Pippin. Only when ripe will the pips rattle. There will be an opportunity to press and juice your own apples, prior to this; have them identified by apple growers.
Malus sieversii collected as scion material from Kazakstan is the distant; geographically and genetically, parent of many of the cultivars on show during Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October at the Gateway. We have a young tree grafted onto a Malling Merton rootstock growing in the nursery. Unfortunately someone has scrumped all the apples from the tree!
Producing the largest fruit of all the species within the genus, and as can be seen from the attached image, of high quality. Found through N.E. Asia it is vulnerable to extinction in the wild; growing in woods on mountainsides. With increasing development and need for housing the habitat is being eaten away.
Worldwide there are thought to be in the region of 7500 apple cultivars. The apple is one of the earliest fruits to be selected out for better forms to cultivate. Many of the older cultivars are low yielding and often susceptible to disease. They do however provide a range of flavours and textures not found in modern cultivars.
Malus, Medlars and remnants of Rhubarb
A good harvest in the garden means a culinary delight for Gardens visitors. The chef at the John Hope Gateway restaurant has a recipe for jelly as an accompaniment to a Sunday roast. A basketful of fruit from Malus pumila 'Dartmouth' has been boiled and reduced down to make a sweet smooth clear rose coloured jelly with an exquisite taste. The peel is rich in pectin resulting in a rapid set as it cools.
Mespilus germanica 'Dutch' is a cultivar with unusually shaped, well formed fruit. An added benefit is the yellow autumn colour of the deciduous foliage. A member of the family Rosaceae. The remnants of the floral parts are visible at the calyx end of the fruit. The sepals protrude from the bulk of the pome forming a hollow end. The fruit is a matt brown colour and solid. Left on the trees through frosty spells the exposure to low temperatures softens or blets the fruit. Another taste soon to be experienced in the Gateway restaurant.
The past week has seen rapid development in the autumn colour of deciduous trees. A good time to walk through lawns covered in a carpet of dry leaves, the crunching noise is a traditional sound before the winter damp sets in. There is even a ruddy beauty to Rhubarb leaves, Rheum officinale as they disintegrate with the shorter, cooler days of autumn.
A late Lobelia
Plants of Lobelia sessilifolia from eastern and northern Asia are sending up productive flower spikes. These are covered with dark violet flowers, tightly packed in bud as can be seen from the image taken from above the plant. The leaves are simple in form and edged with minute forward pointing serrations.
Enjoying the moist root run provided by the soil within the upper woodland garden where semi shade also provides the ideal growing conditions for this late flowering species.
The parent plant was growing above the Camellia Temple on the Yulongxue Shan Yunnan Province, China in a stony flush within open hillside at 2675m.
Autumn colour; sensational and spectacular
Now exhibiting the full range of tints and shades of autumn, the Gardens' deciduous canopy is here to be appreciated. With the weekend clock change make full use of the shortening days by taking a walk through one of our four gardens. There is a one hour window as dusk falls when the low light at this time of year intensifies the colours in the garden lifting the perception of the plants.
With the dry and often still weather pattern experienced this autumn we have to date raked no leaves at all. The past seven weeks have seen 36.3mm of rainfall compared with 94.1mm in the corresponding period last year. There are deep collages of colour forming on the lawns. Observe the carpet of leaves directly beneath the outstretched canopies. These contrast with those of the neighbouring tree producing a mosaic of colour.
One to look out for is Phellodendron lavallei, characterised by the graceful shape of the wide spreading canopy. A Wilson introduction, the Garden obtained the seed indirectly from Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1866 - 1956) who sponsored several plant hunting expeditions after establishing a garden at Corrour Lodge on the banks of Loch Ossian.
Harvard University library has scanned many of Ernest Wilson's diaries and documents. These are available on the web. His handwritten collection notes of May 17th - December 9th 1917 lists a Phellodendron collected in Japan on this, his sixth expedition to the Far East during the years 1917 - 19.
You search the shops for ghouls and ghosts then growing on your doorstep is a plant laden with seasonal shapes.
The decorative paper thin seed pods of Physalis alkekengi resemble Halloween lanterns. Even the colour, bright orange when ripe, is ideal.
This perennial, with an invasive rhizomatous root system, will, when in the right spot colonise ground rapidly. Just now it is starting to loose its large pointed leaves and exposing the shapely fused calyx by which it has earned the common name "Chinese Lantern". The single red fruit contained within is typical of the family Solanaceae. Bursting open the numerous small seeds are packaged in moist flesh. Left to fall and disintegrate seedlings will appear during the following year.
A native of Europe and N. Asia and closely related to the Cape Gooseberry, P. peruviana, the fruit of which is often seen in shops.
As observed during October 2008
An unusual bedder
Salvia confertiflora is a woody perennial with ridged angular stems. The leaves, soft and felt-like to the touch, are held opposite on the stem. This native of Brazil is very happy in the semi tender border to the south of the front range.
The flowers are carried on a long straight inflorescence, opening from the base. These are an unusual shade of orange and relatively small. This is a spectacular specimen to prolong the flowering season well into autumn.
The plants are easily propagated from softwood cuttings and planted out in early summer when frost danger is past. This is an ideal plant to add height to bedding Growing to one meter and with a revolting pungent smell when the stem or leaves are bruised.
The smell of candyfloss
The autumn colours are developing in the Garden with an increasing presence. One of the regular performers is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, a multi-branched small tree native to China and Japan.
Several collections have been made in Japan of seed from this species that are now successfully established in our four Gardens. Collected from relatively low altitudes 100 - 220m, it is found growing within mixed deciduous forest, occasionally growing in volcanic silt near a stream.
With age, the bark fissures and roughens. The branch framework takes on a horizontal silhouette; the shoots are thin and delicate. Leaves turn yellow and occasionally red. The most magical part of this process is the overwhelming smell of candyfloss which lingers heavily in the air.
This is the result of the decay process within the deciduous foliage and can also be detected during spring when a late frost catches the unfurled young leaves and a process of decomposition begins on frost damaged foliage.
A giant white Michaelmas daisy
Aster glehni var. glehni was collected in Japan in 2003 on the EJE expedition. This is a giant among the Asters, the very same genus that collects up all the well-known, traditionally recognised Michaelmas Daisies, ranging from red to purple. Collection notes listed this plant as found in Hokkaido amongst mixed forest where the dominant trees are Betula platyphylla and Picea jezoensis, and growing to 0.9m in height.
In the Garden at Edinburgh, where it is on the edge of a bed with tree canopy cover, it reaches in excess of 2m in height. The single stem shoots up to around 1.4m, dividing into flowering shoots at this stage. Grouped together en mass, the splash of white is a tremendous sight.
As the flowers fade, the seed capsules form. These are wind-borne and the typical composite form. This is a strong-growing plant with vigorous rhizomes, so plant with care in your garden.
A fine flowering bulb from Temperate South Africa.
The purple shaded flower stalk grows rapidly to 0.5m from established bulbs. These prefer a well drained situation where a good baking in the sun is possible. In their native South Africa following a wild fire flowering is prolific.
The strap shaped leaves appear after flowering giving energy to the bulb. These detest disturbance so plant for a purpose and don't allow encroaching vegetation to weaken the established bulbs. Although the rosy pink flowers are short lived this is a plant well worth establishing in the garden.
An ornamental apple
From Central Asia and the Himalayas Malus pumila is a diverse species; the domestic or sweet apple as it is known or paradise apple in France. Full of weak growth it has a spread of 5 metres and as tall. The bark is grey, splitting and plating away. The fruit are a golden yellow; not too plentiful.
Malus pumila ‘Dartmouth' is an American cultivar producing larger fruit than the species and red tinted. The fruit is ideal for crab apple jelly. Stronger growing than M. pumila, and much more prolific in fruit production. In the spring both also producing a crop of white flowers.
Fiery red autumn colour
Mid October traditionally sees the start of the autumn colour. Until now a few trees have turned, notably Aesculus and Betula providing the traditional sound of walking and kicking through the deciduous leaf carpet. From now on the colours will intensify especially with lower temperatures. After a frosty night as the temperature rises with the onset of daylight the abscission layer breaks and there is literally a storm of falling leaves.
Treat each as a transient work of art and appreciate the daily changes.
This Japanese Euonymus sieboldianus positioned in an elevated focal point is always a good starter for the kaleidoscope of the season's colours. Now a mass of red pigment the ovate leaves drop rapidly.
Found growing in association with Sasa, Viburnum, other species of Euonymus and Ulmus in Japan in full sun in moist heavy loam within a north east facing valley bottom.
Celastrus orbiculatus, again from Japan, but found throughout N.E.Asia. This climbing deciduous member of the family Celastraceae can be seen twisting around the external glasshouse support frame, providing the south facing aspect of the Front Range with a natural shading material.
In full autumn yellow it has found the ideal situation to develop.
The plant is sparsely furnished with small light orange fruit within which is a bright orange mesocarp layer protecting the seed. Thought to be dioecious there are hermaphrodite plants in cultivation.
The Edinburgh Japan Expedition of 2003 found it growing in secondary deciduous woodland on the forest margin at 80metres. It was reaching 5 metres in height. Here it has far exceeded that and continues to romp up the framework. There are young plants in the nursery of Celastrus orbiculatus var. strigulosus showing the same promise of autumn colour.
The Indian Pokeweed
Phytolacca acinosa has thick, almost succulent stems. It grows strongly to 1.8 metres with lanceolate leaves. A mass of growth that wilts to mush when the frost arrives.
Until then appreciate the church candle like fruiting spikes. These vary from golf ball size to 3000mm spikes and are composed of red to ripened black fruits, bursting with a red staining juice. The individual berry encloses a small black seed.
Our plant was collected as seed in the Himachal Pradesh India in 1985. Found growing at 2400m among rocks in a clearing of Rhododendron and Pinus forest.
As observed during October 2007
The flora of temperate South Africa provides a colourful lead into autumn. Bulbous perennials growing in the bank at the ramp to the arid land house include Amaryllis belladona shy to flower sending up singular spikes on a darkened stem.
Nerine bowdenii, pink petals open from a tubular bud to recurve back on themselves revealing the flower parts. These have a slight scent but the ability to smell anything other than the overpowering odour eminating from every part of Tulbaghia violaceae masks this and other scents in this area. The only one of the three with foliage at this time of the year.
Clematis 'Bill MacKenzie', growing on the wall at the alpine house, a hybrid in the Tangutica group received the RHS Award of garden merit in 1976 and reconfirmed in 2001. Looking at the fresh yellow flowers produced freely over the plant and followed by silvery seed heads it is easy to appreciate this merit. The four petals resemble orange peel in their feel and thickness. It was named in honour of William Gregor MacKenzie, VMH, (1904-95), a former DHE student at the Botanics and later Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden from 1946-73.
The seedling originated at the Waterperry School of Horticulture, Oxfordshire in 1968 and was introduced to the nursery trade from there. Our plant was donated in 1976 by Bill MacKenzie himself.
Another Clematis, this time wild collected, C. grata is awash with miniature white petalled and multi anthered flowers with a musty scent on the Chinese hillside. A rampant climber it grips support with the leaf petioles turning anti clockwise around the host support. Collected on the Edinburgh Taiwan Expedition of 1993. Native to the Himalayas and western China.
The autumn colours on the deciduous tree canopy are now reaching their best. The yellows of the Betula and Hamamelis collections, reds of the Sorbus and Euonymus species are all evident in the Parrotia persica whose canopy colour ranges from yellow through orange to an intense red.
Walking past the Cercidiphyllum japonicum and C. magnificum growing in various locations throughout the garden the sweet smell of decay is evident, this emanates from the rotting leaf litter around the base of the plant.
However in amongst these giants is a herbaceous treasure which colours up to rival any of the woody specimens; Euphorbia jolkinii collected during 1996 in Yunnan, China by Derek Beavis and John Main. The stems deepen to a vibrant red with leaf colour to match. Growing in the border at the alpine wall and near the ting on the Chinese hillside.
A favourite of the curator.
Acer distylum, native to Japan from where it was introduced in 1879. Rare in cultivation but seen in the wild where it has been appreciated by David Knott. The keys are brown and unattractive but autumn leaf colour is worth seeing. Planted on the s.w. corner of the oak lawn the leaves on this small tree gradually yellow on the tree, once fallen the leaves form a golden brown carpet.
On the Azalea lawn is Sorbus commixta one of the Eastern Asian species; a broad headed multi branched tree. Just now the autumn colour on this tree is unsurpassed in the garden; covered in deep burning reds it draws the eyes towards it.
Parthenocissus quinquifolia is showing full autumn colour in the generally five sectioned leaf. Growing enthusiastically over the wash house to the east of Inverleith House it clings in position by adhesive pads on the ends of the tendrils. These are able to adhere to all surfaces taking it towards the light at the rate of approximately four metres a season. A native to E.N.America from where it was introduced into cultivation in 1629. Now naturalised on waste land and as a garden escape throughout Britain.
Two Vitis from different continents are worth walking to the quadrangle at the north of the front range to see. Vitis davidii, China, the large leaves with barbed petioles are turning deep scarlet. V. bierlandieri from Mexico and the adjacent United States; at the moment the trifoliate leaves are fully green, watch for their potential.
The smell from the flower spike of Eucomis bicolor is reminiscent of the old town gas; slightly putrid. Growing to the north of the arid land house. However the flower spike itself is worth growing the plant for, dark purple mottling gives it a camouflaged appearance. The flowers are borne in a cylindrical inflorescence around the top of the spike. Individually these are creamy white with violet edges, inside the filaments are also a light violet colour and interestingly, triangular in shape. All crowned by a flat cap of light green bracts. Native to S.E. Africa.
In full bloom the Chilean Bell Flower, Chile's national flower, Lapageria rosea, is a stunning visual treat. Native to evergreen forests in Chile and Argentina where it climbs through the tree canopy here it experiences a cool moist root run and dappled sun on the foliage, replicate this for successful cultivation.
There are two plants growing to a height of two metres in the shade of the patio to the north of the front range. From the size and weight of the individual blooms it is astonishing the apparently weak straggly growth can bear such flowers. These are composed of six red fleshy petals splayed out in a bell shape. The inner of which is mottled white. The filaments are white but the style takes on the mottled colour of the inner bell.
On the west coast by contrast it reaches and flowers to approximately seven metres through a Pinus leucodermis in the shelter of the walled garden of Achamore house on Gigha.
The image shows Isik Guner a botanical artist on a Darwin Initiative exchange from the Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanik Bahçesi, Istanbul, Turkey engaged in illustrating the plant for Martin Gardner.
The Dawn Redwood; living up to its name this morning. View Metasequoia glyptostroboides as the sun is rising and casting rays on the autumnal tints of pink and yellow throughout the canopy. It stood out amongst the colder greens of the associated plants in the border to the west of the Caledonian Hall giving a red hue to the plant.
Thought to be extinct it was known from fossil records and subsequently living plants were discovered in 1941. Native to C. and W. China where it grows on valley floors and at the bottom of ravines, rare on the valley floors due to clearances for rice cultivation.
The seed of this tree was collected in autumn 1947 in N.E. Sichuan Province by C.J. Hsueh. During three expeditions 100 trees were noted, the seed was taken from trees 30metres tall. These arrived at RBGE in 1948 via the Arnold Arboretum. The branches are set into deep sockets in the trunk which is colonised by moss and a grey farinose hue. The trunk becomes almost buttressed at the base and fissured.
Another Redwood introduction from this year (1948) is planted to the south of the pond, this foliage has turned fully autumnal and much of the leaf has fallen. Garden origin accessions from 1991 planted in the east gate driveway are still green.
Note also the Wisteria sp. in the garden on the wall of the east gate lodge these are a mass of margarine yellow foliage.
A ghostly apparition for Halloween. Growing to the north of the access steps to the front range patio is Corokia cotoneaster a native to New Zealand. The mass planting is full of thin angular shoots, the youngest of which are coated in a grey indumentum. The older wood takes on a dark almost black colour and adds to the tangled internal mass, two meters tall and as broad. The evergreen leaves are rounded, green above with a white reverse.
Dotted through are the orange to red one seeded berries, looking like miniature apples ready for dooking.