James was looking pleased as I entered the yard the other day. He was contemplating some newly delivered choice plants. The little conifer Pinus strobus ‘Minuta’ is destined for the Evolution Garden and the vines Vitis ‘Strawberry’ are to be planted against the Viewpoint fence. They will probably fruit, and in a good summer should ripen well. The name gives a hint of the flavour of the fruit; good autumn colour is another bonus. It’s all a bit of an experiment and part of the pleasure of gardening.
James removed the label so that he could enter the details of the Plant Passport in the records, on the Trust’s database and on the Crathes historical lists. Even the sage plant I purchased from the local nursery last week (click and collect) had a Plant Passport. Much like the ear tags of farm animals this enables any diseases to be traced to their origin.
In the glasshouse the plugs finally arrived, but some were rather damaged. The gazanias look good and are now coming on well.
The seeds sown under clingfilm are of Cyathea medullaris which I learn from the internet is the black tree fern or mamaku (a Maori name) syn. Sphaeropteris medullaris.
In the show houses there is another amaryllis in flower – Amaryllis ’Quito’ – and another, ‘Grand Diva’, in bud. The scent of the hyacinths is overpowering and spreads across the garden.
Outside the sea of blue chionodoxas and scillas continues to spread across the garden. I suppose really it should not be allowed on the White Border, but I can’t help but smile at the impudence. Besides, it is so brief and the leaves are discreet – they never get in the way like the colchicum leaves. There is, however, a lovely white chionodoxa on the White Border; if only it would spread.
There was much activity on the Aviary Border when I visited last week. The cost had been counted and action was being taken. All the tender plants that had been damaged by the frost had to be cut back. The only positive aspect of this rather depressing affair was the fact that the wall is due for pointing and the funding has finally been arranged, so some cutback would have been needed anyway. But it was sad to look on the scene after the team had been at work. I was particularly upset to see that the Chilean guava, Ugni molinae, had been hit by the frost. I was so taken with this plant last year (see …purple and orange and blue. 8 November 2020) that I ordered one for myself and it is presently waiting to be potted on into a decent container.
On the plus side the stachyurus is just about at perfection.
Also plus is a lovely tulip species, Tulipa polychroma, flowering in one of the stone sinks on the Aviary Terrace. Another pretty container plant in the Upper Pool Garden may be a saxifrage, but its label has disappeared.
A real speciality, growing on the South Border beside the Woodland Garden gate is Hepatica x media ‘Millstream Merlin’. Some nurseries suggest its parents are H. nobilis and H. transsilvanica (shown in my last post). H. nobilis ‘Rubra’ grows in the Doocot enclosure.
The corylopsis that border the Evolution Garden are now coming into flower. Their scent complements the lovely inflorescence.
Another yellow flower that I have learned to love is the Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas. The tree on the Yew Border was cut back hard a few years ago, and is now putting on a show of the delicate and subtle sort.
Whilst talking to volunteer Sheila I was excited to see a tree bumblebee looking for nectar under my nose. I wrote about this bumblebee last year (An exciting prospect. 21 June 2020). It was, I think, a queen so I will be looking for more throughout the summer. And even today (3 April) I saw another queen in my own garden. This immigrant is definitely making itself at home in North-East Scotland.
Davy has been busy grinding sycamore stumps in the native woodland project area. The machine is hired in and its advantage is that the previous practice of inoculating stumps with herbicides to kill the tree stumps can be abandoned. The hazels planted in this area (see Sycamores can be a nuisance 16 January 2020) are coming on nicely. Spring flowers are taking advantage of the light – lesser celandine, wood anemone and primrose were already in flower.
Across the road, beside the Woodland Garden, and in complete contrast, an eye catching rhododendron is in flower. A Facebook post from Scotland’s Garden Scheme Moray and Nairn suggests that it is Rhododendron calophytum.
I took a turn down to the young pinetum because I wanted to check on how it had fared through the winter. The trees did not seem to have been affected by the frosts. I was particularly interested in the Huon pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii, from Tasmania. It is not really a pine, but a podocarp that grows in damp places by rivers. We have two of these Huon pines which are rare in Scotland. The older tree is part of Sir James Burnett’s now much depleted pinetum of the 1940s; the younger was planted in 2003. Both trees were looking fine. The young one is a very fine shape much improved since its protective cage was removed. Both trees bore female cones in 2017.
The Huon pine is named after Sir John Franklin 1786-1847 of Northwest Passage fame. From 1839- 43 Franklin served as lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen’s Land, the previous name for Tasmania. The pine was first recorded in 1818 by Allan Cuningham and initially named Dacrydium franklinii. Cunningham, son of a Scottish gardener, was one of the Kew Garden’s collectors for Joseph Banks. Most of his collecting was carried out in Australia and to a lesser extent in New Zealand. The Huon pine suffered much from over logging because the wood is very desirable for boat building. Conservation has made its future more secure, with only small items available from stockpiled sources.
Not all the trees in the young pinetum are conifers. The catkins of an alder tree, Alnus rubra, I initially take for a hazel, until I see the female cones. A birch, Betula delavayi , is attractive for its pinkish flaking papery bark. A larch, Larix gmelinii var. olgensis, from north-east Asia (a deciduous conifer) is just coming into leaf.
It’s such an exciting time of year with signs of spring everywhere; so much to enjoy; so many plants to follow up. The garden, the cafe for takeaways (and the toilets) will be open Thursday to Monday 10am to 3.30pm.
Stay safe – things are looking up.