What a thrill to return to Crathes! The blackcap was singing as if in welcome; various heady scents drifted over the garden; the deutzia and philadelphus were as good as I had remembered; the roses – especially Celeste – were there to delight; the imposing onopordum thistles were in flower; and catching up with the gardeners completed my pleasure. It’s usual for gardeners to ease off a little in the summer, to enjoy and take stock of their gardens, go on holiday and maybe have an outing to a special garden. Of course the Crathes gardeners will be taking their holidays, but there has been no easing off. Initially only two gardeners, then three and now five and apprentice Tim. David is only partly at Crathes, and Cecilia and Kevin, I think, have yet to hear about their status. James reckons the garden has lost 4000 hours all told if he includes volunteer hours. And yes the goosegrass is out of hand in some places, and there are some very tired gardeners, but what a show!
I was keen to check on the more tender plants to see how they had fared through the winter frosts. I knew from Joanna’s photographs that some of the Echium pininana had survived, but what about the Grevillea langera ‘Mount Tamboritha’ (see 2 January post) which had looked a bit groggy at the end of March? No sign of it now, but Andy is working on a new planting scheme on this very dry bank below the castle. Other tender plants are thriving – the Carpenteria californica is looking really good on the Aviary Terrace and the Fremontodendron californicum ‘California Glory’ is flowering happily on the west wall of the Upper Pool Garden, although something has been snacking on the petals. A close look at my photographs reveals the culprits – garden snails tucked away in cracks in the wall and ready to come out at night for a nearby delicacy. This plant will flower right through the summer and the snails will have to go. Then there is the frost tender purple bell vine, Rhodochiton atrosanguineus, that is planted on the low wall in front of the Aviary Terrace – doing well with Begonia luxurians beside it. Will the begonia flower outside?
I wondered, too, about the arbutus seeds sowed in January and eaten by the mice (see 30 January and 14 February posts). Had they managed to survive the seedling stage? And here they are looking really healthy.
The Evolution Garden has made good progress. I note the cycads and ferns near the garden seat – although we cannot go and sit there meantime. Cycads might be mistaken for palms or ferns, but they are cone bearing gymnosperms – related to ginkgo trees and conifers. They have been around from before the time of the dinosaurs. They are slow growing, which is handy when space is limited, but they are not hardy. Some will survive outside if well wrapped up during the winter.
The pond in the Woodland Garden has gained a few waterlilies. A quick check shows plenty of tadpoles and some tiny little frogs. A plank has been put into the pond meantime so that the frogs can move out of the water into the surrounding vegetation. In time there will be more planting which the dragonflies will need when they come to emerge as adults.
The Grevillea rosmarinifolia in the Upper Pool Garden is quite hardy and is thriving. Looking more closely I was taken with the structure of the flowers which you can see quite clearly in the close up photograph. Each flowerhead contains a number of flowers. The brighter red looped structures are the stigmas or female parts of the flower. Some of the flowers have the stigmas are still looped into the perianth (flower tube) as in the right of the photograph; in others the stigma has burst free as in the flower at the bottom of the photograph. As it bursts free of the perianth it collects pollen from the anthers or male parts of the flower which are contained in the perianth. Because the stigma is not yet ripe the pollen cannot fertilize its own stigma. Instead the stigma holds on to the pollen in the expectation of a pollinator visiting the flower – such as this bee. At this stage the stigma is called the ‘pollen presenter’. After a few hours the pollen is either transferred onto a pollinator or it drops off. The stigma is soon ready to receive pollen from another flower. Fascinating. Where would we be without Google?
It’s now over a year since the tall golden conifer was removed from the Golden Garden and the large cotoneaster in the South Border was hard pruned. The corner looks good as the Metasequoia glyptoblastoma ‘Gold Rush’ spreads into the newfound space and the light spreads into the South Border. I like the blue berries of Diphylleia sinensis. You can see the divided leaves that give the plant its genus name.
Because the public cannot have full access to the garden, on account of Covid 19, there has been some extra planting on the outer paths. A mass of scarlet begonias was being planted out on the edges of the red garden this last week. The Zaluzianskya ovata that I mentioned on 21 June is about to give a show beside the greenhouses near the yard door and just along the path another species of this night scented phlox is coming along nicely: Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’ not yet in flower. It was grown from seed this year. The many aeoniums that contribute to the bedding plans give the garden an exotic feel despite the erratic weather. The South African gazanias add another tropical note.
As Lockdown eases the garden feels a safe place to be. Come and enjoy it if you can – it is presently open from 10.30 to 4pm every day.
Stay safe everyone.