Thursday, 15 June 2017

Oh what a mess!

Worsbrough Cemetery May 2017
Take care of the weeds and the plants will take care of themselves
Normally when I arrive for my monthly stint at Worsbrough cemetery my spirits are uplifted by this beautiful place. Sometimes they plunge to the ground when I hear the comment above - or something similar. “What a shame” is a common variation.
The people of Barnsley are lovely kind generous folk but compliments are not on their agenda and most don’t really care for natural gardening. 
On my visit this May I was feeling nostalgic. It is a time of the year when the cemetery looks particularly lovely. My thoughts went ahead to the question as to whether it will it be ever the same?
I Informed the cemetery guardians six months ago that 2017 would be my final year. I started C1995 and have returned every single month doing my best to contain it. Three acres or so of cemetery is no mean task. I have enjoyed every minute and my efforts have been rewarded. It is by no means pristine - that is not possible without considerable labour. 

It is a long drive to Barnsley and now I have passed three quarters of a century the dream has subsided. I do hope others can take on the mantle.

Clothed with garden plants
The valerian was very popular at Chelsea four years ago
I like to cover the ground with self sown vegetation.
These are not weeds
The birch were self sown too
The only Euphorbia stigiana in Barnsley thrives here in the shade

With little help from me the poached egg plant which is annual returns every year and keeps the ground weed free 

The hellebores were already in flower in January 
It's a good time to see the aquilegias
Frothy heucherella remains a compact clump and sisyrinchium spreads by seed

Pink panther prowls
The grass paths are cut by a contractor
It might look overgrown but it is better than the original six foot high brambles

Heavy herbaceous tops might get cut back in Winter but not these

Looking back to the cemetery gate

I have not shown you the older and wilder lower half of the cemetery today

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Black boot and myrmecochory. A challenge

What is going on and what is this plant?

You can look at this two ways
Peter Williams tested me out with these pictures and I am passing the quiz on. In several weeks time I will extend this into an article. Although I will respond as usual to any comments I will not tell you if your answer is right until that time.
Please tell as much about it as you can. Your only prize will be some reader’s admiration or even their ire.

I will have egg on my face if no-one makes any suggestions

This will make things easier

Easier still - but only part of the answer
I hope some of you might like to read some of my other strange postings

Dear Harry put this one on without telling me

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Pictures of Edinburgh Botanic Garden

A potpourri of Peter's pictures

In my third post about our visit to Edinburgh I am showing Peter Williams’ fine pictures to tempt you to go there yourself. I will start with those taken outdoors where wonder of wonders entrance is free.


Cathi, Brenda, and Julie were very patient 

A very fine perennial variety

I have given up trying to grow blue meconopsis even though I have acid soil. I wish I could.

Not yet in flower the herbaceous border is stunning
This seed raised perennial is also admired in my own garden
Peter always has an eye for the rhododendrons

The twinflower is best seen growing as a native in Scotland
There is a modest charge of £6.50 to go inside the extraordinary greenhouses

It's only my apple - honestly

Edinburgh's water features are stunning

Water lilies are so photogenic

We had to drag Peter away
It was the same at Kew last year!

Peter found plenty of rhododendrons in the greenhouse

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Three ancient plants at Edinburgh Botanic Garden

This is the second of three posts about our recent trip to Edinburgh

Very innovative to grow a wollemi in the foyer

You can see that Cathi is a leader of fashion and we had a spot of rain
I have written before about the three fossil trees ginkgo, metasequoia and wollemia which all have the distinction of being known as a fossil before living specimens were discovered. Araucaria araucana, the monkey puzzle tree is often described as a living fossil because of its own ancient vintage.
Equisetum which you might hate in your garden hails from the carboniferous era and if you see the giant form in an Edinburgh greenhouse you might think you were there. 

Conservation of Araucaria at Edinburgh Botanic
The monkey puzzle tree hails from Chile and Argentina where it is still widespread but is described as ‘endangered’ and is now receiving attention to preserve it and promote its benefits as timber and food. Indeed the popularity of its nutritious seed may be one of the reasons for its decline  - together of course  with loss of trees by indiscriminate logging.

Araucaria is not at present endangered in UK gardens and indeed there are many fine specimens in the city of Edinburgh. It has even been suggested for forestry planting. It’s a pity that it takes forty years to produce its heavy yield of edible seed. A concern about its long term security is that UK stock has been propagated historically from very limited imported material and has low genetic variability. Apart from making for the boring uniformity of monkey puzzle trees, lack of genetic diversity can lead to vulnerability to new environmental threats such as pest and disease.

Research back in Chile has shown that their native araucarias’ decline has not contributed to loss of genetic diversity which gives great hope for its future.

Monkey puzzles at Edinburgh
Edinburgh scientists have been involved with araucaria conservation and have planted a small display of  genetically distinct plants.

I regret not reading the plaque more carefully

As they can live a thousand years they might become quite crowded

The thick and the thin
Wollemi at Edinburgh

We were impressed with the ingenuity of displaying a wollemi pine in the foyer where it clearly is thriving and hitting the roof. Just as well as some wit declared its growth once grazed by dinosaurs, thrives when cut back. I have previously written in more detail about wollemi. An interesting feature is that in the now expanding world population of wollemi there is zero genetic diversity whether they have been propagated by vegetative means or seed. Every wollemi in the world is genetically the same clone.

Equisetum at Edinburgh
You will not find it anywhere as a weed in the garden.They are too gooder gardeners for that! In the glasshouse however they have wonderful huge specimens. As it is a botanic garden we had better grace them with the correct common name which is horsetail.

I wonder when they cut them back to maintain fresh new growth?

What a great idea to colour the concrete and engrave the path

This is my more detailed post about the Wollemi pine and monkey puzzle. It would seem that there is now less concern about the genetic diversity of araucaria in Chile than there was when I wrote it.
My post about controlling equisetum seems to have hit a raw nerve and has been read  30,000 times

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Hardy cacti at Edinburgh Botanic Garden

Hardy opuntia up North
We have been up on the train to arguably the best botanic garden in The UK. We had a wonderful day and I would like to share in three consecutive daily posts some of the things that thrilled me. The first two are somewhat idiosyncratic but in the third post I will show you Peter Williams’s pictures to really persuade you to go.

Growing cactus outside in Scotland
(Well nearly the open)

Although most cacti are not at all hardy many actually grow in their native habitat in extremely cold conditions and some can be grown outside in the UK. The main problem is excess wetness, usually in Winter. They hate continuously wet surfaces due to rain and heavy dews and the roots of most forms do not stand Winter wet soil.

If you select hardy varieties no artificial heat is required to grow them but most require the dry of an unheated  greenhouse for three or four of the coldest months of the year. That is unless you create a simple permanent structure such as the Edinburgh display

A simple cover is needed to keep the leaves dry. It will not keep out all the rain but will be sufficient to avoid prolonged wet periods and keep the soil fairly dry. The back wall is probably more for display purposes than heat retention and extra protection. There would be more light without it. The raised bed is optional as long as the growing medium is very well drained

Hardy cacti at Edinburgh Botanic Garden
Opuntia, the prickly pear is the hardiest genus

I felt very nostalgic about the hardy varieties I have previously purchased but which sadly no longer survive. Not this one that grows very well at home completely outside.

You can see how thrilled I am at discovering one of my gardening passions
Echinopsis are easy to flower

An eclectic mixture of plants that appreciate ‘a little help’ in Winter

The Edinburgh display is not exclusively cacti and some ferns like the same Winter conditions. Providing they do not cast too much shade companion plants give extra protection.

Stones and gravel mulch look good and help provide ideal conditions

This is an excellent source of small hardy cactus plants

My own main post about growing hardy cactus

You might like to read about our visit last year to Kew 

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