Friday, April 20, 2012

The Praying Fatsia

It's been rather wet here this week and I've got soaked more times than I care to mention. Earlier today was no exception - heavy squally showers with a healthy dose of hail thrown in for good measure. A lovely day for being a gardener!

But despite the rain, it's always a pleasure working with plants and I consider myself fortunate to spend so much of my time outside. I'll never get tired of the endless variation found in the plant kingdom with all of its shapes, colours, scents and texture.

As an example, today I snapped a couple of photos of Fatsia japonica. The newly emerging leaves reminded me of 'praying hands'.

Perhaps they were praying for better weather!

A cluster of new leaves on Fatsia japonica. Praying for better weather!
Getting 'hands on' with Fatsia japonica
The downy covering of tormentum really adds something to the texture of the new leaves.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A legacy of Spring colour

In my last post, I made a brief reference to a weekend trip up to North Devon to visit family. It's only an hours drive or so from here, but it has a completely different feel to it. A better feel. Somehow it is a wilder and harsher landscape than the rural countryside of East Devon where I live, and that is the kind of feel I like in a place. Not that it's unpleasant around here I hasten to add, far from it! But the combination of rugged coast and countryside ticks all the boxes for me. The growing climate isn't bad either. Which all begs the question: why haven't I moved yet?! Perhaps one day, you never know!

Anyway, during my stay, I spent a contented hour or so wondering around the garden and snapping photos in the Spring sunshine. The garden is on a south facing slope, half way up the side of a steep valley which leads down to the sea just a few miles away. The result is an enviable microclimate - cold frosty air sinks to the valley floor, and the southerly aspect ensures maximum warmth from the sun. It is not uncommon to see frost down in the valley on a winters morning, only to find that the garden is frost free. Sadly, the last 2 or 3 winters have been more severe, but I still consider this to be a perfect growing location.

And I'm not the only one. So too did Humphrey Welch, the renowned conifer expert and author of numerous books on conifers. He lived here for a number of years and has left a legacy of mature conifers, trees and shrubs in the garden. Sadly, I must confess I'm no expert on conifers, this being a plant family that I have never really got to grips with although my appreciation for them is growing. For anyone interested, there is an interesting article on Humphrey Welch and his work here.

Humphrey Welch's interests also spread to Magnolias, and there are no less than 11 mature trees standing proud alongside the conifers. Again, I have to hold my hand up and admit that I am no expert on Magnolias either! However, at this time of the year they really steal the show, and combined with the spring bulbs and the carpet of wild primroses and violets, the garden was a feast of colour.

For those of you who like your plants a little more exotic in appearance, take a look at this veteran specimen of Chamaerops humilis!

Chamaerops humils - a lot larger than this picture implies.

I don't know the history of this particular plant, but it would be a fair assumption that this is another of Humphrey's plantings. The palm has developed multiple trunks and stands around 8 feet high, not that this is easy to see from the photographs. It flowers each year but has never set seed as there are no other flowering sized Chamaerops humils close by to pollinate it (Chamaerops humils carries either male or female flowers so cannot self pollinate). I imagine that the number of plants of this size in the UK that have been grown from young plantings is relatively small. Most of the larger ones that I know of have been planted as large specimens.

I'll leave you with two photos of some aroids from the garden (couldn't resist them!). The first is an attractively marked Arum maculatum, growing deep inside the Chamaerops humilis, and the second is Arisarum proboscideum, the Mouse Plant, which is slowly building up a nice colony in a shady spot.

An attractive form of our native Arum maculatum. Shame this species can be so weedy!
I love this little Arisarum proboscideum