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A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: Summer arrives at last - in September! - Entry 36

Double herbaceous border at Mottistone Gardens, Is

After a fairly dismal July and August with cool temperatures, much wind, and latterly quite a lot of rain, we arrived at September, and as if a switch had been thrown, summer began - and has continued more or less non-stop until the end of the month. Fortunately we had arranged to go on holiday for the first two weeks, spending one in the Isle of Wight, which we had never visited before, but would recommend, and the other with friends in Dorset. There are not many noted gardens to visit in the IOW, but Mottistone Gardens (National Trust) on the S. Coast is well worth a visit, having some of the finest borders of sub-tropical plants I have seen in the UK (not as fine as Tresco Abbey Gardens in the Scillies, but this is a new approach at Mottistone and more time is needed), not to mention a very fine double herbaceous border, all surrounding a liveable-in  Elizabethan manor house. A few photos will I hope give some idea of what it is like. 

Double herbaceous border at Mottistone

Sub-tropical border at Mottistone Gardens

This sub-tropical border contains among many other plants an interesting range of half-hardy palms, cycads, hedychiums, cannas, aloes and agaves, and scheffleras. It got me thinking that I should be even more adventurous in my coastal N. Wales garden...

Sub-tropical border at Mottistone Gardens, Isle of

Pam among the exotic flora at Mottistone - note th

Another sub-tropical border at Mottistone Gardens,

Osborne House, Isle of White

The gardens at Osborne House, which is managed by English Heritage, are much less interesting than those at Mottistone, although it has some wonderful trees, including the Holm oak (Quercus ilex) shown on the left here. Other splendid specimens, some planted by Prince Albert himself, incude magnificent Lebanon and Indian dedars (Cedrus libani, C. deodora) and particularly good Cork oaks (Quercus suber) - the best I have seen in the UK.

Osborne House, IOW

Cedrus libani at Osborne House Quercus suber at Osborne House

Formal terrace gardens at Osborne House

The formal gardens on the terraces at the back of the house are very colourful but the range of plants is not particularly great. For the inquisitive among you, the three 'sitters' are my wife, Pam, my daughter, Sally, and her partner, Dave. Sorry for the holiday 'snap', the only picture of the formal gardens that I took!

Terrace gardens at Osborne House

Back home

I don't have a great deal to show you but here goes! Prpbably the most striking plant in the garden this month has been the Lapageria rosea that is perfectly hardy here on a W-facing wooden fence. Its a pity that the foliage is not better but the flowers are among my absolute favourites, such thick and waxy tepals and of such a lovely rosy hue..

Lapageria rosea Lapageria rosea, close-up

Four very different gentians

When one thinks of Autumn gentians one usually envisages the wonderful Asiatic species and hybrids with hughe blue trumpets that grace the autumn show benches and gardens of those who manage to grow them well - I do my best but with very limited success. Gentiana paradoxa (which is probably a hybrid) is not so spectacular, at least as far as the size and impact of the individual flowers is concerned, but it is such an easy and rewarding plant, requiring only a lime-free soil in a reasonably sunny spot. Unlike the large trumpet types it does not reauire frequent lifitng and dividing to maintain it in good health and vigour; I have a couple of clumps more than 10 years old that continue to increase in size and flower freely every year.

Another really easy one in any partly shaded spot with moist soil is the Willow gentian of the alpine woods, G. asclepiadea, of which I show a white form, but there are plenty of good blues. A more unusual woodlander is G. sikokiana,a Japanese endemic from montane forests in Honshu, Shikoku (from whence the specific epithet) and Kyoshu. It seems to like a semi-shaded raised bed here but is perhaps not quite as happy as it might be. In the same bed, but receiving a little more sun, is the well known and charming G. saxosa from New Zealand, which generally starts flowering here in July but is at its best at the beginning of September.

Gentiana paradoxa

Gentiana asclepiadea 'Alba'

Gentiana asclepiadea 'Alba'

Gentiana sikokiana

Gentiana sikokiana

Gentiana saxosa

Gentiana saxosa

More fruits

Magnolia wilsonii

Magnolia wilsonii seed pod

Paeonia obovata 'Alba'

Paeonia obovata 'Alba' seed-head

Podophyllum hexandrum

Podophyllum hexandrum

Daphne longilobata

The first picture shows a heavily laden bush, the second a tray of seedlings lifted from around the base of the same bush this August; they will make good plants either in their own right or as rootstocks for grafting at the end of next season.

Daphne longilobata Daphne longilobata, potted self-sown seedlings
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