Plant of the Month Archives 2019

Punica granatum - S Turner

September 2019

Punica granatum

At a time of year when few shrubs are in flower, this rarely seen ornamental pomegranate surprises with its display of bright shiny buds and showy flowers. The glossy mid-green leaves make a good foil for the double orange-red flowers, streaked and edged with white. The shrub can be found in the Mediterranean section of the Mediterranean Climate Garden (Area L).
The plant was named after Madame Caroline Legrelle d’Hanis, a prize winning and innovative Belgian horticulturalist who was apparently given the only existing plant, in the 1860s, by another Belgian woman horticulturalist who was living in Illinois!
Protection from hard frost is advisable for this shrub which grows to 3m. The edible fruits are unlikely to grow here. The species, P. granatum, is cultivated for its fruit in Mediterranean climate areas of Europe, Asia, Africa and the US. From ancient times it spread from its native area - Persia to North India - and features strongly in the mythology and cultures of a number of countries, and there are many biblical references.

Sambucus 'Maxima' - K Keeton

August 2019

Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis 'Maxima'

This is a particularly beautiful American elder, related to our common elder of hedges and copses. This plant was one of the 'Restoration plantings' of 2004, and is situated on the edge of Osborns Field (area J on downloadable map). Sambucus canadendis was introduced to the UK from America in 1761. It is native of eastern N. America from Canada to Florida. The cultivar 'Maxima' is the most remarkable form, with large leaves and enormous cream-coloured flower clusters, that are pleasantly fragrant. The rosy purple flower stalks, which remain after the flowers have fallen, are an added attraction. The largest heads of flowers may be obtained by hard pruning in early spring!

 - S. Turner

July 2019

Carpet Bedding

Not exactly 'a' plant of the month, the latest carpet bedding - in the Victorian Garden below the cafe and the beds in front of the Pavilions - has been beautifully executed and is well worth a visit. The fashion for carpet bedding, so called because the patterns created from tight planting in shaped beds resemble the design of an eastern carpet, had its heyday in the mid nineteenth century. This was when the Victorian plant hunters were introducing a huge range of plants, many of them annuals or tender perennials. Coincidentally the repeal of the glass, or window, tax in 1851 triggered much construction of conservatories and glasshouses, enabling gardeners to grow these plants.
The scheme this summer makes use of harmonious colours and the gardeners' theme is 'the balance of nature and the urban environment', recognising the importance of this historical style of gardening to Sheffielders.

 - K. Keeton

June 2019

Echium wildpretti

The best place to see these plants at their most spectacular is on Las Canadas del Teide, Tenerife's largest volcano. Snow capped from November to March, Mount Teide is the highest mountain on Spanish territory. It is quite amazing to see the Echium wildpretii in full flower in Sheffield. Not an easy plant to grow, mainly because it requires really sharp drainage and protection from winter wet. The echiums growing in the Mediterranean Climate Garden (area L) have been grown from seed by FOBS members, and although may be fairly easy to get them through the first year, it is difficult to get them to flowering point. Quite a few Echium wildpretii plants were grown, but only one has survived. Although Echium pininana has been grown successfully in the Gardens, this is a first for the species wildpretii. Unfortunately, once it has flowered it will die, but meanwhile the bees are making full use of the pollen in vast numbers. Hopefully seed will be collected with a view to having a 'forest' in a couple of years. The echiums are in the borage family and both E. wildpretii and E. pininana are biennial.

Rubus 'Beneden' - S. Turner

May 2019

Rubus 'Benenden'

This beautiful shrub, a bramble relative, has long arching canes carrying 2 inch pure white flowers with golden stamens, along the entire length. The soft green, lobed leaves make a lovely foil for the crepe paper flowers. In 1950, at his home in Benenden, Kent, Captain Collingwood Ingram ('Cherry' Ingram) raised this hybrid from 2 similar species: R. deliciosus which was introduced from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in 1870, and R. trilobus, introduced from Mexico in 1938. The Royal Horticultural Society has bestowed its Award of Garden Merit on R. 'Benenden'. It grows on Thompson Road drive below South Lodge

Ercilla volubis - K. Keeton

April 2019

Ercilla volubis

In April, when there are so many beautiful blossoms in the Garden, from the magnolias, cherries, rhododendrons and camellias, one can be forgiven for missing this rather odd, but pretty Chilean vine clambering up the north wall of the Pavilions (area C on downloadable map). Ercilla volubilis is an evergreen self-clinging climber, supporting itself by aerial roots. The leaves are rounded and leathery, and in March/April the most unusual flowers can be seen in dense spikes of small, purplish white flowers. Brown adhesive pads emanate from behind the leaf axils to hold the stems to the brickwork. In the wild these vigorous shoots would twine through the foliage of shrubs and small trees.
Discovered in mixed thickets in the foothills of the Andes, to the coastal forests, it was introduced to the UK in 1840 by Thomas Bridges, a very industrious collector of South American plants. Originally named by Hooker, as Bridgesia spicata, until it was discovered that it had already been named after a Spanish nobleman and soldier, Alonso de Ercilla. Volubilis meaning twining. This plant was introduced to the Garden during the restoration (2004) and has proved to be both hardy and vigorous.

Cornus mas - S. Turner

March 2019

Cornus mas

C. mas is one of the Cornaceae (dogwood) family). It produces dainty sprays of up to 25 four-petalled flowers in little yellow puffs, all along its leafless twigs. Because of the hardness of its dense wood the ancient Greeks used it to make spears and arrows. The common name, cornelian cherry, comes from the Latin ‘cornu’ meaning ‘horn’. It is known that 7,000 years ago the cherry-like fruits were a food source in Greece, and they are still used in spirits distillation throughout the range of the tree from Belgium to the Caucasus.
C. mas has been in cultivation in Britain since the mid 16th century, when one was recorded at Hampton Court Palace. Several cultivars hold the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society. In SBG the species grows on the perimeter path, west of the Long Border (Area T) and near the Brocco Bank gate (Area E).

Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' - K. Keeton

February 2019

Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'

The winter flowering honeysuckles (Lonicera) are planted throughout the Gardens, and the ones near the Grand Entrance, (area D on downloadable map), are flowering well. The honeysuckle family is a genus of about 180 deciduous and sometimes evergreen species of bushy or climbing shrubs. They were named by Linnaeus after Lonizer, a German naturalist of the 16th century.
L. x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' is a spreading, semi-evergreen shrub, a cross between L. fragrantissima and L. standishii. Both were discovered by Robert Fortune, the intrepid Scot, during his travels in China in 1845. The very free-flowering 'Winter Beauty' form, was raised by Hillier Nurseries from a cross made in 1966. This particular form, produces fragrant cream-coloured flowers, often flowering from early December until April. The flowers themselves are really quite insignificant, but the power of the perfume is delightful!!

Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ - S. Turner

January 2019

Sophora microphylla 'Sun King'

This large bushy shrub has responded to the hot summer by flowering very profusely. The fine evergreen foliage with up to 40 leaflets on each 6in pinnate leaf provide a good foil for the bright yellow, pea-like flowers. These persist for many weeks. This cultivar was selected by John Hillier at his arboretum in 1982 from material brought from Chile, and subsequently widely marketed protected by Plant Breeders' Rights. It holds the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
But amongst the 50 species of Sophora (in the Legumuminosae family) there has been some confusion and reclassification, and in recent years it has been convincingly demonstrated that the plant S. microphylla 'Sun King' is in fact a hybrid between S.cassioides and S. macrocarpa (both Chilean). S. microphylla is from New Zealand.
The shrub thrives against the wall in Osborn's Field (Area J) near the Austrian pine.

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