Plant of the Month Archives 2012

Mahonia oiwakensis subsp lomariifolia - S Turner 2012

December 2012

Mahonia oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia
The genus mahonia was named after Bernard McMahon, an Irish American horticulturalist in Philadelphia who was Thomas Jefferson's gardening mentor in the early 19th century. But the fine winter flowering mahonias we enjoy here are of eastern origin, and developed in Northern Ireland and England between the 1940s and 1960s.
On the West Lawn, across the path from the Rose Garden, grows M.oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia. This was introduced by Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote, after plant hunting with George Forrest in Yunnan in 1931.
Arbutus unedo - K Keeton 2012

November 2012

Arbutus unedo
Possibly one of the oldest trees in the Garden, and certainly one of the handsomest, the Killarney Strawberry Tree is situated on the left side as you pass through the main gatehouse entrance. An attractive tree all the year round with the deep brown shredding bark, and dark glossy evergreen leaves.
One unusual phenomenon of this tree is that it flowers at the same time as it fruits. At its best in November the fruit displays its full colour of orange-red, and resembles a strawberry. The flowers are found in drooping panicles just like heather, which is not surprising as the Arbutus is a member of the Ericaceae (heather) family.
This tree originates from districts in South West Ireland, particularly Killarney (hence its common name), and also in the Mediterranean region. One may be tempted to try one of the fruit, but only one, as it is a dry and disappointing mouthful. Hence apparently the name "unedo", in Latin "I eat one"!
Hesperantha coccinea Major - S Turner 2012

October 2012

Hesperantha coccinea 'Major'
From slender stems, the clear scarlet, cup-shaped flowers of Hesperantha coccinea 'Major' emerge throughout autumn, catching the eye in the mixed borders above the fountain. Formerly known as Schizostylis coccinea 'Major', this plant is a South African native, a member of the iris family, and it thrives in moist conditions.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique' - K Keeton 2012

September 2012

Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique'
H. paniculata is native to the cool temperate regions of Japan, Sakhalin and China. These are very easy shrubs to grow and suitable for most gardens as long as they are pruned correctly in late March.
A spectacular show of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Unique’ can be seen as you enter the Thompson Road entrance on the left hand side. There are three plants which have grown rapidly since being planted during the restoration of the Garden. The large florets start as pale lime green, which goes white, and then has a pink flush when older. It flowers from late July to early October. This is one of the cultivars given an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Eucryphia intermedia - S Turner 2012

August 2012

Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor'
Towards the lower end of the Asian garden and facing the long American border, this 25 ft high pair of shrubs is not hard to spot in August: from top to bottom they are covered in pretty cup-shaped white flowers filled with delicate stamens. This hybrid between E. glutinosa (Chile) and E. lucida (Tasmania) was found in the 1930s at Rostrevor in Northern Ireland. A sheltered position in humus rich soil suits this evergreen plant.
Rosa gallica var officinalis - K. Keeton 2012

July 2012

The Rose Garden
The present Rose Garden was restored to the original intricate, swirling design and replanted in 2002. The planting is intended to tell the story of roses. Older, paler varieties from the centre of the garden, and the most modern varieties are planted around the outside. Damask, tea, hybrid perpetual, hybrid tea, floribunda, climbing and Bourbon roses are all featured.
Rosa gallica var. officinalis - Probably one of the oldest roses in the Garden, dating back to the 13th century when it is thought to have been brought to Europe from ancient Persia. It is known as the Apothecary’s Rose, and was adopted as the red rose symbol for the House of Lancaster. It is a compact shrub with fragrant crimson flowers.
Cornus 'Norman Haddon' - S Turner 2012

June 2012

Cornus 'Norman Haddon'
A walk along Four Seasons Garden (Area A) is always rewarding, full of plant interest. At the entrance to the pavilions’ control room Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’, a lovely spreading small tree, is covered in tiny flowers surrounded by pointed creamy white bracts. These gradually turn pink; long-lasting red fruits follow in autumn. Across the path, a second specimen was planted, and this provides an interesting object lesson: having failed to thrive, the curator found that it had been planted too deep, below the root collar, effectively starving the plant. Although it has been replanted it remains stunted. A parent of C. ‘Norman Hadden’, C. capitata, can be found by the railings at the top of the Himalayan bed to the left of the bearpit (west of the Rose Garden - area M). This rather more tender species has started to flower at about 10 years of age, and well survived the severe winter of 2010/11.
Davidia involucrata K.Keeton 2012

May 2012

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana
Since the last ‘plant of the month’ bulletin was posted, time has almost stood still in the Botanical Gardens. Possibly April 2012 will be the wettest and coldest month on record, but with the long awaited rain everything in the Garden is looking fresh and beautiful.
One of the most spectacular flowering trees is appearing in ‘flower’, and will be looking lovely once we have some warm sunshine. It is the handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana. We have two trees of this genus in the Gardens. One may be found in the Asia garden (area N), and the other, much younger specimen may be found in the Marnock garden (area K). It is fascinating to think that the Botanical Gardens had already been opened for 70 years when this tree was introduced to the United Kingdom. It was originally discovered in China by the French missionary Pére David in 1869, but unfortunately at that time no seed was collected, so it wasn’t until Ernest Wilson sent seed back to Veitch’s nursery in 1903 that this tree became commercially available.
What appear to be flowers are, in fact, large white bracts. Wilson considered it to be ‘the most interesting and beautiful of all trees of the north-temperate flora’ and likened the white bracts to ‘huge butterflies hovering among the trees’.
Chaenomeles speciosa 'Moerloosei' - S. Turner 2012

April 2012

Chaenomeles speciosa 'Moerloosei'
With so many plants having responded to the warm and sunny March and having come into flower early, a prime candidate for April’s plant of the month is Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Moerloosei’ (flowering quince) planted against the wall of South Lodge. Not only is it most attractive, but it has a long flowering period. Its synonym, ‘Apple Blossom’, well describes the prettiest pink and white flowers, borne before and with the leaves which are tinged red when young, maturing to shiny green. The species, introduced from China in 1784, is in the rose family. It is possible to cook the aromatic fruits of the flowering quinces, but it is from the fruit of a tree of a separate genus, Cydonia oblonga, that quince jelly is commonly made.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna - K. Keeton 2012

March 2012

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna
I guess that the majority of Garden visitors will walk passed these plants with hardly a side glance, because it is the sort of evergreen plant that is always there, often unnoticed, always part of the background of the Garden. However at this time of the year, in fact from late winter, the Sarcococcas commonly named Sweet box) produce small, tassel-like flowers that shed sweet fragrance around. The female flowers are insignificant, but produce the occasional berry, which may still remain on the plants. 'Sarkos' in Greek meaning flesh, 'kokkos' - a berry.
Sheffield Botanical Gardens have the honour of growing the National Collection of Sarcococcas, so different varieties can be found all around the Garden. This particular variety is found at the top end of the A.G.M. Border. A free leaflet giving information of these cheerful plants can be obtained from the SBG office at the Gatehouse. It contains a map showing exactly where all the various species can be found.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna was introduced into this country in 1908 from Western China.
Hamamelis mollis - S. Turner 2012

February 2012

Hamamelis mollis
For visitors who do not use the Main Entrance, a trip through the arch will be well rewarded in February to view a beautiful specimen of Hamamelis mollis, the Chinese witch hazel, in the bed outside. This shrub has a fine shape and every branch is clothed in clusters of rich gold and red flowers – a cheering sight on a winter’s day. Its delicious scent is another asset, though may not be appreciated unless warmed by the sun, or by one’s breath as a recent gardening article suggested.
Found in Jiangxi province and introduced in 1879 by the plant hunter Charles Maries who was engaged by the nurserymen, Messrs Veitch, H. mollis was not available to the public until 1900! This was because the Coombe Wood nursery staff were so overwhelmed by the quantity of new introductions arriving from many parts of the world that mistakes were made, and this shrub went unnoticed amongst other hamamelis species until George Nicholson, recently retired curator of Kew, spotted it during a visit. Immediately it was cut up and grafted, and 21 years after being collected by Maries, offered for sale to a very receptive public.
Garrya elliptica - K. Keeton

January 2012

Garrya elliptica
Garrya elliptica is an attractive evergreen shrub which enlivens the winter garden. Cascades of long, soft grey-green catkins adorn this plant from January to March and are looking particularly spectacular this year. There are two plants of this species in the Garden, one along the wall outside the Robert Marnock Garden, and the other by the Botanical Road entrance in the Birch Hill area. This plant was introduced to the British Isles in 1828 by the intrepid Scottish plant hunter David Douglas. He named it in honour of Nicholas Garry of the Hudson Bay Company, who helped him in his plant-collecting expeditions. He found it growing in scrub on dry hills in the coastal ranges of southern California to Oregon, where he did a great deal of his plant hunting.

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