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Summer is just around the corner

June 1, 2024
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The crevice garden at Wisley

The crevice garden at Wisley

This week, on the crevice garden there are many choice plants in flower

The final week of spring was reminiscent of April, with a mix of sunshine and showers. However, the weeds and their desire to grow were not affected by the weather at all. The main activities in the garden were focused around weeding outside and watering the collections inside the various greenhouses that the alpine team look after.

The following pictures were taken on 25 May

Alyssum stribrnyi comes from the Balkan peninsula and has now been given protected status. The specific epithet was chosen for Vaclav Stibrny (1853 – 1933) a Czech school teacher, horticulturist and botanist. When not in flower, plants have silver grey foliage. The species has seeded about but without being a nuisance.

Moltkia petraea forms little mounds on the crevice garden that are covered in purple-blue flowers. The genus was named for Count Adam Wilhelm Moltke (1785 – 1864) a Danish nobleman. The specific epithet is from the Latin for of rocks, referring to its rocky home in the mountains. Plants cut back in the autumn to keep them neat as over time they grow into a much larger bush.

Veronica prostrata has a specific epithet that is clearly identifiable, from the Latin for lying flat. It is sometimes easy to find the origin of the genus name but not so with Veronica. Its origin has been lost in the mist of time. I did learn that St Veronica wiped the sweat from the face of Christ but this has no connection to the plant.

Veronica prostrata

Veronica prostrata

The tufa wall outside the cushion house

The first of two plants growing on the south-facing tufa wall on the outside of the cushion house is Globularia meridionalis. It is native to the south eastern Alps, Apennines and to the Balkan Peninsula. It thrives in a hot position. The specific epithet is from the Latin – of Noon – flowering at midday and also meaning southern. The next plant was included in the genus Phyteuma. It is now Physoplexis comosa with a common name of the devil’s claw or tufted horned rampion. I like the former better. In the wild it is found growing in alpine zone of northern Italy to Slovenia. The specific epithet is from the Latin – with hairy tufts.

The cushion house has a slight American theme this week

Xanthisma coloradoense is another plant that has undergone a move to a different genus, it used to be included in the genus Aster. The genus name is from the Greek, that which is dyed yellow. Some species in the genus are used for producing a yellow dye. It has a woody base and a strong taproot and is settling well into the deep beds in the cushion house. There will be no prizes in deducing that the specific epithet refers to its home in Colorado. Staying in the USA, growing on dry slopes in the Rocky mountains Erigeron vetensis has the common name of the early blue-top fleabane.

Erigeron linearis has cream to white flowers. Its common name is the dessert yellow fleabane. It’s found in western North America. It has a prominent taproot (over 20cm in length) and is at home in the deep sandy beds in the cushion house. The specific epithet comes from the Latin for narrow and parallel-sided, referring to the leaves.

As close to home as you can get

Not an American, Verbascum ‘Letitia‘ is a chance cross between V. dumulosum and V. spinosum, discovered by Wilfred Kenneth Aslet (1908 – 1980) in 1966, when he was the superintendent of the Alpine Department at Wisley (1961 – 1975). He named the plant for his wife. V. dumulosum is native to south west Turkey and V. spinosum is native to Crete.

The mat penstemon, or Penstemon caespitosus, native to states like Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, has begun to fill the pocket it was planted in. The specific epithet comes from the Latin for growing in tufts, matted, tussock forming.

Returning to the Mediterranean

Thlaspi zaffrani is endemic to Crete, and has featured in this diary before. This picture shows the seed heads which persist for the rest of the year, extending the period of interest for this little plant.

In the main rock garden a few other plants caught my eye

When I saw Glandora prostrata ‘Grace Ward’ AGM I thought it was a new plant to me. However, this used to be included in the genus Lithospermum. The habit seems to be more bushy than L. ‘Heavenly Blue’ that I’ve grown before. It hails from Portugal, Spain, France and Morocco. The common name is the purple gromwell. My searches unfortunately didn’t identify who Grace Ward was, nor the source of the common name.

Who doesn’t love a pink

Another plant I’ve grown and I was able to complete some research on is Dianthus ‘Whatfield Magenta’. It was bred by Mrs J Scholfield of Whatfield, near Ipswich. She raised several different selections all with Whatfield in the name. The flowers are sweetly scented as well as being vividly coloured.

Anthyllis vulneraria var. coccinea has a genus name derived from the Greek anthos – flower and ioulos – down, the calyx being downy on many species. The specific epithet is from the Latin for wound healing and coccinea – scarlet, the dye produced from the galls on Quercus coccifera.

Erinus alpinus ‘Dr Hähnle’ has a deep carmine coloured flower. I was very confident that my search engine of choice would immediately identify who the good doctor was, but sadly not so. I’ll just have to enjoy the flowers that bear his name. It is also interesting to see the number of different ways his name and title are spelt on the internet.

Gladiolus italicus is in flower just outside the cushion house. The genus name is from the Latin gladiolus – little sword alluding to the shape of the leaves. This is the basis of the Roman word gladiator,  some who wielded a short sword. There will be little surprise that the specific epithet is Latin from Italy / Italian. It can be found in Eurasia and North Africa. This is a slightly more delicate plant compared to Gladiolus communis subsp. byzanthinus which is also in flower this week. It hails from the Mediterranean. They make good cut flowers if you are so inclined. The specific epithet is from the Latin for gregarious / common /growing in clumps and also from the Latin for Byzantine or Turkish.

You should never do “Doctor Google” or you will scare yourself

Don’t be tempted to look up the mildest of health symptoms on the internet. You’ll scare yourself. While doing my research I noticed the RHS listed a number of diseases for Gladiolus. It may be susceptible to gladiolus corm rot, grey moulds (Botrytis), Fusarium bulb rot, gladiolus core rot, gladiolus dry rot, gladiolus scab and neck rot, fungal leaf spot, and virus diseases. Whilst I’m sure these are real issues, the plants at Wisley have not succumbed to anything nasty, so don’t be put off growing them. I was not even aware there were such conditions.

Although it is nearly summer there are still rhododendrons in full flower, such as Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Koichiro Wada’ AGM. In 1934 a Japanese nurseryman, Koichiro Wada, sent plants to Lionel de Rothchild. Again no prizes for recognising the specific epithet that refers to its origins, from Yakushima in Japan.

Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Koichiro Wada’

Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Koichiro Wada’

In the Alpine Display House the riot of colour continues

Dichelostemma ida-maia has the common name of firecracker flower. Before doing my research I’d assumed it was native to South Africa. It actually comes from North America in northern California and southern Oregon. The genus name is from the Latin for split stem. The specific epithet was named after the daughter of a stage coach driver. In the wild the flowers are pollinated by humming birds. We don’t have too many of these at Wisley but if global warming continues, who knows? If you want seeds you might have to resort to pollinating by hand.  

Live forever, I don’t think so

Dudleya cyamosa can be found at low elevations in mountains of California and south Oregon. Its common name is the canyon liveforever. It might live forever in a canyon but I don’t think it would last that long in my care. The genus was named for William Russell Dudley, the first person to be appointed as the head of botany at Stanford University. The specific epithet is from the Latin for having flowers borne in a cyme.

x Rhodoxis ‘Hebron Farm Red Eye’ is an intergeneric cross between Hypoxis parvula and Rhodohypoxis baurii. Plants were sent to England from Hebron Farm in South Africa, hence the name.

Rhodohypoxis ‘Kiwi Joy’ is a double flowered selection. I also came across the description that these plants are mesic to dry mesic (requiring a moderate amount of moisture). To a simple gardener like me that’s not helpful. I think it means dry when dormant and moderately moist when in growth.

Rhodohypoxis ‘Sarniensis’ has flowers that are an intense deep red. The specific epithet is Latin for sarnia the old name for Guernsey. Rhodohypoxis baurii ‘Harlequin’ was a seedling from Rhodohypoxis ’Ruth’ named for Ruth McConnel.

Lewisia ‘George Henley’ is a hybrid between L. columbiana x cotyledeon raised at W.F.Th. Ingwersen’s Birch Farm Nursery around 1950. It was named for the nursery manager. Sadly this famous nursery closed in 2008. Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ is a hybrid of P. delavayi x difforme. The genus name is a contraction of the Latin word anapodophyllumin – ducks foot – leaved. You have to look hard to see the flowers hiding under the leaves.

Lewisia ‘George Henley’

Lewisia ‘George Henley’

An update on some projects.

The strawberry planters have been placed outside the cushion house and the Lewisia cuttings that were taken last year are appreciating their new home. The first flush of flowers has almost passed but I can see the buds starting to develop for the second flush already. I’m hoping they will flower throughout the summer.

The first plants have also been added to the new mini crevice garden which has softened the overall appearance of the new installation.

One more crevice section is being created next to the cushion house

Using some brute force and ignorance (I supplied some of the latter) another crevice area is being created. It will require a bit more work before the planting. This is very much a work in progress. It never ceases to amaze me how much the garden changes from year to year. Continuously evolving for over 110 years, the rock garden is a testament to change, as new features are still being added and old ones removed.

Crevice area under construction

It will be interesting to see how this area develops over the coming weeks once more stone and then the growing medium will be added. This will consist of 80% sharp sand and 20% J.I. No.2. The metal rod in the picture will be removed. It is just there to support the rocks during construction.