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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 14 October 2007 by John Richards

Autumn in Mallorca. Entry 53.

Back from the Balearics

No contribution for the last three weeks, as we spent ten days in northern Mallorca and only returned last Tuesday. Since then we have been very busy visiting the excellent Loughborough Show and lecturing to the mid-Anglia group, so we only returned late on Sunday.

Usually, all the photographs in this diary are taken in my garden during the previous week, but we were pleased to find a few interesting autumn bulbs in Mallorca. As this area is not best known for its autumn interest, I thought in might be interesting to include a few pictures here. It had been a very early, wet autumn there and possibly some of the subjects we saw would flower much later in another year. These photos were all taken in the first week of October.

Crocus cambessedesii is endemic to the Balearics. We found it in a number of places, mostly in the mountains, although there were also a few by the Formentor tunnel mouth, well known as a peony site in the spring. It is common on the far side of the Gorg Blau dam, but the best site was above the divide by the road that drops down to Sa Calobra. Here, at 1000m or more, it should be very hardy. In the wild it is exceptionally variable in size, colour and feathering. Many resemble its spring-flowering Tyrrhenian  relatives C. minimus, C. corsicus or even C. versicolor.

Back from the Balearics

I was also pleased to find Merendera filifolia. This very handsome colchicum relative seems to be little grown. It is abundant on limestone pavement at sea-level close to the Albufereta wetland.

In general, we were surprised by the amount of colour, particularly from the endemic deep blue subspecies of rosemary and from Erica multiflora.

It was also interesting that the familiar garden 'alpine' Erodium reichardii, that tends to flower throughout the summer in our gardens seems to mimic this engaging behaviour in the wild.

Early autumn
Autumn seems to have come early here too, although I wish I could the say the same for many of my autumn bulbs that did not flower in time for the Shows, and were also not particularly showy this year. Was the cool damp summer to blame? However, many of the shrubs and trees are already in full fig. Here is the Parrotia, followed by our best Acer palmatum.

Early autumn

Cotoneaster sternianus
A few weeks ago I featured Cotoneaster bullatus. Here is another superb plant, introduced by our predecessors, or possibly by birds. It has leaves that are attractively and diagnostically white-woolly on the reverse. It is named for Sir Frederick Stern of Highdown rather than William Stern of the British Museum.

Cotoneaster sternianus

Pink sensation
While we were in East Anglia we were delighted to visit Rod and Jane Leeds' magnificent garden. Although we had been before, this was our first autumn visit and I have never seen a garden that exploits the glories of autumn more effectively. I lost count of the number of varieties of Nerine and Nerine intergeneric hybrids they grow, but they have a great collection which was at its very best. This made the three varieties we grow seem very small beer. We might excuse ourselves by saying that we live in a cool humid garden near the Scottish border, but in fact they seem to do well even here if the right site is chosen, here on the south side of one of the alpine houses. This is just a standard N. bowdenii, growing together with a not very hardy Osteospermum.

Pink sensation

Cyclamen hederifolium and Desfontainea spinosa are so much part of our autumn that although I featured each separately last year that I can't resist featuring them in tandem on this occasion.

And some crocuses
Finally, here are a few crocuses that received short shrift in the diary last autumn. The first picture is a general view of part of the bench in the alpine house, followed by Crocus hadriaticus, common and widespread in southern Greece, and finally the magnificent Mani endemic Crocus niveus, arguably the most splendid of all the autumn crocus.

And some crocuses
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