Plant of the Month Archives 2014

Ilex 'Handsworth New Silver' - K Keeton 2014

December

Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver'

The English holly, Ilex aquifolium, is particularly enjoyed at Christmas in the home as decoration, but in the garden it has special attributes that go beyond the festive season. The genus Ilex is a large and complex group of plants. There are about 400 species and many hundreds of cultivars. The spiny-leaved evergreen tree/shrub is a native of the British Isles and will appear naturally in the under-storey of most woods.
Throughout Sheffield Botanical Gardens, many fine specimens of mature holly trees may be seen, some possibly dating back to the opening of the Gardens in 1836. It is known that the first curators of the Garden planted many varieties of Ilex aquifolium. Many of these would have been purchased from the once famous Sheffield nurseries, Fisher, Son & Sibray. Hollies were one of their specialities and they were expert propagators of new varieties. A very fine, variegated holly, Ilex ‘Handsworth New Silver’, the company first distributed this in the middle of the 19th century. Other hollies that may be recognized from Fisher, Son & Sibray are ‘Moorei’ (named after the foreman), ‘Hodginsii’, ‘Atkinsonii’(named after the manager) and ‘ Marnockii’ (named after our esteemed first curator).

Callicarpa 'Profusion' - S Turner 2014

November

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'
Asia Garden

A November highlight, often an unexpected sight in an autumn garden, this graceful shrub with arching branches clothed in dense clusters of little, round, pearly-violet berries can be found in the AGM (Award of Garden Merit) border in front of the beech hedge - above the Lavallée Hawthorn, as the path rises up to the fountain. In the Verbenaceae family, this species (one of 140) originates in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces of China, and was introduced to cultivation by French plant collector (and missionary, as so many were) Emile Marie Bodinier, about 1900. The genus name derives from the Greek, meaning beautiful fruit. In the past it was thought necessary to plant callicarpas in groups (there is one such in the woodland garden in SBG) to facilitate cross-pollination and the production of a good display of fruit. But in 1962 nurserymen T. van Veen and Sons of Boskoop, Holland, introduced the progeny of C.b. var. giraldii 'Profusion' which is very free-berrying, even when young and a single shrub.

Colletia hystrix - K Keeton 2014

October

Colletia hystrix
Asia Garden

This is probably not a shrub you would wish to grow in your own garden, but tucked away in the Asian garden (area N) can be found the most unusual plant Colletia hystrix. The fragrance emitting from the blossom may tempt you to seek it out. Beware though as you put your nose into the flowers to take in the perfume, because it is covered in spines, which are very rigid and sharply pointed. The flowers are waxy, white, tubular, and this year particularly abundant. It enjoys partial shade and flowers from late summer into the autumn. Originally discovered in South Chile, it was introduced in 1882 by the Veitch brothers, the great plant hunters of the 19th century.

Zauschneria californica 'Glasnevin - S Turner 2014'

September

Zauschneria californica 'Glasnevin'
Mediterranean Garden

A sizzling star of the early autumn garden is Zauschneria californica 'Glasnevin'. Forming a low clump, up to 2ft wide, of narrow, greyish leaves, it is surmounted by a dazzling profusion of long, tubular orange-red flowers, adapted in its native west coast of North America to be pollinated by hummingbirds. Hence it is known there as the hummingbird trumpet flower, as well as the Californian fuchsia. Although this rather uncommon sub-shrub is hardy, it does need to be sited in a sunny spot, in gritty, well-drained soil and will not tolerate winter water-logging. This cultivar 'Glasnevin' originated in Dublin; the species was named after Johan Zauschner, a Professor of Medicine and Botany in 18th century Prague. Another Z. californica has grown for some years in the Rock and Water Garden (Area H)

Lobelia tupa - K Keeton 2014

August

Lobelia tupa
Mediterranean Garden - coastal Chile region

Lobelia tupa is a vigorous, upright perennial flowering from a giant rosette, with large light grey–green leaves. It grows up to 6ft in height, and it is all of that situated in the shelter of the terraces. The stems terminate in striking many-flowered erect racemes of tubular, 2 lipped flowers in shades of scarlet to deep dull scarlet. This striking plant can be found from Valparaiso south to Los Lagos, Chile. The Mapuche Indians of Southern Chile consider it a sacred plant. Its common name is Devil’s tobacco, possibly because it was smoked by the Indians with rather special effects.

Romneya coulteri - S Turner 2014

July

Romneya coulteri
AGM Border

Also known as the Matilija poppy or Californian tree poppy, this dramatic shrubby perennial provides a spectacular display on the AGM (Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit) border, above the top of the Thompson Road drive (Area S). Six crepe-papery white petals centred with a cluster of golden stamens form huge, slightly scented flowers atop 2 metre (6 ft) tall stems with glaucous grey-green foliage. The Irish botanist and explorer Dr Thomas Coulter found the plant on expeditions to California and Mexico and introduced it to cultivation. It first flowered in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin in 1875.

Delphinium hybrid - K Keeton 2014

June

Delphinium hybrids
Main Border

The delphinium is a genus of 300 species in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). It is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but may also be found on high mountains of tropical Africa. Most of the delphinium hybrids and cultivars we see in our gardens are derived from Delphinium elatum, which originated in Western Europe to East Asia, and were first hybridized by the firm of Kelway at Langport, Somerset, about 1875. It is interesting to know that this nursery is still in existence selling the most exquisite plants. In the 20th century more work was done by Blackmore & Langdon of Bath to produce many of the beautiful blooms we have today.

Viburnum 'Mariesii'- S Turner 2014

May

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Mariesii'

The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) beds display plants which the Royal Horticultural Society consider to be of special worth in gardens. In the Sheffield Botanical Gardens these beds extend from above South Lodge on the Thompson Road drive to near the fountain, and are crammed with lovely specimens. (Area S)
In the top bed, nearest to the fountain, grows a sensational shrub: Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Mariesii', a Japanese beauty introduced in the 1840s. The wide-spreading branches grow naturally in horizontal tiers with the white lacecap flowers thickly arranged in even rows along each side of the branches, producing a snow like effect. The leaves can colour a vibrant red in autumn.

Pulsatilla 'Papageno' - K Keeton 2014

April

Pulsatilla vulgaris subsp. grandis ‘Papageno’

The pulsatilla, often called the pasque-flower because it is in flower around the Easter period, is a rare native found on chalky downlands in southern Britain. Unfortunately, it is now extremely rare. It has been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal plant, particularly for painful conditions, including headache, earache and neuralgia. Pulsatillas are easily obtainable and easy to grow. A particularly fine and unusual form is growing in the Rock and Water Garden (Area H), called Pulsatilla vulgaris subsp. grandis ‘Papageno’. The plants have deeply cut, fringed, double red ‘petals’. An added attraction to these plants are the fluffy fruits after flowering.

Aloe ferox - S Trees

March

Aloe ferox

Taking pride of place in the central bed of the west dome of the Pavilions, stands an enormous Aloe ferox, also known as the Cape Aloe. It is a shrubby succulent indigenous to South Africa’s Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Natal and Lesotho, although it will grow quite successfully in arid climates with low fertility soils. It has a single woody trunk with a dense rosette of lance-shaped leaves which are bluish green with a spiny surface. It produces vivid orange-red blooms which appear in a thick, round, brush-like terminal cluster on a single, slender stalk.
This plant also has many different therapeutic uses, and writings from as early as 1500 BC in Ancient Egypt document its medicinal uses. European sailors routinely used the sap to heal and protect their skin from the elements. Modern research has verified its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial function.

Hamamelis 'Primavera - A Hunter 2014

February

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primavera'
It is a pleasing characteristic of Hamamelis spp., the witch hazels, that they flower when young, and the recently planted collection in the Woodland Garden (Area Q, down all the steps from the fountain) is providing an attractive display. Various cultivars, mainly of H. x intermedia (hybrid of Japanese H. japonica and Chinese H. mollis) flower on bare twigs in lovely shades of rich gold and yellow. These are not so strongly scented as the gorgeous H. mollis (an outstanding specimen is flowering outside the Main Entrance on Clarkehouse Road) but the large clumps of Sarcococca nearby compensate with their delicious perfume carrying on the air.
Prunus 'Autumnalis' - K Keeton

January

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'
As you enter the Garden via the Grand entrance, this most exquisite small cherry cannot be missed, as it stands proud, on the main lawn to the right of the walkway. Most of the cherries are known to flower in the spring, but this tree is unique in the fact that it flowers from November to March. It is a small spreading tree only reaching up to 7.5 m, and as wide as tall. The flowers are semi-double, pink in the bud, and opening almost white.
Prunus x subhirtella was originally introduced from Japan in the late 19th century. ‘Autumnalis’ is thought to have been distributed commercially in this country around 1910. It received an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 1924, and is a worthy small tree for any garden.

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