Trees and Shrubs 7
Alpine and Woodland 17
Demonstration and Display 34
Landscape and Machinery 82
Trees and Shrubs 102
Alpine and Woodland 115
Demonstration and Display 138
Landscape and Machinery 150
Horticultural Diary - Trees and Shrubs
Sept to 10th
Monday 8th September
Undertaking the relandscaping project of the Euonymus Bed.
By the time I join the team in the afternoon, all the plants have been already removed and we need to clear from
the remaining debris and to strip out some ivy roots, then to dress with top soil (3 ½ trailer loads), rake and level
We’ll give 1 to 2 weeks for the ground to settle before sowing grass mix.
Woodchipping in the Compost Yard the material from the Euonymus Bed.
Also strimming in the New Pinetum around the tree bases, so that preparing the area for the ride-on mower to
cut the grass as well as clearing from the clippings.
Clearing the perennial border between the access gate on Bateman Road and the Superintendent’s House. This is
only the first stage of a large project of reduction and relandscaping of a much bigger area, whilst waiting for the
permission to fall the existing, unwanted trees.
I work with loppers, secateurs, pruning saws. No use of the chainsaw.
Specimens cleared or reduced are: Spirea x vanhouttei, Elaegnus ebbingei, Rhus typhina, Vitex negundo var.
heterophylla, Rosa cv.
All the cut material is transferred to the Compost Yard for chipping.
Strimming by the Fairway between Bateson Walk and South Walk.
Also clearing the grass clippings from the ride-on mower, by using pitch forks and tractor and trailer.
Finishing the strimming by the Fairway.
Applying top soil and compacting and leveling the ground where Prunus species have been previously displayed
along the Fairway.
Woodchipping the material from Wednesday in the Compost Yard. Also in the Compost Yard tidying up a bay,
by moving compost, woodchip and firewood.
Grass cutting between Martyn Walk and East Walk, by operating Etesia ride-on mower, as well as strimmer.
Also consistently using the tractor and trailer.
Grass cutting between Middle Walk and Henslow Walk.
Walk-around for tree inspection in the afternoon. We notice evidence of:
- Pholiota squarrosa on Ailanthus altissima
- Armillaria mellea (honey fungus) on Genista sinensis and Davidia involucrata
- Gonoderma (applanatum or australe) on Amelanchier lamarckii and Prunus x dasycarpa
- Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods) on Pterocarya fraxinifolia
- Inonotus triadus on Quercus x warburgii
- Waterstress on Ilex aquifolium
- Limbdrop on Pinus nigra salzmannii
- Muntjac damage on Laburnum spp.
Strimming between Henslow Walk and South Walk.
Strimming by the South Walk.
Taking and potting up cuttings of Ligustrum japonicum (15) and Sinojackia rehderiana (16; 2 pots, one with
leaf buds on, one without).
Also potting up rotted cuttings of Penstemon “Raven” and P. “Rich Ruby”.
Undertaking some small tree work and the felling of a wooden fence in the area between the School’s Garden
and the Superintendent’s House. Also woodchipping the material straight away.
Servicing all the four chainsaw of the Trees and Shrubs Department (sprocket and outer and inner components
cleaning, oil check, chain sharpening).
Having a personal induction and test on the correct and safe use of the chainsaw. This consists in a crosscutting
demonstration in the Compost Yard.
Spraying fungicide Systhane Fungus Fighter on Penstemon “Raven” and P. “Rich Ruby” (cuttings). Also
damping cuttings from the last week, by watering the heated mats in the frame.
Undertaking the major tree work project within the area between the School’s Garden and the Superintendent’s
Garden. Permission to fall has been given, so we can use chainsaws and the hired cherry picker.
We pollard at height Aesculus hippocastanum, then fall Sorbus aria.
Also woodchipping on site.
Carrying on the tree work.
Felling Carpinus betulus, Taxus baccata and Prunus lusitanica.
Overall leveling of the screening mixed hedge (North side).
Noticing evidences of Cameraria ohridella (horse chestnut leaf miner) and Nectria cinnabarina (coral spot) on
Operating the hired mobile elevated working platform.
Sawing off at height a damaged branch from Carrya ovata.
Inspecting Ailanthus altissima for Pholiota squarrosa (shaggy scalycap). I work at height on the work platform,
in order to take measure of the fungal cavities in the wood. One hole is infested with a wasp nest and needs
spraying before further operation. The other hole is measurable. I take measures of both the girth of the branch
and the depth of the hole, by using respectively a tape measure and a steel stick. The comparison of these two
data give us an indication of the gravity of the internal damage.
Also working at height on specimens of Betula pendula by the South Walk. It’s mainly about cutting the dead
twigs and branches as well as overall lifting.
Shoveling out of the way a first pile of woodchip in the Compost Yard. This is done manually, in team of two of
us, just by using shovels, wheelbarrows and large boards.
Trimming the low yew hedges by the entrance of the Compost Yard. Also tidying up the borders front of the
hedges (edging, spot weeding, blowing, cutting off dead leaves and Begonia flowering stems now gone,
watershoots of Carpinus fastigiata).
Finishing shoveling the woodchip in the Compost Yard.
The yard is now cleared but a bucket is needed n order to move the remaining woodchip as well as to turn the
Also completing the trimming of the yew hedges bordering the Compost Yard.
In the afternoon undertaking the major project of post work on the lime trees front of the Restaurant. By the end
of the working day we evaluate the job and dig the first hole.
Carrying on with the post work.
We put the first pole down and manage to dig other three holes. Vast use of building tools, such as trenching
spade, shovel, iron bar, donger, wheelbarrows. Also measuring tools, such as measure tape, spirit level.
We use a cement mixer and wheelbarrow large quantities of sand, gravel, cement.
Also health and safety awareness, setting up cones and signs and closing the working areas to the public.
Completing the post work.
By the end of the working day all the six poles are firmly cemented and leveled, and will now provide the
training structure to the 5 Tillia henryana displayed front of the Restaurant.
Trimming the tall yew hedge between the gate on Bateman Road and the Sainsbury’s Laboratories. I do the
sides by using a Stihl hedge trimmer.
Collecting and sowing Sorbus seeds (4 species: Sorbus minima, S. mougeotii, S. leyana and S.
Fungi identification walkaround in the afternoon. Pholiota squarrosa (shaggy scalycap) and Armillaria mellea
(honey fungus) look very similar when at the fruiting stage, but the former develop creamy spores, the latter
Completing the trimming on the yew hedges. I do the top of the hedge and work at height on a movable ladder
using a long-reach Stihl hedge trimmer.
Stripping off the borders along the Superintendent’s House.
Also moving boards on a trailer in the Compost Yard.
In the afternoon we start the clearance project of the Curator’s Garden. We blitz the area in team of three.
Combined use of loppers, pruning saws, forks, spades, sledgehammer, hedge trimmer, pole hedge trimmer,
brushcutter, lawn mower (mulching system).
Fungi identification: Armillaria mellea on Araucaria araucana and Rhytisma acerinum (maple tar spot) on Acer
Carrying on the clearance by the Curator’s Garden.
New interesting plant I notice is Fallopia baldschuanica (Russian vine or mile-a-minute plant). I also save a
nice clump of Liriope muscari which will be used in the Alpine Display next week.
Carrying on with the clearance by the Curator’s Garden.
Stooling down an overgrown Viburnum specimen.
Propagating Sorbus from seed (collecting, sowing, watering, storing).
Servicing a chainsaw (separate components clearing, chain sharpening).
Driving to Langthorns Plantery nursery and buying 50 Verbena hastata. Then pinching out the plants, storing in
the polytunnel and watering them through.
Mulching with woodchip Rosa cv., Diospyros kaki, Thuja plicata.
Filling Accession Form and Label Request by using BG Base.
Annual grass cutting throughout the Arboretum and Pineta, with consistent use of strimmers, ride-on mower, tractor and trailer
Woodchipping in the Compost Yard Induction on the correct and safe use of the chainsaw
Hedge trimming both from ground and at height
(here yew hedge on the Sainsbury drive)
Inspecting trees for pests damages,
fungi diseases and general disorders
Clearance of the border between the access gate on Bateman Road and the Superintendent’s House.
Clearance of the area within the Superintendent’s Garden and the eastern end of the Schools’ Garden
Clearance of the Curator’s Garden area
Coppicing a horse chestnut by working on a cherry picker
Consistent use of machinery and powertools Lifting birch trees by working at height
Assisting for tree work both from ground and at height
Post work for training lime trees front of the Restaurant
Mixing the cements
The completed work Beautiful leaves of Tillia henryana
Propagating Sorbus species from seed
(collecting, sowing, aftercare)
Propagation of hardy trees and shrubs from cutting
(here, Ligustrum japonicum)
Spraying Systhane Fungus Fighter on
Muntjac damage on Laburnum sp. Armillaria mellea (honey fungus)
on Gleditsia sinensis
Waterstress on Ilex aquifolium Pholiota squarrosa (shaggy scalycap) on Ailanthus altissima
Ganoderma australe (artist’s fungus)
on Amelanchier lamarckii
Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods)
on Pterocarya fraxinifolia
Armillaria mellea (honey fungus)
on Araucaria araucana
on Cercidiphyllum japonicum pendulum
Cameraria ohridella (horse chestnut leaf miner)
on Aesculus hippocastanum
Nectria cinnabarina (coral spot)
on Aesculus hippocastanum
Rhytisma acerinums (Tar spot of maple)
on Acer pseudoplatanus
Unidentified damage on Taxus baccata hedge
(possibly root damage or mouse damage)
Horticultural Diary – Alpine and Woodland
13th October – 7th
Practical: Having a walk-around to the Mountain House, the Yard and being inducted to the areas under my
I will tend a part of the temporary display in the Mountain House during my rotation. This is in the Geophytes
Bed, where horticultural alpines are displayed in a plunged bed and changed regularly.
In the afternoon I pot up seedlings of Alchemilla saxatilis (1), Aquilegia viridifolia (8), Aster valhii (3), Adlumia
Observations: Geophyte is a part of plant specifically modified for storage of energy or water. It grows
underground, where is better protected from attack by herbivores. Storage organs often (but not always) act as
perennating organs which enable plants to survive adverse conditions, such as cold, excessive heat, lack of light
The technical nomenclature includes:
- True roots: tuberous root or root tuber (Dahlia), storage taproot (carrot).
- Modified stems: corm (crocus), stem tuber (Zantedeschia), rhizome (some Irises), pseudobulb (Pleione),
- Other: storage hypocotyls (the stem of a seedling, as in Cyclamen), bulb (modified lead bases, onion).
Cyclamens are tubers (modified roots) and not corms, as I previously thought. Cyclamen is a genus of 23
accepted species, all native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin east to Iran, with one species in Somalia.
They are pollinated by ants.
Alpine Display Beautiful Cyclamen cilicium A rather audacious root system
in such a small plant
Practical: Mulching with leafmould a bed around the Lake.
I spread leafmould around crowns of Gunnera manicata and G. tinctoria. It important do not cover the crowns
too much, as that will lead to rotting. The plants will be cropped down at the end of the season and the leaves
used for overwintering the plants. Feeding will be also applied.
In the afternoon I am inducted to the use an electric siever for producing fine, sieved leafmould for potting up
and propagation jobs.
Observations: Darmera peltata is still performing well in the Gunnera bed. This is a really good plant,
interesting all-year-round. It is in the Saxifragaceae.
In terms of leafmould production: it is important to water the leaf pile in autumn. This will speed up the process
of composting. Leaves from allelophatic plants (Juglands, Fraxinus, etc.) can also be used.
Use of an electric siever for producing fine leafmould Darmera pelata still performing well at the end of the season
Pratical: Speed-weeding in the Limestone Rock Garden. This is about cropping down old flower stems and
eradicating major perennial weeds. Tools we use are secateurs, hand forks, buckets, wheelbarrows.
Geranium is a problem, as well as Euphorbia cyparissias and Allium tuberosum.
It takes about four weeks in the growing season to weed the entire area through, in order to prevent the less
vigorous species being swamped by native weeds and more competitive alpines. To preserve this balance is
extremely important for the display as well as the preservation of the collection.
I start familiarizing with the geographical arrangement of the plantings, with beds displaying plants from
different continents or geographic areas. Also plants grown from wild-collected seed are integrated into the
In the afternoon, we undertake the mulching the woodland borders. We use well-rotted leafmould, wheel
barrowing large quantities from the pail to the borders. Tools we use are forks (which prove to be better than
spade for spreading the material) and a rake for finishing and tidying up the edges.
Observations: Learning about the clever strategy of
Peonia to seed itself.
Red berries are totally unfertile, but their colour
attracts birds, which then get and spread the black,
fertile berries too.
I also discover that the peony is named after Paeon, a
student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and
healing. Asclepius became jealous of this pupil; Zeus
saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning
him into the peony flower.
Paeonia mascula seed head
Practical: Today first time displaying the geophytes in the Alpine House.
Plants in: Scilla madeirensis, S. kurdistanica (2), Narcissus serotinus (2), Lachenalia aloides, Tritonia crocata
(2), Cyclamen rohlfsianum.
Plants out: Crocus sativus, C. serotinus ssp. serotinus, Cyclamen rohlfsianum (2), C. mirabile, C. graecum, C.
libanoticum, Colchicum baytopiorum, Nerine sarniensis.
Tools I use are a bucket for gravel, a bucket for sand; hand trowel and fork, watering can, brush, tweezers,
snippers and paperwork (moving form).
Later in the morning, watering the Cyclamen collection. Plants are reasonably damp, only few of them need
watering. Important don’t get the leaves wet, as that will cause scorching if hard, alkaline water is used.
In the afternoon we remove the external shading of the Mountain House. We use a screwdriver, stepladder and
store the blinds underneath the benches of the poly in the Yard.
Geophytes Display in the Mountain House Removing the external shading of the Mountain House
Tortrix caterpillar on Oxalis spp.
Dead flowers on Crocus to remove.
Remember to turn the plunged pots if plants shows phototropism.
Water acid loving plants with RO water. Important to save RO water and don’t use it when unnecessary. Also
protect cans with RO water from rainwater, which can be slightly alkaline.
Practical: Leaf blowing, raking and collecting throughout the West Walk and the Woodland Garden’s paths.
Mulching the beds from yesterday.
Mulching the Stream Beds Scilla maderensis Freesia elimensis
Observations: Tricyrtis stolonifera is a beautiful plant but difficult to match in a design scheme. Bergenia
grandis ssp. evansiana is absolutely lovely.
Tricyrtis shows evidence of muntjac damage. In fact this is one of the muntjac and roedeer favorites, together
with hostas, liriopes, tulips, geraniums.
Bergenia grandis ssp. evansiana Tricyrtis stolonifera
Today Simon and I are off to Norton Stourbridge in the West Midlands, for to the Saxifrage Society AGM.
While driving Simon tells me about the Saxifraga genus. This is in the Saxifragaceae family, which features 5
petals and 10 (or group of 5) stamen, and the presence of the hypantium, which is an inflated receptacle.
Saxifrages present very different needs between the single species.
There are many groups of horticultural interest. We go through two of them. Porfirian saxifrages are showy,
very popular now with over 1000 hybrids. Mosses saxifrages are unpopular now with a height risk of losing
cultivars, which were once used and popular in the Victorian times.
This kind of cushion plants, such as Saxifraga, Draba, Androsace, etc., displays the bet habit for withstanding
mountain, extreme growing conditions. In the matter of fact they are lowdown, maximum exposure to the light,
can take fast winds, their roots anchoring solidly into the ground.
The today’s agenda includes apologies, matters arising, secretary’s treasurer’s and chairman’s reports, election
of officer’s and committee, memberships, subscriptions, etc.
I buy Saxifraga “Peach Melba”, which is a good, reliable grower (even perhaps not the connoisseur’s saxifrage).
We also have two speeches, the first from a young Romanian gardener, the second from a well-known Dutch
Saxifrages in the Southern Carpathians
Fagaras Mountains – The Transilvanian Alps
Metamorphic mountains, limestone, some acidic soil.
S. azoides: near mountain streams, wet meadows.
S. pedemontana ssp. cymosa: under rocks.
S. paniculata: the most common, with many different forms.
S. bryoides: “resembling mosses”.
S. mutata ssp. demissa: endemic, monocarpic.
S. corymbosa f. luteo-purpurea.
S. exarata spp. moschata.
Growing Difficult Alpines in the Netherlands
The Romanian guy tell me about Jardin te Lautaret, a botanic garden in the Pyrenees where they run an
internship on their own.
- Dionysia is in the Primulaceae.
Can be very difficult to grow. They are slow growing, lot of care required. Most from Iran.
Some of them are propagable from cutting, some not. It’s always remarkable to display them in order to show
this diversity. Sun intensity is a key factor.
Dionysia can burn easily on warm, sunny days. They are also moths that penetrate into the cushion and
damage the plants; at that point, spraying is needed.
Growing mix for Dionysia grit, sharp sand, peat and ceramis. Ceramis has been used (together with cat litter!)
for growing alpine plants,
Androsace, again in the family Primulaceae.
The ones from China and Himalaya grow on acid soil. Very tricky to cultivate.
- Physoplexis comosa (present in the Italian Alps and Dolomite region)
- Morisia monanthos
- Trachelium asperuloides
- Clematis marmoraria
- Veronica cespitosa
suggested me Passo Rolle and Selva, as places to botanise in the Dolomites.
Passo Rolle present acid footsteps with limestone peaks sticking out.
Selva has probably the biggest range of plants, but is all limestone.
For both of them, the best time of the year is end of June – begin of July.
He also suggests two books: Jim Jermyn “Walks in the Eastern Alps” and “European Alps”, both published by
the Alpine Garden Society.
First thing in the morning is the Geophytes Display in the Mountain House.
Plants In: Crocus assumaniae, Umbilicus heylandianus.
Plants Out: Crocus cancellatus.
I also move upon the potting bench a potted specimen of Origanum dictamnus for repotting up tomorrow.
After tea break I am given areas of responsibility for watering in the Alpine Yard.
- The European Alchemilla Collection.
- The Coldframes. Here are stored spare plants for the woodland area. Ferns obviously need moisture and slug
control; they also need covering if too wet. Galanthus in lattice pot, to keep moist. Snowdrops don’t like root
disturbance, so these pots permit gentle moving and planting. Lattice pots are usually used for aquatic
gardening. Just aside the coldframes are mixed hardy plants to go out into the Woodland Garden. Among
those, Meconopsis need extra-care, as they have to be watered with RO water (green plastic label), as well as
to be protected against slugs (slug pellets used).
- Stream Nursery. Possible to use the condensed water from the indoor heating system. Keep an eye on Cornus
controversa. Make sure the plants don’t dry out, particularly those at the back, which are partly covered from
the plumbing and roof.
- Primulas under coldframes. The coldframes here are a typical example of Heath Robinson’s arrangement,
Helen says. The structure might be a bit vacillating but I’ sure it does its job. All the primulas here are Asiatic
species. Important don’t overwater them. Slug control required.
- Display Stand and Display Table. A job is to move the Hosta specimens from the ground up here, so that
protecting the plants from slugs and snails damage.
- Autumn-Flowering Bulbs under the Poly. Clay, small pots dry up quicker. Sternbergias are thirsty plants and
need water. Check for aphids and use Savona if needed.
In the afternoon I join Simon and we propagate Saxifraga from offsets. This is done in order to save same of the
species and cultivars of the collection which is showing signs of (…), the fungal infection Adrian Young
mentioned at the Saxifrage Group meeting. This is a soil-borne, phytophthora-based fungi, present in loam
based soils. No chemical solution is available.
The propagation mix we use is composed by 1/3 sand, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 grit. We use only nice and healthy
material, taking the offsets from the sides instead of from the central rosette, where the fungal disease seems to
spread from. This will also leave the best possible parent plants.
Saxifraga propagation from offset is best done after the flowering period. It is really possible to propagate
Saxifraga offsets all year round, but in winter the rooting process will be slower.
Offsets are placed in a tray, nicely firmed in the mix, watered and left in a cold glasshouse (we leave the tray
behind a fan, which provides some low but desirable heat).
Taking cutting of Saxifraga spp. and cvv. Working through and watering the European Alchemilla collection
Practical: Mulching woodland and stream beds. We use a pine-needle-based mulching for the woodland beds
around Cyclamen hederifolium and Polygonum campanulatum.
After the mulching we head back the Alpine Yard and make compost mix suitable for repotting alpines. The
composition ratio is 2/3 soil, 1/3 grit and Vitax Q4 (N5.3, P7.5, K10.9. I use a large wheeled truck for mixing.
The technique consists in shoveling from end to end of the truck, ideally by spilling the material from height.
The other common method for mixing is from ground, especially when big quantities are needed.
In the afternoon I finish with the Saxifraga propagation from offset. I leave the tray at the back of a fan in the
glasshouse, so that providing some mild heat. I also repot Origanum dictamnus, which was left on the potting
bench from yesterday.
Observations: On the woodland bed we mulch is the canopy of Halesia diptera (Styracaceae), commonly
known as two-winged silverbell.
The Styracaceae are a small family of small trees and shrubs, containing about 11 genera, which all occour in
warm temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Several genera include species popular as
ornamental trees valued for their decorative white flowers.
Repotting Saxifraga spp. and cvc. from plastic to clay Experimental saxifrage weaning mix
Practical: First thing in the morning we go through my weekly log.
Then we take advantage of the good weather and work outside. We do the leaf collecting through the Woodland
Garden and all the outdoor section’s areas. For the occasion we borrow the tractor and trailer from the
Landscape and Machinery section and drive through our areas and collect the leaf piles.
Later in the day the weather turns bad, so I carry out the repotting of Saxifrages from plastic to clay.
I do the following: S. longifolia (5), S. crustata (2), S. cotyledon “Norvegica” (2), S. “Tysoe Pink Perfection”
(2), S. x lutea-purpurea (1), S. “Bizourtouse” (1), S. “Robin Hood” (1), S. “Pseudo Pungens” (1).
I also carry out all the necessary recording on BG Base. Interestingly, in the section we distinguish between the
different ways of potting-up, being a) under potting, b) same potting, c) upper potting.
Observations: While we work in the potting shed, we also monitor for pests and diseases. A specimen of
Townsendia hookeri got scale insects and needs spraying. Metalized spirit can be used, or Bug Clear.
It is interesting to notice root mealy bugs in a potted root ball. This is my first time seeing mealy bugs
underground. The root ball is promptly scraped through and cleaned from the infested soil, before repotting.
Scale insects on Townsendia hookeri Root mealy bugs in a potted plant
Thursday 23th October
Practical: First thing in the morning is the display in the Geophytes Bed, Mountain House.
Plants In: Freesia elimensis, Oxalis palmifrons, O. perdicaria “Centrino”, Polyxena pauciflora (2), Scilla bifolia
ssp. danubialis, Narcissus viridiflorus (2), Ranunculus calandrinioides.
Plants Out: Cyclamen graecum, C. rohlfsianum, C. cyprum, Oxalis hirta, Crocus pulchellus, C. speciosus
“Conqueror”, C. kotchyanus, Haemanthus albifos, Nerine sarniensis.
Later in the morning we move outside, mulching through the Woodland Garden (Asian beds), always by using
leafmould. There are some interesting plants here but Hedychium coccineum can be a problem, as is taking over
and suppressing Cimicifuga asiatica, C. dahurica and Liriope muscari.
The already present Callicarpa japonica can be planted in order to replace the ginger plants.
Observations: Tetrapanax papyrifer, commonly known as the rice paper plant.
This is an evergreen shrub in the family Araliaceae and is the sole species in the genus. It is endemic to Taiwan.
The cultivar “Rex” is perhaps the next big thing to emerge from exotic gardens and into mainstream
horticulture. Its massive palmate leaves, rivaling those of Gunnera manicata, are lobed to well over a meter
wide. For the creation of a real monster winter protection is necessary.
Mulching with leafmould the woodland beds Jungle planting: Tetrapanax papyrifera and Hedychium coccineum
Practical: First thing in the morning is to mulch the stream beds. Almost all the available leafmould has been
now used. The pile will be completely cleared within the end of the weak.
The entire length of the stream bed is covered. Clumps of Rodgersia aesculifolia, Iris sibirica, Lysimachia
ephemerum, Epimidium x warleyense, Leucojum aestivum, Astilbe x arendsii “Fire”, Acorus calamus
“Variegatus”, Rheus palmatum are mulched around. Still really effective is Ligularia japonica, with its
attractive seedheads. The stream looks a bit dirty and clogged in places by some aquatic plants. It will need
clearing later this week.
Border maintenance on the stream beds (before and after pictures)
In the afternoon we move to the Limestone Rock Garden, weeding throughout the eastern European bed.
I dedicate some time weeding out seedlings of an invasive campanula, as well as the usual geranium. Young
plants of Rosa persica seem to spread quite happily too, but they are allowed to wander through a little bit. I
fork out a specimen of Satureja montana. I work around and look after plants of Aubrieta kotschyi, Alchemilla
sericata, Phuopsis stylosa, Echium russicum and Aethionema grandiflora.
Over the last hour of the way, we speak about the phytogeographic beds and their horticultural management in
the Limestone Rock Garden. I become aware of the three different degrees of weeding which are carried out in
the Rock Garden from the section, depending to the nature of the weeds. Garden-weeds, botanic garden weeds
(geraniums), and alpine-weeds (or thugs of the alpine world).
In terms of horticultural management, there are a few historic problems in the Rock Garden. The first being the
nature of the soil, which is too loamy and not as poor as expected for growing mountain plants.
The second issue is more political and concerns the possibility to have specific signage
Satureja montana Phuopsis stylosa
Practical: First thing Geophytes Display in the Mountain House. The crocuses are on their last legs. A vast
European contingent is lost, so the decision to substitute the label Europe with Eurasia on the display.
Plants In: Corydalis tomentosa, C. wilsonii, Arum purpureumspathum and Scilla hyachintoides (2).
Plants Out: Colchicum cupanii, Narcissus serotinum, Crocus angustifolius, C. longiflorus, C. speciosum, C.
assumaniae, C. hadriaticus, C. cancellatus (2), C. goulimyii (2), C. medius, C. kotschyanus spp. cappadocicus.
I also feed Geranium maderanense, Scilla maderanense and some Oxalis spp. in flower.
I use a liquid tomato fertilizer Tomorite. Ration indicated for supposed fruit crops is 20ml in 4.5 litres of water.
When feeding our more susceptible geophytes, we half the dose of fertiliser. The product is low in nitrogen and
high in potassium, in order to boost the development and persistency of the flowers.
For a half-hour I am busy helping Landscape & Machinery moving the seats and tables from the Main Lawn
back to Cory Lodge.
In the afternoon we carry on the weeding of the phytogeographic beds in the Limestone Rock Garden.
Weeds are invasive thymes and geraniums but also the well-known creeping woodsorrel, Oxalis corniculata.
I weed around and give space to specimens of Iris winogradowii, Campanula sibirica spp. sibirica, Gypsophilla
tenuifolia, Scutellaria diffusa, Stachys lavandulifolia and Pulsatilla vulgaris.
The clumps of pulsatilla are many and shouldn’t be so copious, but the plant can be controlled and is one of the
visitors’ old favourite too.
Geophytes Display in the Mountain House Weeding and border maintenance in the Limestone Rock Garden
Observations: Alex comes from the Corridor into the Mountain House with an odd-looking fruit between his
fingertips. Malvaviscus arboreus has pollinated and one fruit has just been found. It isn’t dehiscent as one could
expect from a Malvaceae plant. In the matter of fact Malvaviscus differ from the closely related Hibiscus in
possessing a fruit divided into 5 separate parts. This is called schizocarp, a dry fruit composed of multiple one-
seeded carpels that separate. Malva, Malvastrum and Sida species have the same morphologic attribute.
Malvaviscus arboreus flowers and fruit
Practical: We start by clearing the last year’s leafmould pile in the Woodland Garden.
Then I move to the Rock Garden, for undertaking the planting of Salix repens var. argentea in the Lake. I put
my waders on and use forks for supporting my walk over the silky submerged ground to the small isle. We plant
the marsh willow by creating a suitable pocket among the rocks and also using a very free-draining mix.
We then keep the waders on and move to the stream beds, for clearing the water from the leaves and weeds so
giving growing space around the aquatic plants. In the afternoon we clear the narrow stream which flows within
trees of Pterocarya fraxinifolia. This is a tough job which needs to be done in order to keep the flow alive
within the progressing, vigorous roots of the trees. I use a trenching spade and secateurs. I will be convenient to
sharp the tools next time we need to do the job again, around March.
For the last working hour we up-pot from plastic to clay some of the newly acquired saxifrages of the collection.
I look after Saxifraga valdensis, a species from the Italian Alps. It is always important to remember clearing all
around the neck of the plant, taking away all the old gravel as well as possible dead parts and weeds. Then firm
solidly the neck of the plants, by packing the new gravel around the neck of the plants.
Accommodating Salix repens var. argentea in the Lake Proudly showing the new-entry’s label
Observations: Pseudosasa japonica is growing around the structure containing the leafmould pile.
Its vigorous rhizomes can in the most difficult situation and are difficult to contain. At the end of the working
day, entering the yard, I give a look to the Fargesia nitida in pots. This is a good alternative to some of the more
invasive bamboos. In the matter of fact, these so-called “invasive” bamboos are leptomorph. This means they
have monopodial running rhizomes like many kinds of turf grass. These bamboos spread vigorously and
definitely need to be managed. All species of Phyllostachys, Sasa (and Pseudosasa!), Shibataea and Plioblastus
are running bamboos. On the other hand, Fargesia are bamboos which are pachymorph. They have sympodial
clumping roots like the ornamental grass Panicum.
- Monopodial running rhizomes: growing upwards from a single point.
- Sympodial clumping roots: having a specialised lateral growth pattern in which the apical stem is terminated.
Practical: First thing in the morning is a nice propagation job.
I need to pot-up 15 young rhizomes of Trillium albidum. The rhizomes go in 10cm pots, 1centimenter deep. I
use a well-draining, light mix of 2/3 alpine mix, 1/3 sieved leafmould and Vitax Q4. The roots of the young
rhizomes are tangled together, so special care is needed in order to disturb the plants as less as possible. The
plants are watered through, moved and stored into small polytunnel together with other potted woodland
brothers, such as Eucomis, Eremurus, Commelina, Symphandra and Oberna species.
I clear and lay the new mypex on the leafmould area. This is done by using plastic pegs and big branches as
well. In the first part of the afternoon we carry out some leaf clearance throughout the West Walk and the
Woodland paths and so start to pile up the leaves in the empty, cleared area. Special attention is paid not to blow
the little bulbils of Allium paradoxum in the leafmould.
Last part of the day we carry on the up-potting from plastic to clay, as well as all the accessions on BG-BASE.
We align and plunge in sand many of the new-arrivals on the yard bench. I loom after Saxifraga juniperifolia, S.
marginata var. bubakii, S. marginata var. rochriana, paniculata spp. cartaginea, paniculata “Rosularis”, S. x
fritschiana and S. caucasica.
Trillium albidum rhizomes to pot-up Homing new saxifrages in the plunged bench
Clearing and mypexing the old leafmould pile Leaf clearance in the West Walk
Observations: Some interesting news from the supervisors’ meeting. Roy Lancaster and Jim Gardner will come
next week on Friday to the botanic gardens and give horticultural advice as “garden’s godfathers”.
Also a note on the messroom, which needs more overall attention and hygiene.
Practical: First thing in the morning is the Geophytes Display in the Mountain House.
Plants In: Oxalis melanosticta, O. hirta and O. megalorrhiza.
Plants Out: Nerine sarniensis and Urginea sp. (2).
All the newly-moved oxalis are accommodated in a single big terracotta pot, plunged at the far end of the
display, bordering the shady characters’ area. Oxalis hirta is particularly attractive to me now, with crimson
stripped, funnel shaped buds like tiny striped barbers’ poles.
Potting up cuttings of Ferula communis (5). I save the remaining, unwanted material for the windowsill of the
From the second part of the morning till the end of the working day I am in the Bog Garden. It is my first time
working in this area of the garden. First thing I need to dig out herbaceous material planted around the edge of
the bog. This combines the use of border fork and spade. I move away and store in black crates chubby
rhizomes of Rodgersia pinnata, Astilboides tabularis and thick fibrous roots of Thalictrum rochebrunianum.
The trays are layered with mypex, filled with well-draining mix, watered, labeled and moved on the display
bench with other woodland plants.
In the afternoon I plant three young specimens of Strobilanthes wallichii, always in the Bog Garden.
I remove a large mat of ground-covering aquilegia, some seedlings of stinking iris and then prepare and level the
ground for the young plants. I water through by using the bog water. I finish off by chopping down flower stems
of Anemone x hybrida and tidying up Rodgersia pinnata and Primula vulgaris.
Storing herbaceous material in the Alpine Yard Planting Strobilanthes wallichii in the Bog Garden
Observations: Astilboides tabularis attracts my
attention. It will be worth to keep an eye on it in
summer, for the flowering season.
Astilboides tabularis was once known as Rodgersia
tabularis and is obviously in the Saxifragaceae family.
It comes from China and differs from its former
relatives mainly in its leaf shape. It is not a shy thing
at all, reaching 1 meter in height and bearing circular
leaves up to 90cm in diameter. The stem are attached
to the center of the foliage and large fluffy racemes of
white flowers appear in summer.
Obviously it bears some resemblance to the genus
Astilbe, but to me it is also similar to Darmera peltata,
if not just for the overall habit and big size. Astilboides tabularis (internet database)
Practical: First thing in the morning is the Geophytes Display in the Mountain House.
Plants In: Scilla peruviana, Lachenalia bulbifera (2).
Plants Out: Urginea sp. (2), Nerine sarniensis.
It was a real big bonus to Lachenalia bulbifera coming in flower now. They will add colour and interest in the
next few weeks. Apparently Lachenalia bulbifera (formerly Polyxena pauciflora), sitting close on the bench, is
closely related to Lachenalia.
I finish in the Mountain House by tidying-up, brushing the floors and leaving the ventilators-on. Finally, I apply
the usual diluted tomato fertilizer (Tomorite) to Scilla maderense, Lachenalia bulbifera, Freesia elimensis, as
well as to all the oxalis in flowers.
In the second part of the morning I am busy watering and checking the plants in pots in the Alpine Yard.
Unfortunately, there are evidences of aphids, leaf miner and slugs on the primulas. I remove the dead, damaged
and diseased leaves, then water through and spray Ultimate Bug Killer (systemic pesticide) on the plants. Plants
that have been sprayed, have to be labeled with a blue label.
In the afternoon I re-pot Ranunculus platanifolius. This is a lovely woodland buttercup from the Italian prealps.
It will be worth to keep an eye on it next year. Then I pot-up cuttings of Ballota pseudodictamnus (5), Baccharis
patagonica, Cistus creticus (4), Gaultheria pumila (6), G. myrsinoides (6), Helichrysum ambiguum (4) and
Pelargonium sidoides (3). Then I store the material in the glasshouses (second pit) aside two trays of Primula
Last working hour I undertake the plunging and displaying in the Mountain House of a beautiful specimen of
Pleione maculata, which we receive from the glasshouses. This is an autumn flowering pleione, with a
beautiful, scented blossom. The display work has to be finished first thing tomorrow morning.
Cuttings are potted-up and moved in the glasshouses Leaf miner and slug damage on primulas
In the evening, I drive with Sam up to Wilstead, south of Bedford for a local AGS lecture.
Tonight’s speakers are Bob and Rannveig Wallis, talking about their garden in South Wales.
Following an abstract of some interesting plants they grow.
- Enkianthus campanulatus. Good for all-year-round interest.
- Monarda species tend to get mildew, but the cultivar “Jacob Kline” seems to be immune.
- Eryngium species, the seehollies. Famous the story of Miss Willmott’s Ghost.
- Filipendula veunsta var. rubra as a good plant for the back of the herbaceous border.
- Morea alticola. Usuful South-African lilly. It will give a great performance and doesn’t require stacking or
support. Surprisingly not much used in gardens.
- Alstroemeria. Apparently there is a trick. When finishing flowering, pull out the flowering stem, that will
stimulate the root system to produce another flush of flowers.
- Dierama. Good herbaceous plants.
- Hacquetia epipactis. Perturbing, acid-green colour.
- Saroma henryi (Aristolochiaceae). Typical Aristolochia heart-shaped leaves, but unusual flowers for the
- Cardiocrinum giganteum. This is a monocarpic from Himalaya. It will produce daughter bulbs, however. As
soon as a fairly big colony is established, the show will stay over the years and be effective.
- Corydalis regalis. Beautiful corydalis.
- Corydalis malkensis. One of Bob’s favourite. Very useful, broad-leaved plant.
- Digitalis pauciflora.
- Allium insubricum. This is from the Italian Alps. Big single flowers, good plant for the rock garden.
- Convolvulus sabaticus.
- Cytisus scoparius ssp. maritimus. Dwarf broom, native of the Pembrokshire.
- Tulipa sprengeri. Now sadly extinct in the wild because of the grazing. It is a really good garden plant.
- Dracunculus vulgaris. The dragon lily is an interesting one, presenting lovely speckings on the leaves and
stem. It smells like rotten meat.
Practical: First thing is to finish the work with Pleione maculata by the shady characters, in the Mountain
House. One oxalis and two meconopsis are asked to move further in the middle of the room, in order to
accommodate the entrance of the orchid, now sitting around a group of ferns and a nice mat of mind-your-
business (Soleirolia soleirolii).
I notice the growing mix used for the bench of the shady characters. This was originally one part sand and one
part coir, then inevitably mixed with some grit and bark over the last four years.
Then I move to the Bog Garden for the planting of two specimens of Rosa palustris. Operations are carried out
around specimens of Hydrangea quercifolia, Sedum “Herbstfreude”, Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”,
Cotoneaster horizontalis and Sequoia sempervirens. A beautiful specimen of Taxodium disticum sits close in
more open water, patrolling the horticultural operations.
Two planting pockets are created for planting the swamp roses. The soil of the small island is incredibly dry,
considering its position. Greedy roots of the Sequoia sempervirens and great horsetail take up lots of water. A
specimen of Carex pendula is trimmed low down, then forked out from the stone-layered edge of the bank.
Equisetum telmatea is – as far as reasonably possible – reduced.
In the afternoon we move to the Limestone Rock Garden and carry on slow-weeding. I work on the Eurasian
Bed, removing some clumps of Carex appalachia (there are eleven now, three were actually planted and
labeled), and removing geranium from clumps of Teucrium chamaedris, Gypsophylla repens and Geum sp.
For the geranium, I use a two-prong fork (dandelion fork) which proves to be very good for working a way
through and pulling out the taproot of the geraniums.
It was wonderful to have Bob and Rannveig Wallis around in the botanic gardens this morning.
Mature and young plants of Rosa palustris facing each other in the Bog Garden
Observations: Rosa palustris is a multi-branched shrub rose native to much of eastern north America.
Apparently it is extremely fragrant and the pink blooms last for six to eight weeks in midseason, generally June
through July. It will be worth to keep an eye on it this summer!
It is interesting to notice a vigorous sucker in the young potted swamp rose. This plant certain doesn’t lack in
vigour. Many suckers are also at the base of the established specimen by the lake. Hopefully, the young plant
will spread by suckers, facing the competition with the horsetails and providing some covering and nesting spots
for birds and other creatures.
Suckers growing from the established and potted swap rose
Practical: Leaf clearance day.
The two departments Systematics and Alpine &
Woodland join their efforts for the first time today for
the leaf clearance. This proves to be a successful idea,
with a lot being done by the end of the day. Many
pockets and corners we weren’t able to undertake last
time (i.e. underneath the poplar by the lake) can be
done this time.
I use consistently a leaf blower, during the day,
always pay attention don’t blow the bulbils of Allium
paradoxum var. paradoxum into the leaf piles. In the
meantime, Julie and Bill drive the tractor along West
Walk and Lynch Walk and load the trailer. Simon and
John stock the leaves into the new piles and soak
them with water, in order to trigger and speed up the
process of composting. Leafmould production in the woodland
Practical: First thing in the morning is the Geophytes Display in the Mountain House.
Plants In: Lachenalia bulbifera and Freesia elimensis.
Plants Out: Nerine filifolia and N. undulata.
I move the last thing in flower which are available in the glasshouse, such as Lachenalia bulbifera and Freesia
elimensis. Only Polixena paucifolia remains in the yard, but is an option for the next week.
I don’t water the plants in the Mountain House this morning, as it was frosty last night outdoor (min 4°C in the
Alpine House). The watering is left for the afternoon or late morning, when it will warm up a little bit.
In the afternoon I pot-up Thalictrum aquilegifolium (5 litres pots) and Astilbe “Willie Buchanani” (1), always by
using alpine mix. Then I water the Alpine Yard, as well as check for P&Ds.
Observations: One plant of Trollius ledebourii “Golden Queen” is in bloom now in the Alpine Yard, by the
primulas coldframes. Formerly Ranunculus “Golden Queen”, this is truly a queen of the buttercup family,
having strongly erect stems requiring no staking, rising up to three feet from out of its clump of three-lobed
serrated foliage. Each stem is topped by the largest brightest tangerine blossoms. After flowering it’s possible to
cut back heavily to encourage a second flush of flowers.
These clump-forming perennials are suitable for full sun or part shade and as with all globeflowers, require
moist conditions, it is appropriate to the bog garden and can be used as a marginal plant. It will easily adapt to
well-drained soil but will not tolerate outright dryness.
This hybrid globe flower was created from the relatively late-blooming & tender Chinese Globeflower (T.
chinensis) crossed with the taller & hardier Ledebour Globeflower (T. lebourii), getting the best traits from both
species. This and other globeflower crosses are also sold under the hybrid name T. cultorum.
Rhizomatous roots of Thalictrum aquilegifolium Leafmould production in the woodland
Practical: Pot washing and storing in the morning.
We work in the potting shed where is the wash tank, in team of three and with John coming and helping us. By
the end of the morning we wash and store two truckloads of clay pots.
In the afternoon I carry out the re-potting of Hepatica nobilis.
The plants are kept in the shady characters bench under the poly and need repotting in a new mix, as the old mix
has been compacted after approximately three years of continuous management and watering. This is especially
evident in the tom longs, where the mix at the bottom of the pots is particularly compressed and the roots black
I replace the old mix with a better-draining one (i.e. 4 normal garden compost, 2 grit, 3 sieved leafmould, 1
pomice, vitax Q4), use 1.5 litre pots, water, label, BG-Base accession and plunge the three specimens into the
bench under the poly.
Pot wash tank in the potting shed Soil compaction in plastic pots
Horticultural Diary – Demonstration and Display
Practical: First thing in the morning we collected samples of foliage plants for a weaving class which will take
place on Wednesday in Brookside classroom. We choose good, fibrous material from plants of Anamanathele
lessoniana, Kniphofia caulescens, Phormium cookianum, Trachycarpus fortunei, Cordyline australis, Carex
testacea, Musa basjoo, Polygonum scoparium, Lomandra longifolia, Dianella revoluta, Cyperus papyrus and
Then we moved to the glasshouse courtyard and covered some tender, half-hardy plants with Dutch lights.
These structures will help the plants to overcome the winter months. We covered Puya chilensis and Agave
Graptopetalum paraguayense is left uncovered. This plant has proved to be incredibly hardy.
We also removed a big specimen of Cyperus papyrus which had been plunged in a border. The plant is stored in
a frost free polytunnel for overwintering. Equally, a small specimen of Fascicularia bicolor was dug out,
repotted in D&D mix and stored beside Cyperus papyrus.
D&D mix is composed of loam, grit, sand, coir and slow release osmocote.
In the afternoon we moved to Brookside to undertake the maintenance of a long border.
Delivering material for a weaving class Protecting tender and half-hardy plants with Dutch lights
Border maintenance by Brookside Fascicularia bicolor
In the evening Alex, Simon and I attended a lecture on bee orchids at Queens’ College.
Speaker was Professor Richard Bateman, formerly both Director of Science at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden
and Keeper of Botany at the Natural History Museum, now currently based at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
Ophrys apifera known in Europe as the bee orchid, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the family
Orchidaceae. The Bee Orchid gets its name from its main pollinator - the bee - which is thought to have driven
the evolution of the flowers. To attract the pollinating bees, the plant has evolved bee-like flowers; drawing
them in with the promise of love, the bees are naturally attracted to the flowers and fly in to attempt a mating.
As they land on the velvet-textured lip of the flower, the pollen is transferred and the poor bee is left frustrated.
Sadly, the right species of bee doesn't occur in the UK, so how are Bee Orchids pollinated?
Scientific response to this question is still to be found.
Practical: Carried on the maintenance of the border by the old entrance to Bateman Street.
Interesting plants in the border are Feijoa sellowiana, Euphorbia mellifera, Acacia pravissima, Hoheria
glabrata, Geranium ‘Anne Folkard’, Sibaraea laevigata, Acacia pravissima and Indigofera heterantha.
It is good to see Azara micorphylla which I haven’t see for long time, but have admired it in the past in some
warm gardens in UK as well as in Italy. I’ll keep an eye on this specimen, waiting for the beautifully vanilla-
scented blossom in early spring.
In the afternoon we move a Paeonia sp. from Brookside to a border along Lynch Walk. Peonies are fussy plants
and dislike root disturbance, so extra-care was needed. They have also to be planted at the right height, not too
deep or too shallow.
In the last half an hour we prepared some Digitalis purpurea ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’ to be planted later this
week. Unfortunately some of them had got vine weevil and had to be thrown away.
Observations: I learnt that the genus Akebia is in Lardizabalaceae, and is not represented in the New world’s
flora. The family consists of 8-9 genera of woody plants. All are lianas, except Decaisnea, which are pachycaul
shrubs (i.e. plants with a disproportionately thick trunk for their height, and only few branches). The leaves are
alternate and compound (usually palmate), with pulvinate leaflets. The flowers are drooping racemes. They are
found in eastern Asia, from the Himalayas to Japan, with the exception of the genera Lardizabala and Boquila,
both native to southern South America.
Decaisnea is dioecious and is commonly known as dead man’s fingers, because it bears very attractive, long
blue pods and is grown in the UK.
The genus comprises one or two species, depending on taxonomic opinion. Decaisnea insignis was described
from Nepal, and is sometimes restricted to the plants occurring in the Himalaya, or China. The only cited
distinction between the plants from the two regions is the fruit colour, yellow-green in D. insignis and bluish
in D. fargesii. This is of little significance and the two are now combined under the older name D. insignis by
Akebia x pentaphylla Acacia pravissima Maytenus boaria
Practical: Today we undertook the maintenance of the big border by the entrance at Brookside.
This border is in a very important area of the garden, being one of the first things the visitors can see when
entering the access gate. Therefore, it is essential to have a long season of interest of flowers, autumn colours,
It is also important to clear this border before January-February, when the snowdrops will start to come up.
We started digging out roots of Physostegia virginiana, the commonly known obedient plant, which was
spreading too much throughout the border.
Also Aster and Epimidium cvv. had to be cut down. Aster can be cut down with the hedge trimmer, so saving a
lot of time. Low cutting is also a good horticultural practice. Epimidium will benefit from a good trim at the end
of the winter and then will show flowers the following year. If trimming is not carried out, Epimidium flowers
tend to remain covered by the evergreen foliage. Old foliage can also look very tatty.
We spent some time raking away the fallen leaves from the border, as well as clearing the metal edges from the
gravel which had accumulated because of the continuous flow of visitors.
Observations: Geranium ‘Patricia’ is still in flower in the border. This is a relatively new cultivar and is a very
good performer, flowering constantly until the first frosts.
Unfortunately there is evidence of honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) on geranium tubers. I knew the area was
infested with honey fungus, but it was quite a surprise to see the fungus on a geranium tuber!
Cropping down Aster herveyi using a hedge trimmer Maintenance of the border by Brookside entrance
Vigorous root system of Physostegia virginiana Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) on Geranium tuber
Practical: Carried on the border maintenance at Brookside.
Today we undertook the border fronting the one we had done yesterday. We needed to remove a self-seeded
Prunus and also a variegated specimen of Aucuba japonica. This was rather a physical task, involving the use of
saws, loppers, spades and mattock.
In the afternoon we visited the Brookside classroom, to see how they were using the material we supplied for
the weaving course. It was nice to see how the material had been turned into beautiful, ornamental objects.
Observations: a beautiful specimen of Platycarya strobilacea is planted in a bed in the facing lawn.
Platycarya is a monotypic, monecious tree in the family Juglandaceae, comprising a single species P.
strobilacea, native to eastern Asia in China, Korea and Japan. The flowers are catkins, the fruit is hard and
woody, superficially resembling a conifer cone with spirally arranged scales.
Border maintenance by Brookside Platycarya strobilacea
Practical: Today the weather is rather wet and inclement, so we worked in the potting shed.
I potted up cuttings of Euryops pectinatus, Salvia mexicana, Lavandula angustifolia spp. pyrenaica and
I also potted up sporophytes of Dryopteris cycadina. This was done very carefully by using a thin stick. The
individual pots were then covered with a glass sheet and then left for a period, before gradually uncovering and
moving to cooler conditions.
In the afternoon we had an engineer come to discuss the design and estimate the cost for installing wires in the
pergola by the West Courtyard.
Potting up cuttings of Euryops pectinatus Potting up Dryopteris cycadina
Potting up procedes in the potting shed. Evaluating the design for the wires of the West Courtyard pergola
Practical: First thing in the morning is potting-up work in the potting shed. I potted on specimens of Laurus
nobilis ‘Angustifolia’, Plantago cynops and Lavandula dentata var. dentata.
Then Paul and I moved outside for planting bulbs throughout the areas of the section. We planted Tulipa
‘Westpoint’ and T. ‘Clearwater’ by the Main Gate; Tulipa ‘Ile de France’ and T. ‘Queen of the Night’ in the
Fountain pots; Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ and T. ‘Ballerina’ in the West Courtyard pots; Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ in
the Dry Garden pots. We spend most of the time in the borders by the Main Gate. These needed raking and
blowing because of the leaves from the nearby lime tree.
In the afternoon, we carried on the maintenance of the long border by Brookside Gate.
Observations: I learnt that we spray only the very pernicious weeds, leaving the other for hand-weeding. The
most problematic in the D&D beds and borders are Circaea lutetiana (enchantress nightshade), Calystegia
sepium (bindweed) and Aegopodium podagraria (ground elder).
Pentaglottis sempervirens (alkanet) is another pernicious perennial weed, new to me. It doesn’t’ have the
characteristic white fleshy roots of the other mentioned perennial weeds, but can resist hand weeding quite well,
thanks to its deep taproot. It is in the Boraginaceae and has the characteristic brittle leaves and blue flowers.
Planting bulbs by the Main Gate borders Border maintenance by Brookside
Practical: First thing we had a good look at the border by Brookside entrance. It will eventually need spraying
and soiling, as the roots of the big Pterocarya fraxinifolia trees are taking nutrients from the ground. Also
Galanthus nivalis ‘Scharlockii’ needed to come out. We filled a truck load with bulbs. Considering that each
bulb is worth one pound, this load was worth a lot of money!
We then started the practical work, by digging out Mahonia wagneri (hybrid between M. aquifoloum and M.
pinnata) and a Prunus stump from last week. In the last part of the morning we forked out the snowdrops,
clearing them from the ivy roots and bringing them up to the yard. They will be given to Trees and Shrubs and
planted in their areas.
In the afternoon the section had a meeting with Sally, discussing the plans and improvements for the areas of
responsibly. A new design was proposed for Cory Lodge border and the Dry Garden, and the relandscaping of
the Mediterranean Garden discussed. Also the idea to turn the Bee Garden into a South African Garden was
mentioned for the first time.
After the meeting we undertook the maintenance of the Malus border, by Brookside. We dug out young
Cyclamen hederifolium seedlings and then pot them up in a large tray. We also planted Digitalis purpurea
‘Excelsior Hyrbids’ from last week, as well as Polystichum ferns.
Digging out Galanthus nivals ‘Scharlockii’ Propagating Cyclamen hederifolium
Border maintenance by Brookside Pterocarya fraxinifolia seedling (Tillia does the same!)
Observations: I observed Polystichum fern kept outside in the nursery area. A way to recognise the genus is to
check the foliage. If little “thumb-ups” are present, then it is a Polystichum.
Stylophorum diphyllum, the commonly known celandine-poppy, was a new interesting weed to me. This is in
the Papaveraceae family and can be identified from the red sap in the stems.
Practical: First thing in the morning was to blow off the dew in the border by Brookside, in order to spray more
efficiently on the broad-leaved weeds. This was done quickly by using a leaf blower.
Then we carried on planting the border by the entrance. We did both herbaceous and bulbs. I planted Digitalis
ferruginea, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Dryopteris cambrensis, Phlox ‘Fuji White’, Peonia mlokosewitschii
‘Moly the Witch’. I also do Tulipa ‘White Parrot’ and Camassia leitchtlinii ‘Sacajawea’.
An interesting job was to divide Phlomis russeliana (the Turkish sage) and plant in the bed closeby, so linking
the planting between the different beds.
I then moved to the long, narrow border by the Shop, cropping down to the ground Calamagrostis acutiflora
‘Karl Foester’ and Pennisetum villosum.
We planted Ajuga reptans in groups of three in the borders by Hills Rd entrance. Here we collected seeds of
Verbena bonariensis. We autumn-sowed these seeds in two large trays to stratify.
Last job of the day was to test some self-binding gravel for the relandscaping of the Mediterranean Garden.
Observations: Peter discussed the genus Ostrya with me.
This is in the Betulaceae family and is found in Europe, North America and southwest and eastern Asia.
The European species Ostrya carpinifolia is probably the most ornamental one. This was planted in the Botanic
Garden in a border on the Middle Walk. The other two species O. virginiana and O. japonica are in the Picnic
Walking on the Main Lawn, I noticed large bare patches on the surface. I checked closer and my suspect were
confirmed when I saw a small flat curved grub on the ground. This was a chafer grub, a pest that gnaws the
roots during spring and summer. Nevertheless, additional damage is caused by the crows that pull the grass
away in order to eat the grubs.
Planting herbaceous in a border by Brookside entrance Propagating Verbena bonariensis from seed
Border maintenance by Brookside Chafer grub n the Main Lawn
Practical: First thing in the morning was to make safe the path we started yesterday. We laid the binding gravel,
compressed it and left it for a period of testing. We made sure no trip hazards were present.
Then I planted Tulipa ‘Ad Rem’ in the roof garden of the Sainsbury’s Laboratories.
Walkaround in the Glasshouse Range for Plant Adaptations.
I did Platycerium spp.
Relevant facts are:
- Common Name: stagshorn or elkhorn fern
- Origin: South America, Africa, Southwest Asia, Australia.
- Habitat: Tropical and Temperate areas.
- Adaptations to Habitats: Epiphytic genus, i.e. growing non-parasitically upon a plant, such as trees and
obtaining nutrients from air, rainwater and sometimes debris.
- Other Facts: two types of fronds: a basal, infertile one and an upper, fertile. Platycerium biforcatum and P.
superbum are the common species in cultivation.
In the afternoon we dug out some herbaceous material from the Mediterranean Garden for potting up and storing
in the polytunnel. We did Euphorbia seguieriana ssp. niciciana, Cistus x cyprius, Iris lutescens.
I also repotted Ruscus x microglossus, which was struggling a bit in the old and compacted mix. I used a well-
draining D&D mix and divided the two specimens in five. It was good to work with Ruscus (the subject of my
first essay) and to observe for the first time its rhizomatous root system.
Planting bulbs by the Sainsbury Laboratories Potting up herbaceous material from the Mediterranean Garden
Potting up Ruscus x microglossus in a new growing mix
Practical: A bit of a hectic day today, with several different activities involved in a short time.
In the morning we carried on the digging out and potting up material from the Mediterranean beds. We did
Polygonum scoparium, Geranium cinereum var. subcaulescens.
After tea break it was the plant test on conifers.
In the afternoon I walked around with Alan, choosing the Plants of Interest for the week. This time we went for:
Jasminum nudiflorum, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, Colletia paradoxa, Danae racemosa, Allamanda cathartica var.
schrottii, Cymbidium mastersii, Lachenalia bulbifera, Pleione maculata, Hakea suaveolens and Cupressus
Sean posing by the conifer samples in the Team Room Choosing the Plants of Interest of the week
Practical: First touch of frost of the year this morning.
We decided to undertake some physical tasks in order to warm up a little bit. So we headed to the Winter
Garden, as three big stumps of Arbutus unedo ‘Rubra’ needed to be dug out. First we got rid of the ivy, which
was covering the entire surface of the bed. Then we started with the strawberry trees, working our way through
with spades and the mattock. Thankfully the wood proved to be not very hard and quite brittle.
The “four-wheel-truck-in-the-hole” system was used to move the stumps away from their holes. This consisted
in preparing the room for the truck to go into the hole, rolling the stump out of the way and finally pushing the
stump onto the truck. By the end of the morning we managed to dig two out of three stumps out.
In the afternoon we undertook the maintenance of the Fern Garden. First we needed to disconnect the watering
sprinklers, as they are not used in winter months. This was done quite quickly, since the system was quite well
designed. Then we blew the leaves on the main path, using both leaf blowers and rakes. Finally we revamped
the paths by using fresh woodchip.
Three stumps of Arbutus unedo ‘Rubra’ The Fern Courtyard
Observations: I had a walkaround with Peter in the morning after the digging work. He showed me plants of
winter interest, such as Chimonanthus praecox and Poncirus trifoliata.
Eucommia ulmoides was totally new to me. This is a species of small tree native to China. It belongs to the
monotypic family Eucommiaceae. It is near threatened in the wild, but is widely cultivated in China for its bark
and is highly valued in herbology such as traditional Chinese medicine.
It is known as Chinese rubber tree. If a leaf is torn across, strands of latex exuded from the leaf veins solidify
into rubber and hold the two parts of the leaf together.
Eucommia ulmoides, The Chinese rubber tree
Proudly posing by the strawberry tree’s stump Irrigation system in the Fern Garden
Practice: Another frosty morning today in the garden. Like yesterday, we decided to warm up with some
physical task first thing. So we did the third and last strawberry tree’s stump in the Winter Garden. After moving
the stump to the Compost Yard, we had time for top-dressing the border with good topsoil from one of the
After first tea break all the trainees blitzed the School Garden, Alistair leading the operations. It was mostly
about digging three large beds, so preparing them for the future planting. We single-dug all the beds, got rid of
all the perennial weeds, and level the surface.
In the afternoon Peter, Paul and I moved to the Mediterranean Garden, in order to mark out for the forthcoming
relandscaping of the area. We used hosepipes and canes showing the proposed design. The concept will be
presented to Sally and Adrian tomorrow and work will start at the end of this week.
Dug beds in the School Garden Re-landscaping the Mediterranean Garden
Practical: Today was dull and wet, so we decided to take shelter in the potting shed and potted up material from
the borders of the Mediterranean Garden that will be re-landscaped over the next few weeks.
We dug out and potted on specimens of Salvia judaica, Ferula communis, Convolvulus cneorum and Acanthus
Observations: Apparently Paul doesn’t like thistles very much! Onopordum acanthium is a vigorous biennial
thistle with coarse, spiny leaves and conspicuous spiny-winged stems. It produces a large rosette of spiny leaves
the first year, forming a fleshy taproot that may extend down to 30 cm or more for a food reserve. In the second
year, the plant grows up to 2.5 m tall, with few hairs on the leaves that gives the plant a greyish appearance. It is
a fice, architectural plant that can be used effectively at the back of the border or in natural planting schemes.
The other Paul’s much disliked thistle is Galactites tormentosa. Commonly known as purple milk thistle, this is
a biennial or annual thistle in the Asteraceae. It is shorter than Onopordum, but the margins of the leaves bear
strong thorns, making the plants particularly difficult to work with. It also self-seeds prolifically, making the
border more difficulult to manage (…but also usefully filling patches and gaps!).
Practical: First thing in the morning was to get organized for the propagation class in the potting shed after tea
break. Paul and I took a walk within the D&D as well as Systematic areas and loaded the truck with several
samples to work with.
Things I didn’t know about propagating plants are:
- Viburnum leaves smell like rancid butter when rotten, similarly to Gingko female berries.
- Hardwood cuttings are longer as good food store need to be ensured. Best timing is leaf fall. Pencil thickness is
also a good description. Material that is branching is not ideal
- Propagation from root cutting is done best with Apiaceae such as Eryngium, but also Acanthus (Acanthaceae),
Verbascum (Scrophulariaceae), Phlox (Polemoniaceae).
- Finally, it was good to see Ruscus berries and inspect the seeds inside.
In the afternoon we carried on with lifting and potting up of the herbaceous material from the Mediterranean
Garden. Specimens of Lavandula ‘Grosso’, Lavandula lanata, Phlomis fruticosa and Lithodora zahnii had to be
Observations: It was interesting to propagate rhizomes of Iris lutescens.
When working with Iris rhizomes, it is important to pot/plant them near the soil surface, as they can rot if placed
too deeply. Another good trick to remember when potting them up, is to place the rhizomes back-to-back, so
allowing future growth in the pot.
Propagation Class in the potting shed Potting up Iris lutescens
Practical: Today we undertook the “Friday Blow”,
making sure that the gardens look nice and neat over
the week-end. We work in team of two (Peter and I),
one blowing the leaves and the other following with
the truck load and collecting up.
We do more or less all the D&D areas, comprising
West Courtyard, drive from Bateman Rd to the
Superintendent House, Brookside Entrance, Bike Park
on Bateman Street, Class Room Area, Main Gate,
Fountain, paths of the Scented Garden.
In the afternoon we carry on some watering in the
polytunnel and I also have a walkaround with Alex
and Julie on watering duties for the week-end.
In the meantime L&M section is lifting the turf in the
Mediterranean Garden, so preparing the ground for the
next week’s job. Lifting the turves in the Mediterranean Garden
Practical: Today we started the re-turfing of a section of a border in the Mediterranean Garden, nearby Prunus
x yedoenisis. A branch of the ornamental cherry has to be sawed away, opening the way for the future path from
the Mediterranean Garden to the Main Lawn.
We used the turves lifted from Adrian and Alister last Friday. First we needed to clear the ground, get rid of all
the roots and debris, level and compact it carefully. Attention was paid not to tread too much on the existing
lawn, so large boards are placed around. This preparation stage was essential for the neat finish.
Then we placed and adjusted the turves using turf floater, halfmoons, spades and rakes. We tapped them down
firmly with the rake. Topdressing was also carried out, using some nice fine soil from the dug border. This soil
was dispersed with a flat rubber rake.
By the end of the working day we managed to turf the entire area and also clear where the turves were originally
from. A petrol-powered turf lifter was used for this last task. We piled all the old sods there, waiting to find a
good use for them. They will give very good material, the only drawback being the presence of chafer grubs.
Re-turfing the border of the Mediterranean Garden
Practical: We had quite grim weather today: damp, windy and wet the all day long.
So we decided to stay dry and carry on propagation and paper work in the potting shed and Cory Lodge. We
started by potting up cuttings of Penstemon ‘Garnet’. I also divided a plant of Dierama pulcherrima, using a
more free-draining mix (D&D mix + grit).
We then could concentrate on ferns. I propagated several sporophytes in 9cm pots. It was essential to use the
right growing medium (well-draining, acidic, woodlandy). I mixed D&D mix with leafmould and bark.
In the afternoon Paul and I concentrated on the survey and design of the Dry Garden. We came up with a few
ideas. The present concept of a “domestic” garden could be lost and the Dry Garden extended in scale,
sacrificing the old collection of Juniper; raised beds could be used by the pergola, accommodating aromatic
Observations: Cheilanthes is a charismatic group of ferns that adapted to survive in dry conditions, so
distinguishing from many other, moist-loving related. Species in the genus are rock-dwelling ferns with a
cosmopolitan distribution in warm, dry, rocky regions, often growing in small crevices high up on cliffs. Most
are small, sturdy and evergreen. The leaves, often densely covered in trichomes, spring directly from the
rootstocks. Many of them are desert ferns, curling up during dry times and reviving with the coming of
Thus their maintenance in a glasshouse regime is quite different from the other ferns. Cheilanthes need to be
kept dry and misted only once a week in summer and fortnightly in winter.
Propagating Dierama by division Cheilanthes lendigera
Practical: First thing in the morning we moved to Station Rd gate, cropping down the borders. Priority was to
clear them before the snowdrops come up. We used hedge trimmer, rakes and leaf blower.
All the plants were cropped down to the ground; we left Penstemon “Raven” and Perovskia atriplicifolia “Blue
Spire” 1 foot high. We also didn’t touch the recently planted Digitalis purpurea.
After watering the indoor collection, we moved to the potting shed and carried out some propagation work. I
potted up cuttings of Rosmarinus and Lavandula spp., both coming from the borders of the Mediterranean
Garden. It was interesting to notice how the cuttings had calloused. The successful ones were hard and
white/yellow, while the failures turned black and rotten. I then potted up cuttings of Daphne bholua ‘Gurkha’.
Daphne is an incredibly fussy plant to propagate and plant, but we had four successful cuttings, which is great.
We re-potted the calloused ones, hoping some more will root.
Before lunch Paul and I got a wheelbarrow as well as a bag barrow, and cleared the borders in the
Mediterranean Garden from some stones scattered among the plants. we move them underneath Prunus x
yedonensis and temporarily left them there.
After lunch a fire fighting training took place in Brookside.
For the last hour of the day I dug out plants from the Mediterranean Garden. He saved a nice specimen of
Ononis fruticosa (the shrubby restharrow). It is a Mediterranean plant but new to me. Ononis is a large genus of
perennial herbs and shrubs in Fabaceae. The common name is related to the fact that some species are arable
weeds whose tough stems would stop the harrow.
Ononis fruticosa Daphne bholua ‘Gurkha’ rooted
Practical: This morning Paul and I moved to Cory Lodge front border. We first removed a specimen of Smilax
‘Cantab’ which was growing too vigorously against the wall. Italian common name for Smilax is
stracciabraghe, meaning “trousers-shredder”. Peter, Paul and I spent some time having fun discussing the
supposed “qualities” of this well-armed rambling plant.
We then dug out Rosa ‘Cantab’ from the other border too. The rest of the time before tea break was spent
weeding and forking the borders through.
After tea break all the trainees went to Classroom attending the first session of Botanical Latin.
In the afternoon I went to the Caucasian Garden and dug up roots of Smilax aspera. This was collected in the
wild by Peter Kerley. Plants rambled on trees and proved to be difficult to maintain, recently strimmed back to
the ground. We wanted to save Smilax aspera anyway, as it could be used in the forthcoming re-landscaping of
the Mediterranean Garden.
Observations: Smilax is a large cosmopolitan genus of about 300-350 species, found in temperate zones, tropics
and subtropics. Common names include catbriers, greenbriers, prickly-ivys and smilaxes.
Occasionally, the non-woody species such as S. herbacea are separated as genus Nemexia.
On their own, Smilax plants will grow as shrubs, forming dense impenetrable thickets. They will also grow over
trees and other plants up to 10m high, their hooked thorns allowing them to hang onto and scramble over
branches. There are both deciduous and evergreen species.
Smilax ‘Cantab’ Tubers of Smilax aspera
Practical: Paul and I undertook the clearance of the remaining borders on Station Road Gate.
Only two small borders remained and they ideally needed to be done before opening time. We worked with
rakes and hedgetrimmer, cropping everything down to the ground except for Penstemon “Raven” and Perovskia
atriplicifolia “Blue Spire” that were kept about 1 foot tall. We finished the job with the blower, giving a good
In the afternoon Paul and I concentrated on ferns, propagating several sporophytes in 9cm pots. It was essential
to use the right growing medium, i.e. well-draining, acidic and woodlandy. I mixed D&D mix with leafmould
Horticultural Diary – Experimental
December 2014 – 9th
Practical: First thing in the morning I have a walk-around with Pete within the areas of the Section.
The Experimental Glasshouses are the priority of the Section. Several research projects are currently conducted
on plants. They are studying the epigenetic markers on tomatoes. Basically, they are looking to an easy way to
look at the genus, shortening the plant selection in breeding.
There is also an experiment on bees’ pollination. Theory is that virus-infected plants are more attractive to
pollinators. A “bee-arena” has been installed for studying such a theory.
In the other glasshouse, a research is conducted on the link between marigolds and mycorrhizal fungi. Nearby,
seedlings of wheat (Triticum ssp.) are grown for competition experiment (different combination of plants). The
classic two-plants-in-a-pot system is used here to compare the results. Wheat is grown with two weeds that are
major competitors of the cereal crop. These are Brachypodium and Alopecurus. Marigolds and seedling have to
be water by using de-ionized water.
In the same glasshouse, an on-going project on rice is carried out. This is OGM material on both paddy and
After the tour to the Experimental Glasshouses, we walk outside and visit the collection of British wild plants.
Basically, two types of things are grown here. Plants having historic interest, and plants we really don’t need but
they are getting rare in the wild and need to be preserved.
Here we start some horticultural maintenance. I crop down potted specimens of Artemisia campestris, a classic
European heathland plant, which is only in the East Anglia in the UK.
Scleranthus perennis subsp. prostratus is species we have a conservation interest in. This is from the Breckland
and grows in poor soils. It suffers from competition and eutrophication.
I take some plants to the potting shed for re-potting. I do Scorzonera humilis, Silene italica, Veronica spicata
and Phleum phleoides.
British wild plant frame (Breckland, heathland, wetland, etc.) Seedlings of wheat (Triticum ssp.)
Observations: The tomato plants in the Glasshouses are not grown under the best horticultural regime and
present some problems. Evidences of oedema and blossom end rot are noticeable on several specimens.
Oedema is a physiological disorder caused by an imbalance of the plant’s water uptake and water loss. The
enlarged lead cells divide, and then rupture. This rupturing of the lead epidermis and inner cells causes the
raised blisters and distortion of the foliage. Problem can be avoided by using better draining growing media;
avoiding over-watering during extended periods of low light and cool temperature; reducing humidity by
improving the ventilation in the greenhouse.
Blossom end rot is a different physiological problem, caused by adverse growing conditions rather than a pest or
disease. Certain vegetables that form large fruits, such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes are particularly
susceptible. It is caused by lack of calcium in the fruits. This reduces cell membrane permeability and leads to
swelling of the cells followed by leakage and destruction of the membrane structure. By making minor
adjustments in watering you will usually be able to protect subsequent fruits from blossom end rot.
Oedema (left) and blossom end rot (right) on tomato plants
Practical: First thing is to finish with the re-potting work left from yesterday.
After that I do the watering of the glasshouses. During my time on section I will be in charge for the tomato
plants, as well as the seedlings of wheat and marigold (i.e. their watering, feeding, checking for p&d and general
After tea break it’s a trainee’s blitz, Alistar leading. We do the leaf clearance in the lawns along West Walk. Use
of tractor and trailer, blowers, rakes.
In the afternoon I’m back on section. We crop down the grasses in the borders by Cory Lodge, by using a hedge
trimmer. I crop down to the ground Molinia caerulea ‘Windspiel’ and Carex cv.; trim more lightly Stipa
gigantea; leave Luzula nivalis (which, technically, isn’t a grass). We finish the job by blowing throughout the
borders, clearing from the leaves and debris.
Leaf clearance blitz in West Walk Cropping down ornamental grasses in Cory Lodge borders
Observations: Mosses are grown on a tree’s stump for possible future display in the Fern Garden. The stump is
kept in the shady polytunnel. Pete keys several ferns out and labels them. We have Hypnum cupressiforme,
Orthotrichum affine and O. diaphanum.
In the Pit no.1 I notice plants of Corrigiola litoralis. The genus is familiar to me, as they are common garden
weeds in Italy. It is in the Molluginaceae family. Strapwort is a small, branched, annual plant, usually found
along muddy lake shores. The stems of the plant are reddish in colour and the leaves are long and oval in shape,
widest near the tip. The flowers are tiny, only 2mm across, and whitish-green.
Native mosses on a tree’s stump Corrigiola litoralis
Practical: First thing in the morning it’s going through a list of jobs to do over the next winter months.
After this briefing, I move to the Experimental Glasshouses, watering the tomatoes and the seedlings. Some of
the seedling s got mildew and will need spraying.
After tea break we all move outside, pricking out the ground throughout the National Collection of Geranium.
This collection is the legacy of Dr. Peter F. Yeo, the taxonomist who also established the collection of Ruscus. It
would appear Dr. P.F. Yeo is still haunting me! Geranium pratense is the very broadly distributed species,
almost like Ruscus aculeatus.
Other present taxa are Geranium renardi, G. macrorhizzum ‘Album’, G. pyrenaicum, G. x cantabrigiense, G.
dalmaticum, G. monacense var. monacense, G. aristatum and G. reflexum. It is important now to keep an eye on
the unwanted major self-seeders and get rid of them, otherwise the collection will look like an horrible mess
within a few months. Vigorous self-seeders are G. pratense, G. pratense var. sturtianum, G. asphodeloides x
oxonianum, G. sanguinem, G. pyrenaicum and G. albanum.
Obserations: Sugar beet washing came here instead of real top-soil (2 years ago). This is the medium which
results from the washing of the commercially harvested sugar beets. It is extremely silty (but not organic matter
at all) and gives a rather implantable growing medium.
Council compost was then mixed in order to improve the soil structure, by rotavating the ground down to about
2 meters. The soil structure is gradually improving, but still a few years will be necessary in order to get a good
loamy soil. Birch tree planting has been suggested. These trees are renowned to be extremely good in terms of
soil structure improvement, as they will stabilize the ground with their extensive root system.
National Collection of Geranium Beetroot washing and garden soil
Practical: First thing this morning is the pruning the tomatoes in the Glasshouses.
This is a long job and takes almost all the working day. Nevertheless, it is a very important job to do,
representing a big improvement in terms of maintenance and general hygiene over the Christmas holidays. I also
feed the tomatoes by using general tomato feed, high in potash.
In the afternoon I am back to the geraniums for some more pricking over. I look after clumps of G. clarkei
‘Kashir Purple’, G. himalayense and G. pratense var. stewartianum. I move the plants within the border, trying
to give them space and weed them through. After the geraniums, we move to the lavenders, basically doing the
same task. We use rakes, hoes and the cultivator.
In the last half a hour we get rid of some plants in the polytunnel that is no longer needed. We pay attention in
dividing the herbaceous or woody material from the compost, discarding them in two separate buckets.
Observations: After tea break trainees have the second class in Botanical Latin.
Following some notes of interest.
- There are two main points to bear in mind in the use of Botanical Latin: A) there are gendera; 2) the Latin
pronunciation is remarkably different compared to the English, especially in the case of the vowels.
- ph- and th- sounds are from Greek; also –on and –os.
- w, k, j are modern continental consonant.
- plants names are always composed by two words (A. novi-belgii, A. novae-zelandiae, C. bursa-pasturis).
- sativus (cultivated), caninus (of a dog, i.e. inferior), vernus (of spring), hyemalis (of winter), graveolens
(strong smelling), borealis / australis.
- declension (English for declinazione).
- neutral, l is almost silent.
- trees and shrubs are always feminine. Exceptions are Rubus, Euonymus, Ulex and Cotoneaster (masculine);
Acer and Ribes (neutral).
Pruning of the tomato plants in the Laboratories Glasshouses
Maintenance of the Geranium and Lavandula collections
Practical: This morning we undertake some jobs by the Ecological Mound.
I cage a specimen of Scilla peruviana which has been partly chewed by a muntjac. I use prickly twigs of
hawthorn; hopefully this will discourage the pests. Second job is to plant Succisa pratensis and Sanguisorba
officinalis in a border at the bottom of the Ecological Mound. These plants come from the British wild plants
collection and it will be interesting to display them to the public. I also fork out five small Geranium pratense
from the nearby chalk grassland bed and plant them around Succisa and Sanguisorba.
Succisa pratensis is similar to Knautia arvensis and Scabiosa columbaria; they all are in the Dipsacaceae.
Caging Scilla peruviana Planting in the Ecological Mound
Succisa pratensis Sanguisorba officinalis Geranium pratense
Practical: First thing in the morning is watering the Experimental Glasshouses; also regular checking for pests
and diseases. The wheat seedlings got mildew and need spraying.
After caring for the glasshouses, we move outside and clear the floor from the leaves around Sainsbury’s
Laboratories. The main concern is health and safety, as rotting leaves can become slippery and cause risk. The
other point obviously concerns aesthetic and presentation. I use a leaf blower within the gingkoes’ and olives’
yards. Pete then clears with a Billy Goat and rake, giving a good finish. The yards should remain nice and
presentable till next year, giving that we won’t have strong, easterly winds over the next two weeks.
In the afternoon we start the digging of the large bed where the Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus)
used to be cultivated. The tubers were forked out and the soil left uneven and still weedy. So we start cultivating
the soil, leveling it and taking out the remaining tubers as well as the perennial weeds.
Leaf clearance of the gingkoes (left) and olives (right) yards around Sainsbury’s Laboratories
Observations: Helianthus tuberosus is widely cultivated across the temperate zone and used as a root
vegetable. It is native to eastern North America. It can be used as a substitute for potato, but, because the
presence of the carbohydrate inulin, its starch is difficult to process and assimilate for the human body.
However, it has been promoted as a healthy choice for diabetics, because fructose is better tolerated then sugar
Practical: In the morning I am busy tidying up the Experimental Glasshouses, which will be sprayed tomorrow.
It is therefore important to prepare and clear the environment before using the chemicals. I first squeeze all the
trays of the rice plants on a single bench, in the way that the illumination on the other bench can be turned off
with a considerable save of energy. Then I sweep throughout the glasshouses.
From first tea break till the end of the day I am back to the Jerusalem artichokes’ bed, carrying on the digging.
Preparing the Glasshouses for the winter spraying session Digging the Jerusalem artichokes’ bed
Observations: Digging can be a tedious job sometimes, but we try to make it interesting by discussing about
the different things we come across during the job.
- I learn that Bromus is a vast genus (160-170 species) in the Poaceae. I thought it was Poa, but now I know that
Bromus typically has opposite ranks of leaves and generally not prow-shaped leaves as characteristic in many
- There are three main groups of plants having latex stems among the British natives: Papaveraceae,
Euphorbiaeae and a group of Compositae (plus Acer campestre) Pete also mentions about the different
systems and criteria alternatively suggested for grouping such a vast family as Compositae.
- Fumaria officinalis is well-spread in the bed. It is in the Papaveraceae, commonly known as common fumitory
or earth smoke. It is native to the British Isles.
- Apomixis is a replacement of the normal sexual reproduction by asexual reproduction, without fertilization.
Apomictically reproduced offspring are genetically identical to the parent plant. Apomictic British plants are
Sorbus, Taraxacum, Crataegus, Rubus, Poa. Genera with apomixes are quite common in certain families, e.g.
in Asteraceae, Poaceae and Rosaceae. Although the evolutionary advantages of sexual reproduction are lost,
apomixes can pass along traits fortuitous for evolutionary fitness.
- An observation comes on rhizomes of Convolvulus arvensis and Sonchus arvensis. They look very similar, but
Sonchus smells a bit peppery. On the other hand, Equisetum rhizomes are remarkably peculiar; stringy, black
and showing a characteristic train’s wheels pattern if cross-cutted.
- The epithet horridus is a “false friend”. In fact, it actually means bristly and not horrid as the name suggests.
- Easter Ledgers is the omelet with early spring greeneries. We suggest the spears of Ruscus aculeatus as a
- Mabberley’s The Plant Book is a good reference for researching on plant families; the other one being
Flowering Plants of the World by Heywood.
Bromus sp. Pernicious rhizomatous or tap roots can be used feed making
Practical: First thing in the morning is to continue to prepare the Experimental Glasshouses for the spraying
session this afternoon. I sweep and vacuum-clean, as well as secure the GM material in auto-clave bags for
disposal. I also water the plants and spray with fungicide (copper ammonium) on the wheat seedlings which
have shown evidences of mildew.
After first tea break is the visit to the Garden Herbarium in Sainsbury’s Laboratories. We are shown around and
thought about the importance of herbaria for science and research; interesting definition of scalesias as the
“Darwin finches” of the plant world; also learning that Abrus precatorius is the most poisonous plant on the
planet, one seed being sufficient to kill a person.
In the afternoon I clear the verge along the native hedgerow from the last autumn leaves. I use a lawnmower and
rake, doing the fringe around the Genetic Garden as well.
Observations: Trentepohlia is showing itself on a trunk of Fraxinus excelsior.
This is a genus of filamentous green algae, living free on terrestrial supports such as tree trunks and wet rocks or
symbiotically in lichens. It is therefore involved in the process of lichenasation. Its presence is clear here and it
would be nice to make an interpretation for the public.
Mildew on wheat seedlings Spraying damage on Jatropha leaves
Clearing the laid hedgerow Trentepohlia on Fraxinus excelsior
Practical: First thing in the morning is the caring for the Experimental Glasshouses.
The glasshouses were sprayed yesterday with Pyrethrum. Unfortunately there is some damage on the leaves of
Jatropha curcas. On the other hand, the red spider mites on the rice plants look now dead. I feed the tomatoes
and spraying the wheat seedling with insecticide.
Then I move to the laid hedgerow and scrape with a metal rake the surface which has been smeared yesterday
by using the lawn mower. While doing this job, I also collect the remaining leaves from yesterday.
After tea break I move to the artichoke bed and carry on with the digging. I also do the British native plant
frame, which involves weeding, sweeping and general tidying up. We bring some plants in the potting shed for
re-potting. I look after a specimen of Cladium mariscus; this is a sedge native to Europe and Asia and makes a
good Fen plant, where grows in base-rich boggy areas and lakesides, especially around moving water. It is
cultivated here in the Fen Garden but is not performing very well, probably because the water is too stagnant.
Meanwhile Pete is repotting a specimen of Juncus balticus x J. inflexus, a British endemic.
I look after a specimen of Ligustrum vulgare (dwarf form); finally I pick five specimens of Dianthus
gratinopolitanus and repot them. I save some of the remaining specimens for the cottage.
Observations: This afternoon I learn something about the genetics of double-flower mutations.
Double-flower forms often arise when some or all of the stamens in a flower are replaced by petals. These types
of mutations, where one organ in a developing organism is replaced with another, are known as homeotic
mutations. They are usually recessive, although there are exceptions, such as in carnations.
Ligustrum vulgare Dwarf Form Dianthus gratinopolitanus outside Le Cottage
Practical: First thing in the morning is the regular caring of the Experimental Glasshouses.
Then we go through the nettles in the glasshouse pit. This is an experiment on Urtica species.
We have here specimens of U. dioica and U. galeopsifolia, showing genetic and plastic variations. We press
some of the most interesting samples and store them in the Cory Lodge Herbarium. It is my first time assisting
to a herbarium pressing and find it quite interesting.
In the afternoon we prepare some material for the science students and tidy up the glasshouses’ potting shed,
also washing some of the 10cm plastic pots which will be needed next week.
Storing nettles The frame of the British native plants
Practical: First thing in the morning is the caring for the Experimental Glasshouses. Being Monday, I water and
feed the tomatoes as well as all the seedlings; also checking for p&d.
Before tea break I clear the leaves around Parthenocissus henryana by Plant Growth Facility building.
Observations: Parthenocissus henryana is a new entry form me. I only know P. tricuspidata (Boston ivy) and
P. quinquefolia (Virginia creeper). P. henryana is commonly known as the Chinese creeper or silver vein
creeper. It has apparently a more restrained growth than the other Virginia creeper, with leaves attractive in
autumn as always in the genus. This is a plant worth to keep an eye on over the next year.
Parthenocissus henryana by Plant Growth Facility building Partenocissus henryana [internet database]
Practical: First thing in the morning is the caring of the Experimental Glasshouses.
For the remaining part of the working day I dig the artichoke bed. A nice, healthy specimen of Scrophularia
nodosa is growing wild here as a weed, so we decide to plant it in the Ecological Mound.
Last job of the year 2014 is to overwinter the two specimens of Liparis loeselii (fen orchid) of the British wild
plants collection in the shady polytunnel. Due to the lost of habitats, this is now extremely rare in the wild and is
an important plant for the Botanic Garden to cultivate in terms of conservation and future scientific research.
Observations: Scrophularia nodosa is a perennial herbaceous plant found in temperate regions of the Northern
hemisphere except North America. Therefore, it’s not restrictively a British native, having a more cosmopolitan
distribution. It grows typically in moist and cultivated waste ground.
It grows upright, with thick, sharply square succulent stems from a distinctive horizontal rootstock (see picture).
Its leaves are opposite, ovate at the base and lanceolate at the tip, all having toothed margins. The flowers are in
loose cymes in oblong or pyramidal panicles. The individual flowers are globular, with five green sepals
encircling green or purple petals. This colouration will hopefully match well with the close specimens of
Succisa pratensis and Sanguisorba officinalis, which I planted in the border two weeks ago.
Pete also tells me that the plant was thought, by the doctrine of signatures, to be able to cure the throat disease
scrofula, because of the throat-like shape of its flowers.
Liparis loeselii Rootstock of Scrophularia nodosa