As observed during September 2011
Appreciate them now and if the mood takes you nip off the dead heads to keep the plant tidy and help prolong the production of fresh buds.
Early colour for autumn
The most incredible canopy of autumn colour is provided by the 12m x 12m spread of Crataegus jozana. Get under the canopy and appreciate the twisted form of the trunk. Fissured bark from the base leading into the branchwork of the canopy. There are occasional thorns, generally on the younger wood; a reminder of this thorny genus within the family Rosaceae.
The leaves as they colour for autumn engage many of the red/purple hues with the mid rib darkening also. This is particularly noticeable on the reverse. As the leaves drop the buds stand out in bright red on the deciduous wood.
A furry leaved favourite of the nursery supervisor. Holding its own in a warm corner of the back yard is Colquhounia aff. coccinea* Collected at altitude in Tibet this semi evergreen shrub produces terminal flower heads of stunning colour. It grows in grassland and at the edge of light woodland; preferring a sheltered situation in open soil when cultivated here. During a hard winter it will die back; re-growth is rapid if the rootstock survives.
Typical labiate shaped flowers with the corolla divided into extended lip like parts which are deep orange in colour. The leaves are covered in minute white hairs and exude an aromatic scent when bruised.
*aff. is used in a name where an identification of a plant is uncertain and means 'akin to or bordering'.
The late Chestnut
Introduced in 1785 from E.N. America where it suckers through the undergrowth. In the garden here it produces a mass of growth from the base and this slowly reaches 5 – 6 metres in height.
The terminal panicles are showy with stamens protruding beyond the white reflexed petals. Look very closely and the ivory white style is also present. Unfortunately our climate is not favourable enough for seed production.
As observed during September 2010
One for the sun.
Reliable and bright; Echinacea purpurea appreciates a situation in full sun. Coming from the prairies of eastern North America it thrives in well drained dry soil. An herbaceous perennial, once established it soon bulks up to form a spectacular group planting attracting a multitude of pollinating insects.
Rosy purple ray florets surround the cone shaped floral parts which develop in a spiral form exuding a very slight scent. The reflexed green calyx beneath provides the ideal shelter for earwigs.
The whole plant reaches 1.6m in height on a vigorous matted fibrous root network anchoring it into the soil. Many cultivars have been selected out, named and introduced to the nursery trade due to the variable flower colour.
In the Garden there are representatives of both the 'Black Mulberry' and the lesser grown relative the 'White Mulberry'. With autumn comes the fruiting season and this year both are bearing a heavy crop of fruit.
About 7 years ago we transplanted Morus nigra the 'Black Mulberry', from a damp site within an overhanging canopy to a well drained site in sun. The plant romped away with lush healthy foliage and has produced fruit for the past 5 years, but not as bountiful a crop as this season.
The 'White Mulberry', M. alba is a much larger tree growing in the west border. It also has a profusion of white fruit. These are smaller and tart to taste. It is native to China where plantations are grown commercially as the leaves are used to feed silkworms.
An uncommon tree
Maackia chinensis, a slow growing deciduous tree from Central and Southern China. It is tucked between the Palm House and Orchids and Cycad House where it enjoys a sheltered aspect. Fully hardy it is however showing signs of dieback following last winters prolonged low temperatures.
The white multi petalled flowers combine to form the erect terminal raceme. Put a hand lens up to the flower and appreciate the delicate form to the back folded sepal and the ice white colouration of the petals, the yellow hammer heads that are the anthers and the downy hairs of the stigma.
There is a slight unpleasant smell eminating from the flowers; the bark when scratched has a more pronounced smell. The young bark is brown with a profusion of lenticels covering the surface.
Not a tree often seen in cultivation. Pinnate leaves on a fresh green midrib are held on the shoots with a single pointed brown bud in the axil.
Ceratostigma minus; a slow growing compact deciduous sub shrub from Western China. A compact package, it reaches 1.7 metres in height and slightly more in breadth. It is ideally grown in a well drained soil where the sun ripens the wood.
Fresh blue flowers with pink blush markings on the petals. These terminate the season’s growth, those of a reduced size appearing from auxiliary buds on the stem. Held tight in a bundle with red bracts they open sporadically over days.
Both upper and lower leaf surface is covered by minute hairs these give a crisp feel and a noisy rasping sound when rubbed between finger and thumb.
Stool this shrub, Caryopteris incana, back to a few buds in April just as growth begins and the reward at this time of year are arching shoots covered in a mass of flower at the leaf axils.
C. incana a native to Temperate Asia (China, Japan, Korea) has aromatic grey leaves. It appreciates a warm sunny corner with the roots delving down into an open well drained soil. Through severe winters a degree of protection will be required from deep cold conditions.
Depending on the shade of blue you favour many cultivars are available. A cultivar with pendulous form has also been commercialised.
As observed during September 2009
Long shadows from prominent stamens
Another select South African plant from which Bill Burtt collected seed. The sturdy Crinum moorei has flowered for most of the month of August and looks good for another fortnight yet. Found growing in moist soil on the banks of rivers. In the glasshouse border the elongated bulbs clump up and flower better the longer they have been established.
Touching two metres in height the multiheaded flower spike pushes up above the mass of foliage. Individual flowers open from pink buds into wide petalled blooms with a heavy scent. Each flower with a solitary style, the top half of which is deep pink. Six long white filaments each holding an anther surround it. In direct sun these flower parts send shadows down onto the petals adding another dimension of interest.
A fine reflexed Lilium
Lilium primulinum var. ochraceum native to Northern Vietnam where it was found growing on a limestone ridge above Ta Phin village at c.1000m.
Thick rigid foliage set alternating on a brown stem to 500mm terminating in several blooms with distinctly reflexed petals. These are mirrored by the shepherd's crook shape of the stamen.
The flowers are scented, the six petals with a red wine splash mark. Mottled dark vermillion on the interior; greenish white on the outer face. Growing successfully in a sheltered border in the back yard.
Yesterday was the first time this season I caught the smell of candyfloss drifting from Cercidiphyllum japonicum. As the deciduous leaves start the autumn senescence, especially after a frost, this aroma will become more evident.
The Benmore Fernery
Nestled down in a natural gulley is the restored Victorian fernery. A stone face of immense proportion forms the south wall of the building. To the side can be seen the original boiler house, now the tool shed. As you walk up the pathway to this magnificent building imagine hauling with you a supply of coke to fire the boiler as the fernery was heated in the late 1800's.
Through the support of many organisations and charitable trusts this restoration project was made possible. It will be open to the public after the official opening on the 8th September.
Now an unheated house it is home to a newly planted collection of ferns. Some rising from the elevated sections of natural rock to the light of the glass domed roof. Others forming the ground canopy. One, Doodia media ssp. australis, was collected in Tasmania. This hard, rasping leaf when grown in full sun sends out pink fronds. This pigmentation acts as a form of protection for the new growth diffusing the bright light and preventing the foliage from shrivelling up.
Make a visit to Benmore Garden before 31st October to marvel at the restored Fernery and appreciate the planting within.
If you can't make it across to Benmore, there is always the Fern & Fossils Glasshouse in Edinburgh.
The roots of Coriaria terminalis have a love of soil water sending sucker growth away from the woody root. Located through low altitude Asia where it grows on lake and river sides in valleys.
In the pond side borders at the Garden it is a low growing woody sub shrub with terminal sprays of berries. Shiny red and very showy, the fleshy part is formed from the petals of the flowers which hang in racemes at the terminal end of the current season's growth.
As the flower matures the petals thicken and fold over the embryo seeds. On maturity the five segments of the fleshy berry can be observed folded together. The shoots, covered in regularly placed opposite leaves arc randomly near the ground. It is probably worth pruning in late spring when growth is about to break. This will increase the amount of flowering stems and preserve the low growing habit.
The deciduous woody genus Dipteronia is known for its winged seeds.
In the nursery is a superior form of Dipteronia sinensis. Collected in Sichuan province, China during 1997. The round, coin like, flattened seed capsules on this plant are striking in their mass and colouration. A specimen growing on the edge of the copse within the Garden is not as decorative, with the papery wing browning rather than reddening.
The hanging mass of these tinged red, winged carpels when lit through by early morning sun remind us that autumn is arriving. Take advantage of these warm sunny days now the barometer leads us to believe a spell of dry settled weather is with us to enjoy a walk through the Garden.
Honey for tea
In the sheltered border within the enclosed area between the tropical palm and orchid houses there is a heavy scent given off by the mass flowering of Myrceugenia leptospermoides. Reminiscent of a good honey the pollinating insects are drawn to this plant in their droves. Prolific amounts of white bloom cover the terminal growth of the current year's wood.
This mass of flower parts burst out of small pink buds. On the growth below are the fruits; a proliferation of red to black, a memory to previous successful flowering seasons.
Self sown seedlings can be found in the soil beneath the canopy. An evergreen multi stemmed shrub from Chile where it is found in coastal areas in the centre of the country.
Doff your hat
Don't walk by. This plant deserves closer attention. Stop and admire the design of the flowers on Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii'. Well deserving of the common name "Monkshood" the hood or hat is a prominent feature. If the hood of the calyx is pulled back on its hinge the true petals are revealed. The petals, resembling spurs on long stalks, are also the nectar stores. Usually only two develop with others remaining small and underdeveloped.
This really is a fascinating plant to grow in a border providing late season colour with the terminal spires of violet blue flowers. If stressed through drought the lower leaves are shed. Reaching a height of 1.5m its strong stems preclude any need for support.
Mrs Popple admires her arborescent cousin.
Providing exemplary late season colour are two members of the genus Fuchsia.
F. ‘Mrs. Popple' is a cultivar with upright growth covered in large red / purple pendulous flowers with a blousy personality. The flower parts extend well beyond the end of the rolled petals. Hardy through Edinburgh winters, the deciduous growth is annually cut back with fresh vigorous shoots arising from the woody base.
F. arborescens a true species native to Central America (Mexico). Large, deciduous, mid green leaves on red fleshy stems, all this season's growth. Masses of delicate pink pin point flowers are held in large terminal panicles. Recurved sepals reveal the extended flower parts terminating in a cup shaped stigma. This extruding stigma and style double the length of the flower.
The flower drops with clean abscission allowing the swollen black multi seeded fruit to develop. We are left with a botanical feature resembling the phosphorous headed match of my youth.
As observed during September 2008
The original fly paper
The dark, almost black, typical Labiatae flower is sheltered beneath the grey, leaf-like sepals. These flowers have a smell so distinctly blackcurrant you could believe you were holding the berries. A pool of very sweet nectar lies in the throat of the flower.
As the petals drop, the sepals are left intact and wide-mouthed, resembling a fish gasping for air. These flowers are grouped in whorls, known as verticillasters, around the stem.
The stems, as they develop, are green and covered in a highly sticky substance that all manner of aphids, small flies and airborne seeds attach to. Maturing, this substance loses its effect and the stem turns white, as do the reverse of the leaves.
This lax-growing plant reaches to 1m with shoots continually dividing to cover the ground. It is soon defoliated by autumn frosts.
A gold storm heralding autumn
Amongst the tallest growing herbaceous plants is Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne', also known in the trade by the English translation, 'Autumn Sun'. This old cultivar is really only suited to the larger garden, bulking into an extensive clump and touching 3 metres in height. It is often thought to be a cultivar of R. nitida or a cross between R. nitida and R. laciniata, both native to North America.
The petals or ray florets appear curled, pushing taller resembling fingers surrounding the mass of disc florets. Opening as a flat ray, the petals are a bright yellow. As these fade and drop, the cone gains a tint of colour. This is provided by the opening of the anthers, a deep purple in colour and best appreciated through a hand lens. At this stage a slight scent can be detected to attract insects for the pollination process.
Suited to the smaller garden is Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldstrum', which grows to a more modest 1.2m but still bulks up strongly, as the image shows. This reliable member of the genus provides a storm of golden colour, as the translation recognises.
Its golden yellow ray florets are held on tough, angular, hairy stems. This is lignin production at its best, holding the mass of colour upright through heavy rain and storms.
Which brings us to the rainfall total for August 2008 - a whopping 202.3mm, the highest amount recorded in any month since RBGE started recording weather data. As can be imagined with this amount of rain, sunshine levels for the month are also low at 79.1 hours, with no sun recorded on 7 days; that is almost a quarter of the month with no sun during a period whe we would have expected the bulb collection to receive a summer baking! For more information, see our Edinburgh Weather Station.
The white flag as summer surrenders to autumn
The group of Anenome x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' on the edge of the Herbaceous Border is full of white petalled flowers at the moment, taking the inevitable early autumn weather in its stride.
It is a hybrid between A. hupehensis var. japonica x vitifolia, both native to Asia. This is a very old cultivar, raised in the 1850s in a garden in Verdun, France. The cultivar has stood the test of time, continuing to receive good reviews due to the reliability of flowering and the quality of bloom produced.
It is fully hardy, and importantly, resistant to changing weather patterns, and produces growth that needs no support. Many of these qualities that ensure a plant stands the test of time are lacking in flash-in-the-pan cultivars. An object lesson in choosing wisely and planting for effect.
As an alternative, 'Queen Charlotte' is a cultivar with pink petals. It is of the same parentage as 'Honorine Jobert' and was raised in Germany in the late 1890s. Both grow to 1.2m and have a ready supply of flower buds to ensure a long flowering season.The wiry roots take a season to establish then spread through soil making a substantial clump.
Sweet smell of success - Rosa bracteata
The flower of Rosa bracteata is described by W.J. Bean in his book Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles as having a delicate, fruity perfume.
From a straw poll of several people in the Garden, most likened the scent to cleaning fluid. It is certainly not the usual rose bouquet. Bean described this plant in the days between the wars when the range of household cleaning fluids were limited and men had a hazy view of kitchen cupboard contents.
This is a strong-growing plant with vicious downward facing thorns. These continue on the leaf petiole and reverse of the mid-rib.
From foliage with a light green gloss the terminal flower buds are produced.
The bracts are covered in a grey down, fat and prominent, opening to 100mm across and revealing a mass of yellow anthers. As the white petals fall, these become a distinct feature themselves.
A late flowering Saxifraga
Saxifraga cortusifolia provides a mass of tiny white flowers in the most welcome sunshine of a dismal season. It thrives in dappled shade where a moist root run is promised.
The tall, waxy flower stem branches into a multi-headed mass of white petalled flowers to 300mm height. Of the five petals on each flower, one protrudes larger than the others like the single feather in a Red Indian head dress.
Once established, it grows into a strong clump, bulking up each year, but does not produce stolons.
Cool autumn mornings and distant Nerine
As the days shorten and the lawns are laden with dew so the South African bulbous perennial Nerine bowdenii shows its flowers. As regular as clockwork the sudden burst of pink takes the border by surprise and then lasts well into November if no frost damage occurs.
The bulbs, often thought to be on the verge of hardiness, thrive best when planted at the base of a south or west facing wall. In the open border soil must be free draining. At planting set the top of the truncated bulb above soil level. These push leaves out during and after flowering, growing through the winter months. In theory they rely on a summer baking during their resting period. As can be observed from the prolific flowering of the groups in the Garden although this past summer has seen little sun the bulbs still developed and are now flowering well.
As the planting becomes established, by division and multiplication of the bulbs the group can look overcrowded. If flowering is reduced then split and divide allowing further room for development. On the whole Nerine bowdenii is better left undisturbed.
The flower stem is capped by an umbel, as the buds break open they resemble crabs pincers. These continue to expand the six petals forming delicate edges with a very faint scent. The flowers are so colourful and distinctive they are recognisable in the landscape from 100 paces or more.
As observed during September 2007
- Kniphofia ensifolia ssp. ensifolia Temperate South Africa. Spikes of hot orange tubular flowers loved by wasps. Large clump growing south of the herbarium.
- Watsonia pillansii Eastern S.Africa. As attractive in tight bud as in full bloom. The long linear flower spikes hold flattened double row of flower buds gradually expanding to bright orange
- Lobelia cardinalis. Tall, slender growing plant native to N.America west of the pond. An angled grey anther protrudes from the red petals
- Lobelia 'Queen Victoria' Demonstration garden and annual border. The dark foliage accentuates the spikes of vivid red flowers
- Crocosmia 'Queen of Spain' QMM garden. An ugly c.v. with large blousy blooms
- C.x crocosmiiflora ‘Red King' in comparison, delicate shrimp like flowers
- C. x c. 'Carminea' Wild garden, west of the rock garden, petals mottled red and yellow
- Schizostyllus coccinea E. S. Africa. Rock garden. The shadow of the anthers plays on the petals when the sun shines
- Salvia microphylla Mexico. Rock garden and glasshouse borders. Native to Arizona. Labiate flowers deep red fading pink. Distinctive aromatic scent from the whole plant
Both of the following wild collected species are growing on the south facing bank at the ramp to the exhibition hall. Growing and flowering best in soil with high moisture content yet well drained until flowering has finished. Then a dryer root zone throughout the late autumn, winter until growth recommences in April.
- Agapanthus caulescens. Spectacularly large heads of mid blue flowers. Native to Temperate S. Africa
- Agapanthus inapertus ssp. hollandii The flowers are held down in the head on a 1.5m strong stem. Watch the bees almost disappear up the perianth tube in their quest for nectar. S.Africa, Transvall.
Cyclamen hederifolium; one of the few plants with a label showing the common name, "Sowbread". So called as the corms were once fed to pigs in southern Europe. They are however poisonous to humans.
The clump beneath the Elm in front of the alpine wall is in full bloom, showing the variability in the species, both in flower colour and marbling of the leaf; more are represented in the alpine house and beneath the woody plants to the west of the house.
Also in the alpine house and Rock Garden is C. h. 'Alba' and a cultivar selected for its foliage 'Silver Cloud'
C. intaminatum; a minature species seen through the mesh in the alpine house. Bearing white flowers here but also through to pink in its native Turkey.
There are a wide range of Colchicum species and cultivars in flower. Commonly known as Autumn Crocus or Naked Ladies. The leaves follow after the flowers have faded. Look through cultivated areas to the west of the garden, rock garden and the alpine house. The following are a selection:
- C.speciosum Tight buds burst through the soil to open light purple with a white base
- C. giganteum A South West Asian species collected by Furser and Synge in 1960. Wide petalled head supported on a pencil thin perianth tube
- C.bornmuelleri Collected in Turkey, well shaped wavy petal formation, the anther position changes as the flower develops and the pollen is released
- C. graecum and C.macrophyllum, both in the alpine house and both native to Greece
- Luma apiculata, native to Chile and Argentina. An evergreen small tree covered in white blossom. The flowers have a multitude of anthers splayed apart. The bark on the trunk plates away revealing a grey sub layer as the plant matures.
- Crinodendron patagua, Chile. Delicate white flowers with a crimped edge to the petals are produced from the leaf axils of the current season's growth. Glossy green leaves give a fresh appearance to this stout growing shrub.
Both are to be found growing in the Chilean Area.
A visit to Dawyck, to see the start of the Autumn colour is recommended.
The Horse Chestnuts are leading the field but the most intense colour is provided by the Chinese species Euonymus sanguineus. Deep red leaves cover the top tier of this deciduous shrub permeating down to green beneath. The seed pod will split to reveal red and then yellow seed.
Tetradium daniellii, a wide headed tree that dominates the south west edge of the Pyrus lawn. Native to S.W.China, Korea. The canopy has suffered through storm damage in previous years.
Covered in corymbs of white flowers held on reddish tinged stalks. The globular buds open up to reveal prominent yellow anthers. The leaves, composed of several leaflets, have a distinctive smell when bruised. Be aware that sap from members of the family Rutaceae can cause a skin rash or blistering especially on brighter days.
Acer griseum on the front lawn, road to the east gate. Superb autumn colour combined with flaking of the brown bark from the trunk and branch framework ensures this highly desirable small tree native to central China is worthy of a place in all gardens.
The mass of winged nuts at the base of the tree is the result of grey squirrel damage.
The close up image shows the power of their teeth in the search for seed within the downy nutlets.