This November has been incredibly mild, until a short sharp diversion of the Jet Stream this last Thursday brought arctic winds from the north. Although it only lasted 24 hours I wonder what will have happened to the flowers that gave me so much pleasure earlier in the month – fuchsias, salvias, gazanias, penstemons, the occasional rose and more.
Although mostly from South American and not native here, a couple of fuchsia species do naturalise on the west coast of Britain. We saw hedges of Fuchsia magellanica when we were in Gigha in September. Many of the hardy cultivars in our gardens are of this species. The name is for two men: Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566) from Germany, and Ferdinand Magellan (c1480-1521) from Portugal and of circumnavigating the globe fame – apparently he didn’t, but that’s another story. Though named for them, the species probably didn’t arrive in Britain until the early nineteenth century.
Fuchsias are found all over the Crathes garden and particularly in the Upper Pool Garden which is always good in late summer and autumn.
Fuchsia reflexia is more unusual with a small flower on a dainty bush, it is one of my favourites.
‘Mrs Popple’ is a very popular fuchsia. She was introduced to the world in 1899 when Clarence Elliot of Six Hills Nursery, Stevenage, attended a tennis party hosted by his neighbour Mrs Popple. Elliot noticed an impressive fuchsia growing by the court and asked to take cuttings.* It has a long flowering period and readily re-sprouts if cut back by the frost.
Steve (gardener) and Steve (volunteer) were working on the White Border two weeks ago cutting back and weeding. You can see the white fuchsia, Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’ behind him. A close up at the top of the blog shows the green tips to the calyx. It has escaped the chop for the time being, but will sprout again in the spring anyway.
This week I caught up with the volunteers at their break. It’s good to have a moan about the virus and hear what’s happening elsewhere. It’s not quite the same as before when we all gathered in the bothy. The gardeners cannot gather either. Joanna and one other gardener eat in the potting shed to keep to Covid rules.
Alyson and Sheila were working in the Upper Pool Garden that day, clearing and weeding and enjoying the lovely sunny weather. The pool has been cleaned out, waterlilies have been replanted in the central plinth area and the pool has been refilled. Gazanias, native to South Africa, are perennials in warmer places, but are usually treated as annuals here in the North-East. It has been decided that they can be left to take their chance this winter.
Andy and Tim are working on the north border, re-organising some of the planting by splitting and removing some of the dominant plants and rebalancing some of the colours. The unusual Buddleia colvilei in the corner had been getting out of hand and was needing a good prune. The small tree behind it in the corner is Acer fabri, one of the more tender plants in the garden planted with climate warming in mind.
Flowers I find elsewhere include the arum or calla lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica, outside but beside the glasshouse. Joanna thinks that it benefits from the warmth of the propagating bed just the other side of the glasshouse wall. Colletia hystrix, sometimes called the crucifixion thorn and from South America, is another late autumn shrub now growing well in the Doocot enclosure.
Then there are the true winter flowers of the bodnantense viburnums filling the garden with scent, and the golden winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum.
On the whole the leaves were blown away in the gales; some persist and I continue to take photographs of the irresistible cotinus leaves. The Stachyurus praecox on the Aviary wall is also late to lose its leaves. Looking closely I realised that the flower buds are already formed, but hidden and difficult to see.
Corylopsis sinensis in the Evolution Garden puts on a yellow show, and nearby the Acer pectinatum ‘Alice’ is similarly coloured. I first noticed this tree when I took the photograph of the Viburnum fragrans on the Double Shrub Border.
In the photograph of the acer on the June Border you can just see, on the far right, some pale pink flowers of Eucryphia lucida ‘Ballerina’. You can see why it’s called ‘Ballerina’.
Investigating the acer I realised it was one of the snake bark maples, said to have pink variegation of the leaves in the summer. I’ll have to watch out for it next year. The fascinating bark reminded me of the snake bark in the Golden Garden.
Wandering that way I found Steve busy clearing and weeding in the north border of the Golden Garden. He said it was impossible to get at the weeds – nettles and rose bay willowherb – which flourish under the sprawling yew, Taxus baccata ‘Prostrata’, at the back of the border. The future of this yew is under discussion. Does it add anything to the border? The maple I was looking for is Acer rufinerve ‘Winter Gold’. It has already lost its leaves.
In the glasshouses I see the amaryllis all potted and now only needing water to get them growing. These are a new purchase, but Joanna suspects that they already have the troublesome red blotch virus that damages the leaves. It’s because of this virus that bulbs are usually discarded after flowering. Always keen to be sustainable, Joanna has managed to save some of last year’s bulbs and is experimenting with a cure. The better bulbs were soaked in 1% bleach solution for half an hour. They were then dried out and will soon be planted up.
I am much taken with a manic vine that is taking over the Doocot Border. It has a most attractive leaf, but I can’t find out its name. Mike looks for a label without success. The leaf has similarities to the Vitis vinifera, but I could find nothing to fit in books or on the internet.
It’s always good to have a mystery to solve. Does anyone out there know what it is?
Stay safe everyone.
*Found on the Ballyrobert Gardens website which reported on an article by Val Bourne in the Daily Telegraph.