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Easter approaches in the Rock garden – April 2024

April 15, 2024
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There are still cherries in flower but the blossom is falling as predicted

Around the top pool in the rock garden Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’ was still in full flower. The blossom from the tree by the alpine yard gate Prunus pendula f. ascendens ‘Rosea’ has already fallen. This year the garden has been frost free since the blossom emerged. There have been some very strong winds at the end of the month which blemished some of the flowers.

It’s nearly Easter and the pasqueflowers are out

At the time of writing (19 – 27 March), just a few days before Easter, the Pulsatilla vulgaris are in flower in various parts of the rock garden. I’m aware of two different explanations for the genus name. The Hebrew word for Passover is passakh, referring to the Easter flowering time. The other being from the Latin – meaning quiverer, the pulsating movement of the flowers in the wind. Whatever the source they are very beautiful. The third picture is of Pulsatilla rubra.

There are a lot of different Bergenia enjoying their time in the sun

Later in the year visitors to the rock garden will notice the large elephant ear leaves, its common name. The genus was named for the German botanist and physician Karl August von Bergen (1704 – 1759). Bergenia stracheyi comes from the western Himalayas. The specific epithet was named for Lieutenant General Sir Richard Strachey (1817 – 1908) who collected plants in North-West Himalaya and Tibet. The second picture is B. stacheyi Alba Group.

‘Bressingham White’ was raised by Alan Bloom, of Bressingham Gardens. The final picture is of B. ‘Abendglocken’. This was a cross of B. ciliala x purpurascens made by the German breeder, Georg Arends in the 1930’s. It translates as Evening Bells.

I also noticed Fritillaria persica ‘Twin Towers Tribute’. It is described as having purple black flowers. This fritillaria was found as a sport, and it produces two flowering stems per bulb. It needs to be planted deeply in very free draining soil to prevent the bulbs from rotting in the winter.

Ipheion uniflorum f. album is in flower under one of the large oak trees at the top of the rock garden. In the fern glade the first of the Erythroniums is in flower, E. californicum.

The alpine meadow is coming into its own

The daffodils and summer snowflakes are reaching their full flowering period. I particular like Fritillaria meleagris, the snakes head fritillary. The specific epithet comes from the Greek name for a Guinea-fowl which has speckled plumage. There are a few white ones as well but I like the ones with the chequered pattern.

In the Alpine Display House this week

The visual feast that is available in the Alpine Display House continues and is testimony to the hard work that the team puts in behind the scenes. to their care and attention in staging the plants. My selection is not a reflection on how rare or difficult each plant is to grow. These plants are just the ones that caught my eye, on the days that I took the pictures.

There are lots of tulips in flower

Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ was registered in 1992 by the family run W.Van Lierop & Zn.BV nursery in the Netherlands. This is a selected form of the popular Lady Tulip. The specific epithet name is in honour Carolus Clusius (1526 – 1609) a Flemish medical doctor and botanist. Tulipa kolpakowskiana AGM is classed as an heirloom variety dating back to c1844; it is native to Central Asia. There are several possible suggestions as to who the specific epithet was chosen for. Most likely is Gerasim Alexeevich Kolpakowski (1813 – 1896) a Russian governor in Kazakhstan. With such a distinct name I’d assumed it would have been relatively easy to confirm the link but there is no definitive authority I could find to confirm.

Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha was given an AGM in 1993. Tulipa neustruevae it is found in the Tien Shan mountains of Central Asia. It was described by the Russian botanist Eugeara Pobedimova who possibly named it for the soil scientist Sergi Neustruev (1874 – 1928). I didn’t know you could be a soil scientist.

Tulipa turkestanica was named by Regel in 1875. It is found in central Asia which is the source of the specific epithet. Tulipa vvedenskyi can have flowers in red, orange and yellow. It was named for Alexi Ivanovitch Vvedensky a Russian botanist who specialized in allium as well as tulips.

Muscari aucheri ‘Mount Hood’ was introduced by Van Tubergens. Mount Hood is the snow capped highest point in Oregon, USA. It is a stratovolcano. Another W.van Lierop & Zn introduction is Muscari latifolium ‘Grape Ice’ which occurred as a sport. The specific epithet is from the Latin lati – broad / wide and folium – leaved. It produced one leaf per flower stem.

Muscari commutatum is native from south East Europe to the Aegean Islands. Polygala calcarea is native to Western Europe including GB and Ireland. P. calcarea ‘Lillet’ was collected near Lillet in N.E. Spain. The specific epithet is from the Latin – of lime rich soils.

Androsace villosa subsp. villosa comes from the mountains of Europe and Asia. The flowers have a yellow eye turning pink with age. The specific epithet is from the Latin – with soft hairs / hairy.

Pleionies and some more Greek mythology

The first of the Pleonies are in flower, which allows me to share some more Greek mythology.

Named for the Greek water nymph Pleione, the wife of Atlas, mother to 7 daughters, known as the Pleiades. They were pursued by Orion, the hunter, for 7 years. To protect them, Zeus turned them into the constellation of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. Artemis was known to the Romans as Diana the Hunter. When Orion and Artemis were hunting in a forest, Orion was heard bragging about killing all the animals of the world. Gaea, the mother of all life was outraged. She sent a giant scorpion to kill him. Orion was turned into a constellation and can be seen still chasing the Pleiades across the night sky.

They are easy to grow

The common name is the windowsill orchid. They are grown in a mix of bark and sphagnum moss at Wisley. They flower before the leaves appear. They are completely dormant in the winter and can be stored inside to protect them from winter wet. They grow from a bulb which replaces its self each year. Many bulbs will produce more than one shoot each year, so they will bulk up quite quickly. They can be put outside with some shade for the summer.

In the cushion house there is more to see

I thought I knew the name of this plant being Lewisia tweedyii but when I looked at the label it’s now Lewisiopsis tweedyii. It was named for Frank Tweed who found it in 1882. He was working as a surveyor for the railways near Mount Stuart in the Wenatchee Range, Washington State.

Erigeron compositus has also come into flower. It is an artic and alpine species, from Western North America, Canada to Greenland. Its flowers can be white, pink or lavender. It has a deep tap root and is enjoying the deep sandy medium in the cushion house. The specific epithet is from the Latin – with flowers in a head / Aster flowered.

Thlaspi zaffrani is endemic to Kriti (Crete) and was only discovered about 20 years ago. It is found in the Levka Ori region in the alpine zone. From the Greek – thlaspis – a kind of rock cress. It produces interesting papery seed heads which extend its visual interest.

Sebaea thomasii. The genus was named for Albertus Seba (1665 – 1736). He was a Dutch pharmacist, zoologist and naturalist. The specific epithet was named for Harry Evan Patershall Thomas (1879-1948) a British army officer. He settled in South Africa after the Boer War and collected some plants in the Orange Free State.

Morisia monanthos ‘Fred Hemingway’ is a selected form with larger finer flowers. It is found in Corsica and Sardinia. The genus is named for Ginseppe Giacinto Moris (1796 – 1869) an Italian botanist who was an expert on the flora of Sardinia. The specific epithet is from the Latin mono – single and anthos – flowered. I couldn’t find a reference to Fred Hemingway but plenty for Ernest. Aethionema glaucinum the Persian stone cress or Persian candytuft. It can be found growing in Turkey and is classed as a subshrub. It is only a few centimetres tall. The source of the genus name is not clear. Some authorities suggest it is from the Greek aitho – to burn and nema – filament, the burning or acrid taste of some of the species.

Work continues in the cushion house to increase the planting

The tufa walls are being added to, increasing the number of plants and the variety of species. Planting requires the use of an electric drill and a wide drill bit to make a hole in the soft tufa rock. It’s not every day you garden with a drill.

Other tasks completed this week

There were a number of strawberry planters not being used by the edibles team lying in the alpine yard. We thought they would make an ideal planting opportunity for lewisias. This gives them an ideal orientation to plant them on their sides, to avoid winter wet rotting their crowns.

The planters can be difficult to water. This can be resolved by putting in a length of pipe with a container at the bottom. This is covered and hidden by a suitable small rock. The plants were generated from cuttings taken last April.

More rocks in the rock garden

Two of the borders have undergone a part makeover this month. The first picture shows some rock work that was added to build up the edge so that a top dressing of gravel can be added later. It has also created some interesting planting pockets. The second picture shows the on-going development of the border between the Astilbe bed and the carnivorous bed. Some mossy saxifrages have been planted in this area which is slightly cooler and damper than other areas.

Saxifraga x arendsii ‘Toran Deep Red’ was bred by Martien Everett Gutter from the Netherlands in 2007. There is a range of cultivars including White, Scarlet and Neon Rose as well as the Deep Red. The specific epithet was named after George Arends (1862 – 1952) who over a period of 50 years introduced over 74 cultivars of Astilbe.