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Work, shows and garden visits – April 2023

May 20, 2023
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RBGE display house

RBGE alpine display house - April 2023

A busy April

April has been another action-packed month. I attended SRGC shows and went on garden visits including to Benmore Gardens and Logan Botanical Gardens which are part of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh. I also took a trip to Sue Simpson and George Watt’s six-acre garden in Ayrshire.

This month in the alpine department at RBGE, we have also been busy potting up young plants from the propagation house and planting many plants in the tufa landscape, including young dionysias in the tufa wall.

Gentiana cruciata seedlings

Gentiana cruciata seedlings

Work at RBGE

In the alpine department at RBGE lawns are now cut and edged weekly. Weeds are also growing rapidly, so regular weeding is a must. Many plants are now in active growth and start to flower which means they require more water; plants are checked more often and sand plunge beds are kept damper. We have been busy potting up small plants from the propagation house to grow on a little further before planting out. One batch which I potted up to grow on was Gentiana cruciata, a species native to Europe and Western Asia.

Josh on the tufa landscape bed


We have spent some time going through the tufa bed situated just outside the tufa house, weeding and tidying up. Cypripediums and many other delightful plants are now in flower or starting to emerge from the ground. We selected a couple of crates full of plants including saxifrages and penstemons, plants which are raised by seed or cuttings from the garden in order to plant them out.

small plants of Dionysia aretioides

small plants of Dionysia aretioides

A number of dionysias have also been grown from cuttings. They are only small plants however of perfect size to be planted straight into tufa. Holes were drilled into the tufa rock at a slight angle, pointing downwards. The base of the hole was then filled with sand and a small amount of tufa planting mix was then added. The mix consists of fine grade pumice and tufa dust. Plants were knocked out their pots, laid carefully onto a metal spatula and then inserted into the hole in tufa. Using the spatula, the hole was back filled with tufa planting mix. Small pieces of tufa rock were carefully placed around the rosette of the plant to give it support while young. Using a pipette, plants were watered, taking care to avoide water coming into contact with the rosette which may cause rotting. The tufa wall has a built-in drip irrigation system. However, the newly planted dionysias will be watered using a pipette untill signs of growth occurs making sure they get enough moisture.

Small pieces of tufa are used to support the newly planted dionysias

SRGC show

Mid April saw the local SRGC show being held in Edinburgh, where I went along with the alpine team. Marco de Jong, from Utrecht Botanical Gardens, also joined us as he was on work experience at RBGE. We all attended and put together a pot display of plants for the public to enjoy. We took along many plants from the RBGE collection: Ipheion, Allium, Iris, Fritillaria, Hepatica, Tulipa and many other genera. I had an enjoyable day out, meeting many people.


RBGE gold medal winning display at the SRGC Edinburgh show

The team was awarded a gold medal for the display and a certificate of scientific botanical interest for a pot of Tristagma nivale. This is a plant native to Chile and Southern Argentina which grows up to 20cm in height.

Tristagma nivale

Tristagma nivale in the glasshouse at RBGE

Garden visits


This month I was also able to visit Burnside, Sue Simpson and George Watt’s 6-acre garden in Ayrshire. Over the years they have turned a piece of farmland into this lovely garden. There are many different interesting areas throughout the garden. George has a big passion for trees. He has created an arboretum along the driveway; a home to many unusual trees. Other areas of interest include herbaceous beds, woodland borders, a rock garden and many raised beds and troughs home to a variety of alpines.

a view of Sue and George's garden

Sue has a number of greenhouses with plunge beds where she grows the plants she is passionate about. Saxifrages, lewisias, pelargoniums and many other delights. In one of the greenhouses, George has created a tufa wall with an interesting irrigation system. George has inserted straws around the newly-planted alpines. This way, water is fed down the straw which goes right to the root system of each plant.

Sue's alpine house

Benmore Botanical gardens

At the beginning of April I drove over to Benmore Gardens; a 120-acre mountainside garden with many plants from the Himalayas, China, Japan and North and South America. As soon as you enter the garden, you are greeted by the impressive avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum, planted in 1863 by James Piers Patrick. Heavy foot fall and increasing rainfall in recent years have started to affect the trees which been showing signs of stress. To alleviate this, the team has recently been using geo injection to break soil compaction while improving drainage. This technique also stimulates root growth and improves tree health.

the Avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum at Benmore

Logan Botanical gardens

This subtropical garden on the south western tip of Scotland has been on my wish list for some time. The garden is warmed by the Gulf Stream which enables many plants from south and central America and southern Africa to grow well. On my visit the Rhododendrons were flowering in full their glory. I was very impressed by the garden; on seeing the amazing collection of exotic plants thriving outdoors I found it to believe I was in Scotland! I will definitely make a trip to visit again in summer.

Tree ferns at logan botanical gardens

Branklyn Garden

Branklyn is among my favourite gardens. It is full of interesting plants and home to a great collection of woodlanders and alpines. On my visit, the 2-acre garden was a mass of colour with Rhododendrons in full swing. These are cleverly underplanted with many shade loving plants. I love that it doesn’t matter how many times you walk around the garden, if you look closely you will always find something interesting. Many Daphnes in full flower were filling areas of the garden with scent. Woodland plants thriving in the shade of tree canopies included trilliums, erythroniums, arisaemas and many more.

Branklyn Gardens

I enjoyed seeing the first few Meconopsis starting to flower in these Scottish gardens. One such was Meconopsis gakyidiana. This is a species from NE Bhutan to S Tibet where it grows in the subalpine area.

Meconopsis gakyidiana flowering at Branklyn Gardens

Golden root mealybug

On my travels I was shown the golden root mealybug which I hadn’t come across before. First recorded in Britain in 2012 this pest is native to New Zealand.

It is a sap sucking yellow mealybug which feeds on roots of plants. They cover themselves in a pale waxy material which makes them easy to spot. They don’t cause much damage to plants beyond signs of lack of vigour.

Golden root mealybug

Golden root mealybug

Plants of interest

Primula nana ‘Alba’

I photographed this plant at Branklyn Gardens. It is a semi deciduous member of section Petiolares from Western Himalaya. In the wild, it grows on wooded slopes at 2000 – 3700m.

Primula nana 'Alba'

Primula nana 'Alba'

Adonis vernalis

Commonly known as pheasant’s eye, Adonis belongs in the family Ranunculaceae.  This grows in a wide number of locations in Europe in various environments. It has a history of use in European and Chinese medicine.

Adonis vernalis

Adonis vernalis

Taraxacum pseudoroseum

The pink dandelion is a talking point in the garden for sure. Pale pink flowers with a golden yellow centre; native to central Asia.

Taraxacum pseudoroseum

Taraxacum pseudoroseum

As a charity, the AGS supports the development of knowledge and skills in the alpine field by funding the AGS Trainee Scheme. During the 18 month placement, the successful candidate has the opportunity to work at various horticultural institutions (such as RBG Edinburgh, RBG Kew, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, RSPB Haweswater Nature Reserve and the AGS Garden at Pershore). The work includes maintaining and enhancing the alpine plant collections in all the gardens as well as management of plant records. At RSPB Haweswater the trainee with help with conservation work.