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O’ to be in England now that April is there

April 30, 2024
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If I can steal the opening line from Robert Browning’s poem, where better to be than in Wisley in April? I’m sure there are many other wonderful places but Wisley does takes some beating, in my humble opinion. I should declare a small amount of bias. All the pictures were taken in the rock garden between the 17 and 25 April.

In the main rock garden, there is so much to see

Rhododendron ‘Patty Bee’ is one of the best dwarf yellows. It is a cross of Rhododendron keiskei ‘Yaku Fairy’ and R. fletcherianum. It was bred by Warren Berg, an American (1923 – 2006) in 1970. He bred many other dwarf rhododendrons. He also had a passion for bee keeping, hence the name. Clematis ‘Moonbeam’ was bred by Graham Hutchins in 1990, as a cross of Clematis ‘Fairy’ and C. foetida.

The rosemary barberry, Berberis x stenophylla ‘Corallina Compacta’ AGM is a hybrid of B.darwinii x B.empetrifolia. The specific epithet comes from the Latin for ‘with narrow leaves’ and ‘coral like’.

Daphne x susannae ‘Cheriton’ is a hybrid of D. arbuscula x D. collina. It was bred by Robin White who owned and ran Blackthorn Nursery in Hampshire. Cheriton is two miles from where the nursery was located. Although not mentioned in his book on Daphnes, the internet suggests the specific epithet stands for Suzanna / Susanna Muir. She was the wife of John Muir (1838 – 1914), a Scottish-American naturalists who is credited as being the founder of the modern conservation movement. A fascinating man who is worth looking up. The John Muir Trust was set up in his honour. I’m sure Mrs Muir was also a fascinating person.

Epimedium ‘Pink Elf’ was also bred by Robin White, the second mention Robin gets in this diary entry. It is a cross of E. leptorrhizum x E. pubescens. Named as the flowers looked like little elves dancing around the leaves. On the north facing tufa wall outside the cushion house, Ramonda myconi is in full flower. The common name is the Pyrenean violet and this species is a lithophyte. It is found from Central Europe to North East Spain. The genus was named in honour of  Louis François Élisabeth Ramond baron de Carbonnières (1755 – 1827) who was a French botanist. He was one of the first explorers of the highest peaks in the Pyrenees. The flower colour range includes white and pink, and there are several colour forms on the wall at Wisley.

Aurinia saxatilis used to be called Alyssum and I think became unpopular because everyone who had a rockery grew it. The genus name comes from the Latin aureus – golden and the specific epithet is also from the Latin – haunting / living in rocky places. The common name is basket of gold. If it was difficult to grow, I’m sure we would treasure it. Common or not, I like it.

Another common plant I like is Saponaria ocymoides AGM. This is also known as by its common name of Tumbling Ted or simply the rock soapwort. The genus name is from the Latin sapo – soap – as the bruised leaves of S. officinalis would produce a lather and was used as a soap. Better alternatives are now available from most general stores. The specific epithet is also from the Latin ‘ocymum like’ – looks like basil. It is found in the mountains of southern Europe: Spain, southern France, Italy and the Alps extending towards southwest Asia.  

Calanthe discolor is a terrestrial orchid from Korea, China and Japan. It is grown in a sheltered bed near a wall, but in recent years it has survived temperatures as low as -10C. The genus name comes from the Greek kalos – beautiful and anthos – flower. The specific epithet is from the Latin meaning: of different colours.

In the crevice garden the colour is returning

Erysimum ‘Moonlight’ is an alpine wallflower with fragrant primrose-yellow flowers. At one time it was thought to be a species but is now considered to be a hybrid of unknown origin, according to the AGS Encyclopaedia of Alpines.

The German plant breeder Karl Foester is quoted as saying that ‘a garden without phlox is not only a sheer mistake but a sin against summer.’ Perhaps a sharp judgement but if true, it is one that the rock garden team have avoided. Phlox subulata ‘Maischnee’ can be found growing in eastern North America. The genus name has several possible sources from the Greek phlego – to burn or possibly phlox – a flame, with reference to the brightly coloured flowers. The specific epithet is from the Latin subulate – awl-like, with reference to the leaves. Maischnee is German for May-snow or snow in May. There is a whole series of Rock Road plants with various colours but the internet failed me in identifying who raised them. I do however now know a lot about Rocky Road desert. It was created in Australia and Rocky Road Ice cream was invented in America. Who knew?

In the Alpine Display House there is a rich assortment to appreciate

The first of the Rhodohypoxis have made it into the display: ‘Pat Lacey’ and R. ‘Candy Stripe’. My research has identified the source of several of the named cultivars in the collection, but sadly not these two. The collection of Rhodohypoxis has been moved into the Elliot House when they are not on display. It is cooler with the new shading than the Rovero House where they used to be. It will be interesting to see how long they can be kept in flower with regular watering. I’m hoping until July, so there will be more pictures over the coming months.

Phlox kelseyi comes from Montana, Utah and Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. It is very fragrant with flowers that can be lilac, lavender or white. It grows in strongly calcareous grassland. The specific epithet was named for Harlan Page Kelsey (1872 – 1958). He was an American nurseryman, conservationist, landscape architect and preservationist.

Cyrtanthus falcatus is also known as the falcate fire lily. It is native to the grasslands of the Drakensberg mountains in the Kwazulu-Natal midlands. The bulbs are found growing out of vertical cliffs; in cracks in the rocks. Their native habitat is a good indication of the drainage required. The genus name is from the Greek – kyntos – curved and anthos flower. The flower bends down from the main stalk. The specific epithet is from the Latin falcatus – sickle shaped.

Scilla hughii was discussed in Paul Cumbleton’s log 09, 13 May 2010, where Paul mentioned the issues around its naming and origin. The internet suggests it was collected by Vincenzo Tineo (1791 – 1856) from the small island of Marettimo, off the coast of Italy. The RHS still recognise it as Scilla but some authorities want to move it into Oncostema. The specific epithet is named in honour of Sir Hugh Low (1824 – 1905) an English nurseryman. He also has a Carex and Dendrobium named for him.

Staying in the Mediterranean, Allium grosii AGM is endemic to the Balearic Islands including Ibiza. It grows on the bases of limestone ledges. The specific epithet was chosen in honour of Hugo Gross (1888 – 1968) a German botanist.

Iris ‘Fall Line’ is a Michael Satton introduction from 2008. It is an intermediate bearded iris and has a mid to late rebloom season. I hope that means something to all the iris aficionados. I just liked the flowers.

There were also several orchids in display house at Wisley. Cypripedium Philipp gx ‘Kentucky Pink’ AGM is a rather splendid terrestrial slipper orchid. It is a cross of C. kentuckiense x C. macranthos and was raised by Anthura Nursery in Holland.

There are some hardy British orchids on display as well. These have been raised from seed and hopefully there will be more species to come. There is Anacamptis morio, the Green Winged orchid. It is found all over Europe and into the Middle East. From the Greek anakamptein – bend forward – the position of the flower spur. The specific epithet has several possibilities such as from the Spanish morion – helmet – the hood shape of the flowers.

Dactylorhiza incarnata, the early marsh orchid has a similar distribution in Europe and across into China. The genus name is from the Latin – finger like, referring to the fleshy roots. The specific epithet is from two Latin words carn – flesh and atus – like, referring to the colour of the flowers.

Further additions of stone work have been added in the rock garden

The entrance to the fern glade has also been given a makeover, now that the new Piet Oudolf border has been planted. The border here was steeply sloped towards the fence line and difficult to plant. It’s also very dry and shady under the pine trees.

The pictures show the work in progress at the start and with some planting. Further work is planned as resources permit. It has only been planted for a few days but already looks as if it’s been established for a while.

The Acer griseum bed has had further rocks added

This bed will be dressed with sandstone gravel later in the year. Rock work is being added to create planting opportunities and to prevent the gravel from running off onto the grass. Acer griseum, the paperbark maple or blood bark maple is native to Central China. It grows at elevation of 1500 to 2000m. The specific epithet is from the Latin meaning grey, the colour of the underside of the leaves. This colour is caused by trichromes, tiny hairs. The species was introduced to Europe by EH Wilson who sent seed to Veitch Nursery in 1901.

A mini crevice garden has replaced a dwarf conifer outside the cushion house

A dwarf conifer was struggling with the heat in recent years and perhaps it had just outgrown its location. Its size meant that it required more water than could be provided in its planting pocket in the paved area. A mini crevice area has been created in its place. It is still work in progress and will need some slivers of stone to be hammered in to retain the growing medium. This bed will be planted up in the coming weeks.

Small crevice bed

Small crevice bed