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The rock garden is looking stunning in the summer sunshine

June 20, 2024
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There is colour and interest all around the rock garden in June. I could walk around for hours and sometimes I do.

Some upgrades in the bonsai walk are being undertaken

The gravel underneath the bonsai trees is being replaced with larger pieces of a lighter colour (crushed granite). This will be better at suppressing any weeds (not that there are ANY weeds in the rock garden) and will be less prone to spilling onto the paths. The old gravel was removed and will be re-purposed. Six tonnes of gravel were used just in the top area. This was a nice job on a warm summer’s day. The gravel areas on either side of the bonsai walk will be treated in the same way to improve the visual experience.

I often hear very positive comments about the bonsai collection and three of the trees are currently in flower, all rhododendrons. I particularly like Rhododendron ‘Yoshizuki Hug-Oz’, as the flowers open pink and then fade to white. Rhododendron ‘Isho No Haru’ has similar changing flowers.

A few of the plants I particularly liked this week

There are many rock roses in full flower such as Helianthemum ‘Old Gold’. Most of our garden hybrids are a mix of Hh. apennium, nummularium and croceum, all three being native to Europe.

Another plant that has the common name of rock rose is Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’. It is a natural hybrid between C. albius x C.crispus. This was found growing wild in 1929 in southwestern Europe.

Geranium cinereum ‘Ballerina’ AGM, was raised by Alan Bloom in 1961 and is a hybrid of G.cinereum x G.subcaulescens. When the plant of G.subcaulescens on the rock garden has more flowers I’ll feature it as I love the colour.

Veronica catarractae is a long way from its home in New Zealand. The specific epithet is from the Latin for growing near waterfalls. It does well in a cool moist situation. At Wisley it is on north facing damp areas.

Sisyrinchium ‘Saphire’ is one of the blue-eyed grasses. There are several other named selections which are also very garden worthy. I was unable to identify who selected or named it. More research next year might resolve the mystery.

Sisyrinchium 'Sapphire'

In the fern glade the spring bulbs have been replaced

Dryopteris erythrosora grows across east Asia, from China, Japan to the Philippines. It has a number of common names including the Copper shield fern, autumn fern or Japanese shield fern. The genus name is constructed from two Greek words, drus – oak and pteris – fern, literally fern of the oak wood. The specific epithet is from the Latin erythos – red and  sori – spore case. It grows in lightly shaded woodland, which is replicated in the fern glade. I’ve decided that this genus sounds like a dinosaur. They are pretty cool, so ferns should be as well. I’ll get to like them eventually. At least it’s another fern that is not just green! Apologies to fern lovers, I’m trying my best.

Not a dinosaur

Alstroemeria ‘Summer Snow’ was planted a couple of years ago in the fern glade. This one is in the Summer Paradise series of modern Dutch hybrids that have been bred to be frost resistant to -15C. The breeders used plants from the Chilean Andes, which grow in cool well drained moist soils in lightly wooded areas. Details online stated that they can be slow to establish, they can disappear or become invasive, which is very helpful.  The genus name was in honour of Baron Clas Alstromer (1736 – 1794) a Swedish botanist who was a student of Carl Linnaeus. That probably helped getting a plant genus named for you.

Three plants that look other worldly

Dracunculus vulgaris certainly looks alien. The genus name is the diminutive form of the Latin draco – a dragon, the source of its common name being the dragon lily or dragon arum. It occurs from Greece and the Aegean Islands into south-western Anatolia.

Arisaema candidissimum is one of the Jack-in-the-pulpit plants also known as Chinese cobra lily’s. The genus name is Greek – red blotched leaves on some species. The specific epithet is from the Latin – the most pure white or dazzling white. It was introduced in 1914 by George Forrest from Yunnan, western China. I didn’t get close enough to confirm if it was sweetly scented, some sources say it is.

This is definitely scary if you are an Ivy

Orobanche hederae is a completely parasitic plant, producing no chlorophyll, and known as the Ivy broomrape. This is not one of the cultivated plants in the fern glade but it’s great to see it. The genus name is from Latin and means legume strangler – as one of the broomrapes is parasitic on beans. The specific epithet is from the Latin for ivy. It is growing in a number of locations at right angles to the ivy covered fence.

A couple of plants from the crevice garden

Delosperma cooperi will thrive in lean, well drained soils. This mat forming succulent comes from South Africa, and is known as the trailing ice plant. The reference to ice, is due to the fine bladder like hairs on the leaf surfaces that reflect and refract the light, which them sparkle like ice crystals. It grows in the Drakensberg and Western Cape mountains as well as the cold plateaus of the Karoo desert. The genus name is from the Greek delos – manifest / evident and sperma – seed. The specific epithet was named in honour of Thomas Cooper (1815 – 1913) an English botanist who collected plants in South Africa.

If you can’t get to the beach

Another plant that thrives in warm locations is Erigeron glaucus ‘Roger Raiche’. It occurs along the coastline of California and Oregon, growing on beaches, bluffs and dunes. It was found by Roger Raiche who is a botanist and landscape garden designer, founder of Planet Horticulture. He found it in northern California at Sonoma. It’s no wonder that it’s popular in seaside gardens in the UK.

There are many plants in the cushion house competing for attention

Ourisia x bitternensis ‘Cliftonville Damask’ was one of several Ourisia hybrids included in Paul Cumbleton’s diary in June 2008. It was raised by Martin and Anna Scheader as a hybrid of O.microphylla x O.polyantha both coming from central Chile. The growing medium Paul referenced included peat which is now of course banned. It is currently planted in a deep bed with a mix of 80:20 sharp sand and J.I No.2. The genus name honours Governor Ouris of the Falkland Islands.

I thought the bluebell season was over

It’s nice to mention an Australian plant: Wahlenbergia gloriosa. The royal bluebell comes from alpine and subalpine areas of New South Wales and eastern Victoria. The genus was named for Dr. Wahlenberg, a Swedish botanical author. The specific epithet is Latin for superb or full of glory.

Frankenia thymifolia comes from North Africa and southern Spain. The genus name has two possible sources. J. Franke was a Professor of botany at Uppsala University in Sweden (b1590), or for Johann Frankenius, a colleague of Carl Linnaeus at Uppsala University. The specific epithet is from the Latin for with leaves like thyme. It flowers in July and August. It is also salt tolerant which explains one of its common names of the sea heath. At Wisley it is only growing to 8cm but other documents state it can form hummocks to 30cm.

Acantholimon venustum has the common name of the beautiful prickly thrift. It grows in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and west Syria. The source of the genus name is unclear but may be from the Greek akanthos – prickly. The specific epithet is from the Latin for pleasing or lovely, hence its common name. I can confirm it is very prickly.

In the Alpine Display House in mid-June

Brodiaea terrestris comes from California and Oregon growing in grasslands and open woodlands. The genus is named in honour of J.J Brodie, Scottish botanist and Chief of the Clan Brodie (1744 – 1824). The specific epithet is from the Latin for growing in the ground. This is always a good place to grow (I do acknowledge that there are habitats available such as growing in water). It’s only 7cm tall and its common name is the dwarf brodiaea.

From northwest, central and northeast Argentina the first of the rain lilies to flower this year, Habranthus martinezi AGM. It was discovered in 1970 and named for Argentine entomologist Antonio Martinez (1922 – 1993). The flowers are described as cream trumpets delicately brushed pink.

Two more summer flowering bulbs

A plant that used to be classified in the genus Brodiaea is Triteleia ‘Rudy’. It was a seedling found at Boltha Nursery in the Netherlands. Named for Rudy Kleiner. It is flowering outside the display house in the adjoining borders. It is known as a Triplet lily, the genus name coming from the Greek trias – three, referring to the structure of the flower.

Albuca humilis is a South African bulb with a wonderful vanilla scent. It grows in the eastern mountain region of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu – Natal. The genus name is from the Latin albicans or albus – white. The specific epithet is also from the Latin for low growing or smaller than most of its kind.

Staying in South Africa with another couple of Rhodohypoxis, the first being R. deflexa. This comes from the Drakensberg, the mountains of Natal and Lesotho. The specific epithet is Latin for bent sharply backwards. The flowers are slightly smaller than in R.baurii. I’ve never seen it in any other colour other than pink but it can be pink, red or white. The second is a hybrid of R. baurii x R. deflexa and has the name R.’Snowflurry’.

There are also some orchids in flower

In the display case there are a couple more UK hardy orchid species in flower. These have been grown from seed. Dactylorhiza purpurella, the northern marsh orchid and Dactylorhiza maculata the heath spotted orchid. In addition there is a species from north America Epipactis gigantea. The latter genus name is from the Greek – Epipegnuo – to coagulate (its effect on milk) and the specific epithet is from the Latin for unusually large or tall. It occurs in North America, from British Columbia to Central Mexico. It’s common name is the stream orchid which highlights its preferred growing conditions.