Plant of the Month Archives 2018

Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

November 2018

Quercus x hispanica 'Lucombeana'

At the top of the West Lawn, in front of the pavilions, a dense clump of overgrown hollies and shrubs has recently been cleared, resulting in much improved vistas and the dramatic revealing of a fine oak, Quercus x hispanica 'Lucombeana'.
In 1735 William Lucombe introduced the Turkey Oak (Q. cerris) to his Exeter nursery and when the first seedlings from this grew in the 1760s, he realised that one was a cross with a nearby Cork Oak (Q. suber). This hybrid was developed and widely distributed, with clones varying between the vigour of Q. cerris and the corkiness of Q. suber.
In SBG the Lucombe Oak displays the characteristic strong upright growth of the Turkey Oak (specimens grow west of the fountain, Area P) and the corky bark of the Cork Oak (a young specimen grows in the Mediterranean climate garden, Area L) as well as its foliage which is almost evergreen here.

Amaryllis belladonna

October 2018

Amaryllis belladonna

A native of South Africa, in the Cape Province from Olifants River to Cape Town the Amaryllis is a flowering bulb found growing on rocky hillsides, in scrub and near rivers. It is interesting to know that when the Mediterranean Climate Garden in Sheffield Botanical Gardens was planted up in 2014, ten bulbs of the Amaryllis belladonna were planted. Over the years one bulb made an attempt to flower, but it has only been during the long, hot summer of 2018, that these bulbs have had the climate they require to flower so beautifully.
The bulb should not be confused with the ubiquitous Hippeastrum that we see flowering in homes over the winter period. The Amaryllis is autumn-flowering and may be seen flowering freely in sunny positions in Cornwall. Its notable feature is the way its long-stemmed umbels appear in late summer from a leafless bulb – the leaves appear after flowering. This gives it the name ‘naked lady’. Other names given are Jersey lily, belladonna (meaning beautiful lady) lily and March lily. It would be wonderful to see these rosy-pink lily-like flowers appear as a regular feature in the Garden.

Heptacodium miconiodes

September 2018

Heptacodium miconiodes

A highly desirable plant, very hardy and vigorous, it has year round interest: from spring onwards the distinctive leaves are an attractive feature, drooping in glossy pairs, each with 3 long deep veins; from September there is a profusion of fragrant, showy flowers which last until the first frost and are followed by prominent calyces changing from green to rose-pink to burgundy; then there is winter interest from the peeling tan bark and the deep red of the small, younger branches. In fact it is possible to make a feature of the bark by growing the plant as a single stemmed small tree. H. miconiodes is the only species of the genus and is in the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family. It was planted in 2004 amongst part of the weigela collection at the bottom of the east lawn (Area G) not far from the fountain.
Although plant hunter Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson discovered this handsome large shrub in 1907, it was not propagated until the Sino-American Botanical Expedition sent seed to the Arnold Arboretum in 1980. Before this it was unknown in western gardens, but is now widely available and holds the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. In the wild it is rare and under Chinese protection.

Albizia julibrissin

August 2018

Albizia julibrissin

There is no doubt that some of the near tropical weather we have been having recently has been beneficial to some plants in the Garden. Planted in 2016, this Albizia julibrissin, also known as the silk tree, originating from Iran, east to China, has really flourished. This small tree, 'Tropical Dream' was selected from a group of trees in Seoul, South Korea, growing in high altitude conditions where temperatures went down to -20 degrees C.
It is rarely seen because it is easily lost over a cold winter, but this little gem has been sited in the relatively sheltered Robert Marnock Garden, so named after the designer of the Garden and its first curator. It is a beautiful, exotic-looking small tree, with feathery foliage, similar to the acacia and mimosa, and densely clustered small pink flowers. The tree was named in honour of F. del Albizzi, a Florentine nobleman who in 1749 introduced it into cultivation.

Yucca gloriosa

July 2018

Yucca gloriosa

According to Campbell-Culver in 'The Origin of Plants', when it was first brought to Britain in the 1550s, this herbaceous evergreen plant was known as Spanish Bayonet, reflecting events at that time in its native America (across what are now the southern states).
It was another 50 years before it created a sensation in an Essex garden when it first flowered here, the huge spikes producing spectacular long-lasting blooms which inspired the name 'gloriosa'.

The dense, spiny foliage makes a marvellous foil for the erect panicles of creamy, bell-shaped flowers.

It has long been valued for its architectural qualities by garden designers, including the renowned Gertrude Jekyll who often used it as a marker plant in herbaceous borders.

Y. 'gloriosa' is in the Agavaceae family. There are about 40 species, several of which are hardy in the UK. It holds the Award of Garden Merit of the RHS.

One of these grows in the mixed borders above the fountain, another beside the West Pavilion.

Crinodendron hookerianum K Keeton

June 2018

Crinodendron hookerianum

Following one of the severest winters of recent years, with the arrival of Beast from the East and the Mini beast, it is almost a miracle that this shrub has even survived, let alone flower with such abundance.

The crinodendron is thought to be tender, originating from Chile, in the provinces of Valdivia and Lanquihue, but this plant has been ideally sited, resting on the walls on the back of the Glass Pavilions in the Four Seasons Garden, (area A & B on the downloadable map). It has obviously enjoyed the warmth and protection of these walls.

It is an evergreen shrub, which can become a small tree. It is grown for its bright carmine red waxy lantern-shaped flowers, but is an attractive shrub throughout the year, with its narrow dark green leaves.

It was introduced to Britain by William Lobb working for Messrs. Veitch in 1848, and given the name ‘hooker’ in honour of William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), English botanist and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Piptanthus nepalensis S Turner

May 2018

Piptanthus nepalensis

This upright, mostly evergreen shrub is one of 2 species in the pea (Leguminosae) family, subfamily Papilionoideae. The leaves of shiny, quite leathery green leaflets make a good foil for the attractive yellow flowers, unmistakably pea-like in loose heads. These are followed by 8cm flat brown pods hodling several seeds. First introduced in 1838 and native in the Himalayas from India to western china, this specimen was grown from wild collected seed and can be seen at the front of the Himalayan Bed (Area N11) at the entrance to the bearpit.

Ribes sanguineum K Keeton

April 2018

Azara microphylla

One can be forgiven for passing by these large shrubs/trees, as you exit the Garden down the path towards Thompson Road, without a glance. Only at this time of year, and particularly on a warm spring day, will you wonder what the beautiful smell in the air is. The gorgeous aroma is of vanilla, and one would hardly guess it comes from the minute flowers of the Azara microphylla, an evergreen tree originating from Chile and Southern Argentina.

The Azara is an elegant small tree situated along the left hand side screening the bin area. It has large sprays of dainty foliage, bearing masses of small, fragrant yellow flowers in April and May.

It was introduced into England in 1861 by Richard Pearce a Victorian plant collector who worked for the James Veitch nursery in Exeter. Pearce travelled extensively in South America and was responsible for introducing many of the plants we grow in our gardens today.

Ribes sanguineum K Keeton

March 2018

Ribes sanguineum

As March comes in like a lion, it is hard to believe that in a couple of weeks Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' should be covered in pendulous racemes of pure white flowers, long lasting and noticeably earlier than the species.

The genus Ribes (from the Arabic 'ribas' meaning 'acid tasting') comprises around 150 species, including the edible currants and gooseberries. Ribes sanguineum was introduced in 1826 by David Douglas while on a 3 year plant hunting expedition sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. He sent seedlings from the banks of the Columbia River, Oregon.

This cultivar, Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' was introduced by the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden in 1986 and holds the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

In SBG the shrubs grow behind the Pavilions alongside the Clarkehouse Road railings.

Acacia longifolia S. Turner

February 2018

Acacia longifolia

It is most unusual to see these exotic looking plants in flower outside of a glasshouse environment, but the acacias were planted in Sheffield Botanical Garden Mediterranean Climate Garden in the Spring of 2013 and have since thrived, so much so, that they are covered in bud and flowers to welcome the spring.

There are a group of Acacias planted in the Australian bed of the Mediterranean Climate Garden. (area L on the downloadable map). One group is Acacia dealbata, the silver wattle, with its beautiful fern like foliage which is evergreen. It has delightful golden fragrant flowers just like puffballs when in full flower, produced in panicles. The buds may remain for some weeks, before a fine warm day, when they will suddenly burst into flower. Some of these acacias are difficult to identify exactly, because the juvenile foliage may be confusing and there are many different varieties of A. dealbata.

Acacia longifolia also known as Sydney Golden Wattle. is easier to identify precisely, because it produces its narrow flat leaves and elongated flower spikes. This is an evergreen small tree or shrub, very vigorous in growth. It is, in fact, classed as a weed and has become invasive in Portugal and South Africa. It is native of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Camellia S. Turner

January 2018

Camellia 'Winton'

This shrub is a delight in mid-winter, skirting the path parallel to the main path leading up to the fountain in the AGM (Award of Garden Merit) Border, Area S. 2m high with a lax, spreading habit, the branchlets are covered in rosy buds which develop into delicate single blooms of a soft pale pink. These continue for many weeks with the spent flowers sprinkled around on the ground. This camellia is a hybrid between C. cuspidata, introduced from W. China by EH Wilson in 1900, and C. saluenensis introduced in 1918 by George Forrest and was produced at Hillier's Nursery around 1930. Forrest was sponsored by JC Williams of Caerhays Castle in Cornwall and he created another hybrid between these parents with the mother plant of the cross the other way round. This was the pure white C. 'Cornish Snow', sometimes confused with C. 'Winton'.



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