Plant of the Month Archives 2013

Crataegus x lavalleei - S Turner 2013

December

Cratageus x lavalleei
Most attractive year round, this small tree is particularly desirable in winter, when the many large berries slowly ripen from orange to red. They contrast at first with the lustrous dark green leaves which persist into December and are then striking against the winter sky, lasting until March. In May and June the glossy new leaves are a fine foil for the masses of clustered white flowers covering the crown. This is a densely twiggy dome, balanced atop the grey fissured trunk which leans in typical hawthorn fashion. Thorns are few.
In 1879, French gardener M. Lavallee introduced the hybrid which is believed to be a cross between C. stipulacea (Mexican) and C. crus-galli (Cockspur thorn). It holds the Award of Garden Merit and has often been planted in public spaces. In the Sheffield Botanical Gardens this special little tree is beautifully positioned near the Brocco Bank entrance. Another specimen grows in the AGM border.
Kniphofia rooperi - K Keeton 2013

November

Kniphofia rooperi
A spectacular plant as you enter the Mediterranean garden is one of the red-hot pokers. This particular variety Kniphofia rooperi, also known as the winter poker, has the great advantage of flowering well into November, thus giving some wonderful autumn colour. The flowers are large, almost spherical, orange-red opening to greenish yellow on stout stems. The evergreen leaves are rather lax. A native of South Africa, specifically the Eastern Cape, introduced to the UK in 1854, these pokers were regarded as doubtfully hardy, but they have proved over the past 20 years to survive to -9C.
Clerodendrum trichotomum - S Turner 2013.jpg

October

Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii
Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii AGM (introduced by French missionary Abbé Farges in 1898) has an eye-catching position in the Gardens, growing alongside the Clarkehouse Road railings directly behind the middle of the pavilions. Apart from its delightful autumn flowering habit, this deciduous shrub has some particularly attractive attributes: the deliciously scented white flowers, in wide cymes, have delicate long stamens and contrast well with their maroon calyces and large smooth leaves; the metallic blue berries which follow are surrounded by the long-lasting calyces; the wide, even dome of the 8ft high shrub displays the flowers perfectly.
Campsis radicans - K Keeton 2013

September

Campsis radicans
The Trumpet Vine requires good soil, full sun and added heat from a wall for optimum flowering, and it certainly gets that from the support of the Grand entrance. It will flower freely after or during a hot summer, and it should continue well into September this year.
On entering the Sheffield Botanical Gardens take a glance back to your right to see the beautiful orange-red tubular flowers of this vigorous, self-clinging climber. It is native of the south-eastern United States, New Jersey east to Iowa, south to Texas and Florida. It must have been a real eye-catcher to the first settlers as they arrived in the early part of the 17th century. Seeds were collected and introduced to the British Isles as early as 1640, because it has been in cultivation in England since then.
In the wild it is a deciduous climber of vigorous habit, growing 30 to 40 ft high, by means of aerial roots like an ivy, 'radicans'- meaning rooting stems). It will be interesting to see whether the flowers produce conspicuous brown pods which are only seen after a hot summer.
Dianthus carthusianorum - S Turner 2013

August

Dianthus carthusianorum
In the recently re-sown part of the prairie area, across the path from the woodland garden, thrives this exquisite gem of a plant, rosy pink flowers borne on erect 40cm stems, weaving through the planting like little jewels. Commonly known as the Carthusian pink, it is reminiscent in habit of Verbena bonariensis, and equally useful, especially since it flowers from June to September.
The name comes from the Carthusian order of monks: founded near Grenoble in the 11th century, each monk tended his own little garden and grew this Dianthus. As the order spread through Europe, so did the plant, now found in the wild up to high altitudes from Spain to Poland.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis 'China Girl - K Keeton 2013

July

Cornus kousa 'China Girl'
There is no doubt that the Japanese flowering dogwoods have enjoyed the mixed weather of late, because they are flowering abundantly. The bright white bracts of this deciduous shrub/small tree are almost luminous from a distance. There are plants dotted throughout the Garden, but the most mature, Cornus kousa var.chinensis ‘China Girl’ can be seen as you walk across the lawn to the Rose garden (area F). This small tree, planted in the 1960s is absolutely smothered with the white bracts. The flowers, in the centre, are insignificant, but are followed by strawberry-like fruits, accompanying rich bronze and crimson autumn colour. The bracts at first are pale, then pure creamy white, quite often taking on a pink flush. The fruit is a dull red colour and often remains on the plant well into the winter.
A native of Japan, Korea and Central China, the plant was introduced in 1875.
Rhododendron 'Old Port - S Turner 2013

June

Rhododendron 'Old Port'
This year, in common with most flowering trees and shrubs, the rhododendrons are extremely floriferous, providing pools of colour around the Gardens and catching the eye through vistas. As well as some lovely species rhododendrons, we have many hybrid plants(though only a fraction of the 1000s produced during the twentieth century, some of which have been considered rather garish). But this hybrid, known to be over 100 years old, exudes subtle charm: at 10ft high, its spreading dome is covered in rich plum-coloured flowers with wavy lobes in dense clusters. You will find Rhododendron 'Old Port' where the Evolution and Asian gardens meet.
Magnolia 'Leonard Messel - K. Keeton 2013

May

Magnolia 'Leonard Messel'
Magnolias are some of the most primitive of plants. They have been cultivated in the British Isles for more than 300 years. The first species to arrive from the east coast of North America included M. virginiana, and later M. grandiflora and M. acuminata. Sir Joseph Banks introduced the first Asiatic species, and that was followed by many others collected by the plant hunters of the day, particularly George Forrest and Ernest Wilson. The magnolia is named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol.
Over many years hybrids have been produced from some of the species magnolias, and one of the best of these hybrids may be found by the footpath surrounding the Evolution Garden (area N). This is Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel'. It is a cross between M. kobus and M. stellata. The ‘Leonard Messel’ is a magnificent tall shrub or small tree with lilac-pink flowers, deeper in bud. It originated at the garden Nymans in Sussex, and was named after the owner.
Corylopsis pauciflora - K. Keeton 2013

April

Corylopsis pauciflora
This delightful plant usually puts on its show after the winter flowering shrubs have finished and before most spring ones have started into flower. Ready to come into full bloom with a couple of warm days, Corylopsis pauciflora is an eye catching little shrub at the steps going down to the water garden, opposite a Weigela bed. It is covered in delicate pale yellow, scented flowers, 2 to 3 in each raceme, hanging from slender stems. The leaves appear after the flowers and are at first coppery pink. The other members of this genus have more flowers per raceme, hence the species name 'pauciflora' or few-flowered, but this is only relative.
Robert Fortune introduced C. pauciflora in 1860. It grows wild in scrub and forest edge in Japan and Taiwan, though in Taiwan it is at risk. Although a hardy shrub, the flowers are prone to frost damage, so their late appearance has (so far) saved them this year.
After such a prolonged cold winter this year everything in the garden seems to be late flowering, hopefully we can now look forward to the growing season.
Daphne bholua A Hunter

March

Daphne bholua
As we approach early spring many of the winter flowering shrubs are still holding their own, mainly due to the cold weather in late winter. Many of the daphnes are in that group and particularly Daphne bholua. There are a few of these small shrubs dotted around the Garden, but the most beautiful, and most accessible, to smell the exquisite fragrance, is on the left hand side of the entrance to the Bear Pit (area E). It is interesting to know that these daphnes were only introduced as recently as the 1930s from the Himalayas. Daphne is the Greek name for the bay tree or laurel (Laurus nobilis), and according to mythology it was named after a nymph changed by the gods into a bay tree to save her from pursuit by Apollo. It is an evergreen shrub with leaves just like a laurel, with fragrant flowers from midwinter to spring. The colouring of the flowers is variable, from white to pinkish. A particularly good form of this shrub is Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
2013-02 Helleborus foetidus'Wester Flisk' K Keeton

February

Helleborus foetidus
'Wester Flisk'
Following the heavy snows of January it is a real delight to see the hellebores popping up their pretty heads. Christmas roses, as hellebores are commonly known, are appearing in many areas of the Garden. Helleborus foetidus, sometimes referred to as stinking hellebore, is a strange native plant with handsome deeply divided glossy green leaves. The flowers are borne in airy clusters at the end of the stem each one a perfect bell of green. There is an excellent variety of this plant called ‘Wester Flisk’ which has greyish green leaves and the flower stalks are tinged with red. It was named after the garden in Scotland where it was originally discovered.
Chimonanthus praecox- A Hunter

January 2013

Chimonanthus praecox
Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, grows at the top of the Asia garden near the Tibetan cherry, across the path from the entrance to the bearpit. The translucent yellow flowers, borne before the leaves, have a delicious spicy perfume and are widely used in China in tea, pot pourri and to scent linen. Oils extracted from the plant have been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years.
In 1766, the Earl of Coventry received Wintersweet from China, and it was planted in his new Robert Adam conservatory at Croome Park, Worcester, where it lived for 30 years, by which time plantsmen to whom cuttings had been supplied realised that glass protection was unnecessary. Although it is usually recommended that this shrub be planted against a wall, this specimen flowers quite well, even following a bad summer.


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