A tomato tarte tatin, with goat's cheese added later - delicious!
Monday 27 September 2010
Saturday 25 September 2010
Michaelmas daisies shown by Old Court Nursery
The Three Counties Showground at Malvern, Worcestershire, hosts two horticultural shows each year. The first, in May, is a major event; the Autumn Show, on this weekend, is smaller and attracts less attention from the media. It is less exclusively horticultural, with poultry, rabbit and guinea pig shows, and displays of canines and other quadrupeds to divert attention from the plants - or the superabundant shopping opportunities.
Crocus banaticus and Asian gentians on the Hartside Nursery stand
Heuchera (etc) shown by Plantagogo
Friday 24 September 2010
Hugh Johnson's Trees has just been published by Mitchell Beazley (£30) (in North America it is entitled The World of Trees, University of California Press). It is the successor to his enduringly popular International Book of Trees (1973), now updated after nearly forty years and illustrated with new images chosen to inspire and inform. I have to declare an interest, as I was consultant editor, but this is a lovely book, packed with both information and reminiscence. The first edition was written when Hugh was just starting to plant his garden at Saling Hall in the heat of his first enthusiasm for trees; the enthusiasm has not waned, but this is a maturer vintage that can be enjoyed now, but will remain drinkable long into the future.
Thursday 23 September 2010
Also flowering well, whether in pots or loose in the sand plunge, was Narcissus miniatus (below), the Eastern Mediterranean plant usually known as N. serotinus (this name is now used for more westerly populations). It's a charming little plant, flowering as soon as moisture is provided in September, and producing a flowering stem (scape) that also does duty as foliage, producing the carboydrates needed to replenish the bulb. It soon goes to seed, and unless caught in time this scatters all over, resulting in abundant interlopers. These grow well, but the bulb is very slow to multiply vegetatively, if it ever does. I have never attempted to grow it outside, but suspect that it would need a very warm sheltered site.
Malus x robusta
Malus 'Carnival', a new French cultivar with beautiful fruits
In the afternoon we were shown round the Kew collection of Malus by Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum. Many are much less spectacular than the cultivars, but are of great interest nevertheless, and there was a lot of discussion about the variability of several species, especially M. yunnanensis and M. baccata, comparing the Kew specimens with samples brought in by participants.
Many thanks to Tony (left) and Nick (right) for making this a really interesting and informative day.
Wednesday 22 September 2010
Leucadendron 'Pom-Pom' at Kirstenbosch
We arrived home from South Africa this morning, tired and poor, but having had an excellent holiday. There will be more posts with a South African theme to come, perhaps when the English winter needs a little warming up.
The garden here is looking good, with the autumn bulbs in full swing, and nice displays of composites, salvias and similar autumnal flowers. A cutting-back session and a lawn-mowing are urgently needed, though, and will restore a certain crispness to the effect.
Thursday 16 September 2010
Almost neighbouring Joymac Nursery is the Stephward Estate, the creation of Stephen van Belkum and Howard Eades, who have developed a tropical fantasy on a five acre site. Peacocks roam among pools and pillars, while parrots squawk in the background; there is a restaurant around a brilliant blue pool and accommodation is available (much more from their website). The gardens contain good collections of Heliconia and bromeliads, and Howard has several shade houses full of a diversity of orchids, Nepenthes and all sorts of interesting things. He imports orchids from Asia for sale through the nursery, but has also set up a lab for growing orchids from seed and has taught himself the techniques needed for this complicated process - impressive for someone who told us that ten years ago he didn't like orchids. We acquired a selection of bromeliads for Adrian's mother's garden, but the plant we all most wanted was not available, a superb specimen of the Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys. Not easy to propagate, it is greatly sought after round here, for obvious reasons (below).
In the afternoon we visited the garden of Geoff and Lynne Nichols at Southport, surrounding the family home. Situated on a ridge of a stabilised old sand dune, it commands a view of the sea, and like all such views here, enjoys convenient comfortable whale-watching. (The sea at present is thick with Humpback Whales, whose spouts and backs are to be seen constantly, with occasional spectacular breaches; this is true when watching from land, at least: on a marine whale-watching excursion we saw only two dolphins.)
Tuesday 14 September 2010
Yesterday we travelled up the coast to visit the Durban Botanic Gardens, which claims to be the oldest surviving botanic garden in Africa. It dates its foundation to 1849, when it became one of the network of gardens established throughout the British Empire to foster agricultural development and advance scientific knowledge. Its first mission was to grow plants with economic potential, and only later did it develop as a collection of more botanical interest.
The palm walk
The result is, on a site of only 15 ha in the middle of the city of Durban, a compact and beautiful garden, with fine lawns and mature trees in the best botanic garden tradition. It is however, a city park rather than part of the South African National Botanic Gardens network, and admission is free. The current drought meant that we did not see it at its verdant best, but it is generally well maintained. The most serious deficiency from the point of view of a botanical visitor was the high proportion of missing labels, which was often rather frustrating, especially when so many plants are unfamiliar.
Sunday 12 September 2010
Titanopsis calcarea, known in Afrikaans by the descriptive name skilpad tongetjie, tortoise-tongue
Drosanthemum sp. with Echinocactus grusonii
Monsonia crassicaule, a succulent member of the Geraniaceae.
Euphorbia inermis, with sweetly-scented flowers.