Notes from the Garden
December had been cold wet and windy with a soupcon of frost and snow. The 1st. of January was little better half a gale blowing and heavy showers of driving cold rain. However, an inspection of the garden revealed a remarkable range of blossom.
On the wall behind the Long Pond the first creamy white blossom was out on the Prinsepia utilis, a very spiny Chinese cousin of a plum. Beneath this dramatic bush, a solitary flower of Vinca major greeted the New Year dawn. Passing along the wall to the Bamboo Garden Ruscus racemosus was in bloom. I could only just detect the sweet scent of its small white blossoms amid the icy wet. As I walked through the bamboos I saw the evergreen Japanese fern, Ceratonium rortunii, looking well, snugly protected between two large clumps of bamboo.
The only blossom to be seen in the Glen was a smattering of small urn shaped flowers on the strawberry tree by the burn. However, the three larger tree ferns by the middle bridge had escaped the gales with their great wet fronds, dramatic and undamaged.
I dashed to shelter in the nursery glasshouse and was rewarded by a fine crop of winter flowers on the mound of Abutilon megapotamicum. Opposite the glasshouse door the Rhododendron X nobleanum was making a fine show of carmine blossom.
Reaching the Garden gate, I was entertained to find an oyster mushroom growing on the post supporting the sign. Along the path from the entrance, the first spring snowdrops had opened (Galanthus Atkinsii). Passing to the Bottom Pond, I spotted the red tubular flowers of the Chilean climber, Campsidium validivanum lying on the path. They must have been stripped from the vine by the gale. On the way to the pond I saw the new Astelia fragrans still in active growth despite the low winter temperatures. Crossing the causeway, the silver tussock of Astelia Chathamica was looking very splendid set in a bright green carpet of Primula heliodoxa leaves.
Moving up towards the cliff, I found a patch of Vinca diffenbachii with a tight little group of pure white flowers. At the foot of the cliff the fern, Blechnum Nova-Zealandica, was showing off its undamaged dark green fronds with near black fertile pinnae.
An examination of the Bank found Heleborus Kochii in bloom in the lily bed. Mahonia Japonica had some flowers open and M. nepalensis was making quite a display with its erect deep yellow flower spikes. However the star turn on the Bank was the New Zealand Fuchsia, F. excortica, which was covered with its curious violet, green and pink flowers
A foray to the far end of the top garden revealed little in bloom. Our later flowered, but very handsome Rhododendron X nobleanum had opened a couple of heads of flowers a month earlier than normal and the small yellow Rhododendron luteoflorum had quite a smattering of somewhat weather-beaten blossom in this case about two months ahead of usual.
I returned to the back of the house by a very muddy path and made a quick foray to examine the Bulb Bed. The last flowers of Galanthus corcyensis (See Autumn Newsletter) were fading but the first flowers of the large flowered garden snowdrop, Galanthus Arnots Seedling were open. The real surprise was, however, the first ever flower on the rare Crocus pelistericus. Will the neat deep violet cylinder get sufficient sun to open fully?
Walking down the Terrace, I could see three large but bedraggled daisies on Celmisia latifolia. The Purple Heleborus orientalis by the French window was in full bloom unlike last year it had escaped being grazed by rabbits. Reaching the South side of the house, Myrtus vulgaris ssp. Tarentina was covered with fresh opening buds and beyond on the Moor a lovely display of purple blossom on an early flowering form of Rhododendron dauricum. As I turned to go in the front door I could see the white Hebe salicifolia steadfastly continuing to produce more blossom.
The following notes have been written at the vernal equinox.
The weather over the last three months has concluded an exceptionally frost free winter with the temperature never dropping below -2°C and the ground below the trees in the Glen and on the Bank never freezing. This has meant that all the early blossom has been unfrosted and the experimental plantings of warm-temperate ferns have come through unscathed. The mild damp conditions in January brought a surprising number of visitors to view the early snowdrops. February on the other hand was a dark cold dismal month though it did end with a spell of dry weather. We were lucky to miss all the snow in early March and now are enjoying more Spring-like temperatures.
Winter Work Completed
Major tree pruning has been completed which now allows a panoramic view across the loch and down the Firth through and over the arc of conifers and eucalypts planted some 35 years ago. It is a great privilege to see the reality emerge of what was only in the minds eye all those years ago. The effect will be most noticed by our regular visitors when they stand at the top bend of the avenue and look seaward. The 40 year old Lebanon cedar now stands against the background of the hills in majestic splendour!
In Search of Sun
I had failed to mention the January gale; really nothing special but described by our local paper as a hurricane! It did little damage save to loosen the young Pinus pungens on the cliff by the top of the steps. The young tree had broken loose from the rock. Since there seemed no easy way to right it and to hold it securely, we cut it down. This ill wind has, however, left Rosa gigantea, which has never flowered here, exposed to all the sun it can get. Great things are expected of this plant that has been in the garden for over thirty years! There is (or was) a famous growth of this lovely rose in Tombstone, Arizona, which covered several acres.
At the moment the Magnolia campbellii is making its greatest display ever. Its huge (unfrosted) pink flowers can be seen from the shore. Its display is soon to be followed by its cousin, Magnolia sargentiana in the centre of the top garden. The Camelias started to bloom in January, the first out being Camelia saluensis.. It is still in bloom. It was followed by the old hybrid, C x Williamsii." J.C. Williams", that has made quite a tree at the foot of the bank. Though this plant is now beginning to drop its flowers, two bushes of the same variety in the top garden are only just beginning to open theirs. It all depends where you plant them! Camelia x "Cornish Snow" started to bloom in early February and is now in its full glory as is the deep rose old Williamsi variety "Salonica".
Cherry blossom started at the end of February when a small, self-sown, bush of Prunus subhirtella opened its pink flowers above the waterfall. This flowering time is much earlier than the normal time of early April. However, in this exceptional season the old "wild-type" tree at the head of the terrace managed to open a flower to celebrate the equinox.
A myriad of other shrubs and trees are about to burst into flower -- far too many to mention. Let me mention but two. First, Erica lusitanica, the Portuguese tree heath on the cliff edge with pure white flowers and deep pink buds. This starts to bloom in January and is in its full splendour now. (Mature plants of this rarely move successfully - start it as a seedling.) The second is Erica veitchii. This tree heath is in full bloom now. It has formed a tall shrub of some 5m. and can be found by the N.W. corner of the New Zealand Heath. This also is white flowered, but not as bright a white as E. lusitanica.
As winter seems truly ending it is worth reflecting on the variety of scents available from evergreen foliage. First there is the culinary foliage. Enjoy the wonderful odour of crushed bay (Laurus Nobilis). Do not miss out on the rosemary, thyme and marjoram. For something more exotic try the resinous scents of myrtles. ( Myrtus communis, M. luma, M. chequen (very strong) and others.). You like the scent of nutmeg? Try the crushed foliage of Athenerospernum moschatum (a slim elegant Tasmanian tree) and there is the astringent scent of Laurelia moschataa, a tree from Chile. (on the avenue between markers 48 and 49.
Visitors will recall our most prolific cock robin who tried to raise 4 broods. This prodigious effort resulted in the affectionate offspring stripping the feathers from his head. Three broods were successful but the fourth unfortunately perished from disease. You will be pleased to know that Baldy has come through the winter alive and well and is busy courting in the top garden.
A bamboo new to the Gardens
We have recently received a gift of a clump of Thamnocalamus crassinodus, a fine large clump-forming species with arching canes and tiny leaves. It comes from Nepal. It has been planted at the foot of the old elm on the top bend of the avenue.
The better to enjoy the view
Over the past few weeks a volunteer has been cleaning, oiling and painting seats around the garden, We express our thanks to her for undertaking this long overdue task with wire wool and a paint brush in what was often cold and inclement weather.
The early Rhododendrons
The gardens contain well over 200 rhododendron species, not to mention numerous named and unnamed hybrids. They vary greatly as to their value as good garden plants. The list below gives some of the more dramatic ones to be in bloom here in January and February.
|Rhododendron||dauricum (deciduous form)||No 47|
|Nobleanum||3 & 30|
|Christmas cheer||3 & 48|
|Rhododendron||dauricun (evergreen form)||47|
|Christmas cheer||3 & 48|
Charity Open Day
This year the Charity Open Day will be on Monday the 2nd May. The proceeds will be going to Friends of the Linn Gardens, a charity that supports the development and maintenance of the Gardens.
We look forward to seeing you taking pleasure in the Gardens over the coming months