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Wisley's Alpine Diary

This entry: 01 February 2008 by Paul Cumbleton

Log 14

Wisley’s Alpine Log

By Paul Cumbleton

Log 14 … 31 January 2008

After another week of unusually mild weather we are spoilt for choice of things to put out in the Display house. It looks like March in there with so many things flowering earlier than usual. So let me start with a just a few of these. Irises have been rather poorly represented in our collections, and steps were taken last year to address this. We were fortunate in being given some wonderful Junos and other related Irises from Kew and some of these are now flowering for the first time here. This is   Iris rosenbachiana ‘Harangon’ :

And this one is Iris nicolai :

You may remember that I described our repotting techniques for these back in log 6 of 2007.

Some of the reticulate group are also giving a splendid show: such as Iris ‘George’

Iris reticulata ‘Purple Gem’ is another:

The first of the Saxifrages are in full bloom, with the promise of many more to come. Two that are named after famous people:

Above:   Saxifraga ‘Frederic Chopin’

Below:  Saxifraga ‘Louis Armstrong’

Moving outside, there was a big team effort this week on the Glasshouse Borders. I have mentioned before that the Alpine section is part of a wider department with Woody Ornamental, who have the borders within their responsibility and who needed all hands on deck. The task was to cut and clear all of the senescent material from last year’s growth of the huge range of herbaceous material in the border.

The borders were designed by Piet Oudolf, famous for his naturalistic “New Wave” style of planting. Situated on the slope below the Fruit Mount, each border is 147m long and 11m wide with over 30 diagonal 'rivers' of grasses and perennials including Calamagrostis, Festuca, Echinacea, Rudbeckia and Astrantia cultivars. Rather than cut down the old growth in autumn, it is left on throughout the winter to give architectural interest and a prolonged season of feasting for the birds that relish the bounty in the fading seed heads. The material we removed is taken for composting, part of our efforts to recycle as much as possible back into the garden.

Back on home territory, the Rock garden is also waking up from its winter sleep with bulbs and other delights everywhere. Cyclamen coum has come into its own this week:

The Snowdrops are everywhere also at their best: Just a couple of the dozens of forms we have on the department:

Above:   Galanthus ‘Galatea’

Below:  Galanthus ‘Kite’

This year they are coinciding with the Snowflake, Leucojum vernum. Fortunately, this is one species that hasn’t been renamed to the genus Acis. Like most people I think Leucojum is a much nicer name.

Crocus tommasinianus carpets the ground in places and many nice forms and seedlings appear such as this one:

The aconites are also out and glowing, and Hellebores are brightening up many a shadier spot

Above: Eranthis hyemalis

Below: Helleborus 'Potter's Wheel'

Other colour is provided by conifers. Looking particularly good at the moment is Abies nordmanniana ‘Golden Spreader’

More colourful foliage is found on a form of celandine that our former Superintendent Trevor Wiltshire discovered on a field trip to Turkey some years ago and which he named after his house ‘Pencarn’

The full name is:   Ranunculus ficaria ssp. chrysocephalus ‘Pencarn’

Going back inside, some of the Hepaticas are much further advanced than we would like – it is six weeks yet before our planned special display but many of our plants are blooming right now. Let’s hope there are some left for March!! Of particular note is this good yellow, a relatively new colour in Hepaticas and which the Japanese are constantly striving to improve upon:

  Above: Hepatica nobilis var. japonica – yellow flowered form

Finally, we are really proud of Lucie (who looks after the Hepaticas mentioned above). We have just heard that she has won an award in our Employee Recognition Scheme for demonstrating her passion for her work and leading by example. Well done Lucie!!

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