Sunday 31 March 2013

An unseasonal Easter

Flowers from the garden this morning: an end of February selection.
Easter, and the start of British summer time by the calendar, but by the garden and the temperature one could be pardoned for assuming it was late February. At least today was sunny and pleasant if out of the wind and I was able to get quite a lot done in the garden. This included the first watering of the year (pots and recently transplanted things - the wind is drying the ground out quickly) and the first lawn-mowing. Not that the grass is growing much, but it had become shaggy over winter and and a trim was timely. With another fine day in prospect tomorrow I'm hoping to get a good lot more digging done, getting the garden ready for spring when it comes.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Not entirely 'miserable March'

Magnolia doltsopa 'Silver Cloud' trained against the wall in the temperate house at the Savill Garden.
An oustanding demonstration of the value of 'winter stems': a Rasta combination of dogwoods and birch at the Savill Garden.
With very unseasonal wintry conditions persisting it feels more like the end of February than the end of March and the plants suggest it too. A year ago (22 March  2012) I reported on the magnolias at the Valley Gardens, then in full glorious flower: last week I was again at Windsor and the hardy magnolias were all still tightly wrapped up in furry buds. The only Magnolia doing anything was M. doltsopa in the Savil Garden temperate house and even in there it was not warm enough for it to be releasing its spicy scent. It is the only Magnolia I've seen in flower so far this year, but spring is creeping out slowly despite the east wind. Here are a few images from my travels of the past week.

Euphorbia rigida: glorious at this time of year in my parents' garden.

Tristagma 'Rolf Fiedler' - a lovely regular flower.

×Chionoscilla allenii showing the broad filaments derived from Chionodoxa (though this is now placed in Scilla by some) but the flower shape comes from Scilla bifolia.

The wild type of Hyacinthus orientalis, though collected in Herat, Afghanistan by Jim Archibald, far outside its native Mediteranean. It is the ancestor of all garden hyacinths... 

... including these modern cultivars exhibited at the RHS show this week by Jan Pennings. The pale one is 'Blue Eyes'.

Narcissus 'Old Tipperary' shown by Alan Street - elegance far exceeding its modern neighbours on the bench. It was rather a thin show, unfortunately.

Back on my own patch: despite the bitter wind and frosts, the early rhododendrons in Ray Wood are insisting on opening. This is R. lutescens Wilson 4277, collected in Sichuan in October 1910.

Rhododendron mallotum Farrer 815 (collected in Burma 1919) - beautiful hairy bracts.

Sunday 24 March 2013


Agave attenuata variegated clone (San Marcos Growers)

In this spell of horrible cold weather I've returned to the images taken on my holiday last November and the warmer, sunnier climate of southern California. I've always found agaves to be extremely attractive and, if given half a chance, would be an avid collector of them - but my windowsills are full with the few I can find space for amid everything else needing space in winter. So I admire them when I see them elsewhere: admire them for their form and colour, and extraordinary variety, in detail and as a whole plant. They are by no means all prickly brutes.

Wild Agave shawii (Torrey Pines State Park)

Agave parryi (South Coast Botanical Garden)

Agave parryi 'Huntington' (Huntington Botanical Gardens)

Agave gypsophila (Dustin Gimbel's garden)

Agave bracteosa (Lotusland)

Agave mitis (syn.celsii) (?) (Rogers Nursery)

Agave 'Blue Glow' (Rogers Nursery)

Agave schidigera (Huntington Botanical Gardens)

Agave mulitfilifera (Tree of Life Nursery)

Agave victoriae-reginae (Rogers Nursery)

Agave americana 'Marginata' (Huntington Botanical Gardens)

Agave desmettiana 'Joe Hoak' (Rogers Nursery)

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Dampiera fusca, a follow-up

Dampiera fusca
Back in  November I reported on a splendid day spent in the Tinderry Nature Reserve near Canberra with Roger Farrow. The highlight was finding a mass-flowering of the rare and beautiful Dampiera fusca. Roger has just sent me a link to a video of a follow-up expedition from the Australian National Botanic Garden to collect seed for their seed bank. It's worth a look:

Saturday 16 March 2013

The slow retreat of winter

Narcissus 'Navarre' last Sunday: the only daffodil in flower in the garden. Everything has been delayed by the long spell of cool weather.

'Navarre' frozen solid in bitter wind on Monday, with a dusting of snow.
Tuesday was bright and slightly less cold. Salix alba 'Cardinalis' in the Yorkshire Arboretum.
Fresh snow on Wednesday morning.

Galanthus 'Primrose Warburg' in the snow on Wednesday.

Rhododendron barbatum flowering in the shelter of Ray Wood, Thursday. On Tuesday it had ice in the corollas, but no damage was done.

'Primrose Warburg' back to vertical today, but still (mid-March!) in perfect condition.

New shoots and  buds of Paeonia mairei (today) - perhaps their most attractive stage, full of promise.

Sunday 10 March 2013

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Sydney

Brachychiton acerifolius: the Flame Tree living up to its name.

It is difficult to imagine a more desirable patch of real estate than that occupied by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Sydney. Situated on the shore of Sydney Harbour, with the heart of the city around it and the opera house as its next neighbour, it is an integral part of the city in every way. Founded in 1816 the garden occupies about 30 ha of the open space known as the Domain (of Government House), a large area of parkland used for various civic functions: managed together, the Domain is attractively maintained but does not have the same diversity of planting as the gardens. The Royal Botanic Gardens - the 'Royal' was conferred, surprisingly, only in 1959 - has a rich collection of plants grown in classic parkland fashion, and some rather old-fashioned bedding-out areas. Horticulturally, considering its location and potential, it seemed a bit static, but it was a huge pleasure to spend the last afternoon of my Australian trip there.

Lagunaria patersonii, a fine flowering tree...

...popular with visitors, such as a flock of Rainbow Lorikeets.

The elegant steel-framed Sydney Fernery, with the buildings of central Sydney looming behind.

Curculigo sp. in the fernery

The fabulous foliage of Trevesia sundaica.

A huge old Pinus roxburghii.

The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

A multi-seasonal plant

Ripe fruits, 10 months after flowering.
For weeks I've been watching a cluster of fruits ripen on a dwarf variegated Clivia miniata that lives on my stair windowsill. Having achieved mature size late last autumn, they've progressively changed from green with faintly visible stripes to pure red and are now very decorative indeed.The plant flowered in April, back at Colesbourne, and was fertilised using pollen from another variegated clone. At some point I shall have to pick the fruits to sow the seed, as I'm curious to see what proportion will be variegated, but I'll continue to enjoy them on the plant for a bit longer.

The same plant in flower, April 2012.

The male parent: strikingly variegated but not such a neat plant.

Friday 1 March 2013

Welcome to The Yorkshire Arboretum

It was the first  opening day of the season for us today, when we unveiled our new name, The Yorkshire Arboretum, and with it our spendid new livery and logo: a crisp and memorable design. We also have a lovely new website, (although this still a work in progress). This morning our new signage was erected along the avenue, at last giving visitors clear directions to the arboretum.

One of our new signs, with the arboretum behind.
The rebranding exercise, which has taken so much time this winter, is part of the grand plan to make the arboretum recognised as an independent body, distinct from the Castle Howard Estate (our landlords, and indeed partners in the Trust), and to turn its fortunes around. It's a great challenge that I'm very proud to be leading.

View down the main vista on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the arboretum, spring is coming slowly. We have a huge collection of willows, one of our founder Jim Russell's obsessions, and many of them are now covered in catkins that looked lovely in the bright sunlight we enjoyed on Wednesday and Thursday. Alders are also in catkin and it's interesting to see the diversity of shape and colour in that genus. The ground is drying out slowly, thank goodness, but it is still very boggy in places, an issue we're going to have to tackle with more drainage and hard paths in the years ahead.

Salix kinuyanagi

Salix daphnoides 'Ruberrima'

Alnus japonica

And there are just a few aconites and snowdrops...