Thursday, August 30, 2012

Impatiens stenantha

This dainty little flower belongs to Impatiens stenantha, one of two hardy Impatiens species I have added to the garden this year (the other being Impatiens omeiana). I must say, I have been most impressed with it.

Impatiens stenantha
Being naturally low growing, this makes an ideal understory subject for a part shaded border providing that it has access to enough moisture. I have found that it wilts alarmingly at the slightest hint of thirst - so much so that I have feared the worst for it on a number of occasions! Thankfully, it seems resilient enough and has bounced back each time without any problem. It's other big hate appears to be bright sunlight which causes the leaf margins to go crispy and brown.

Whilst the greeny red leaves are not anything special, being rather dull in appearance, they do serve to show off the small bright yellow blooms to perfection. Mine must have been flowering now for two months solid and shows no sign of stopping yet. Pretty good value for a flowering plant! The flowers are small, only a 2cm or so in length, but they are long lasting and bring a welcome but subtle splash of colour to a border that is otherwise mostly foliage at this time of year.

12 months ago, I personally hadn't even heard of Impatiens stenantha (although I was familiar with one or two other hardy Impatiens species) and yet, it's a cracking little plant! A perfect example of why I find gardening so interesting. It's a never ending journey of discovery, and it's a pretty safe bet that in another 12 months I'll be growing something else completely new to me!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Iochroma australis

Sometimes, I imagine plants to be like people. They can be big, loud and charismatic. Or sometimes they can be shy and unobtrusive. I would include Iochroma australis amongst the latter. It's the kind of plant that is easy to walk past, and yet once you take the time to have a closer look, you'll find that this flowering shrub is a thing of beauty.

Iochroma australis has just finished flowering (it's been out for weeks), but I simply had to show a few photos of the small delicate blue / purple flowers.


This particular plant is growing in a client's garden in nearby Budleigh Salterton. The garden sits perched right on the cliff tops, protected from the salty winds by a tall hedge, and is a bit of a horticultural treasure trove - the owner being just as plant mad as I am! It is a pleasure to help maintain this garden, there are simply so many interesting plants crammed into the beds.


Iochroma australis comes from South America, and is generally regarded as being a half-hardy shrub here in the UK, but Budleigh Salterton enjoys a mild climate and it seems perfectly happy planted out without any protection, although it is deciduous in the winter.


With each flower only a few centimetres long, and more often than not partially hidden amongst the leaves, Iochroma appears to have been largely ignored by many gardeners, who instead opt for its much larger flowered relatives, Brugmansia or Datura, which have a bit more presence in the garden.

It's a shame, really, as these delicate flowers would surely grace any garden. Sometimes you need to get up close to plants to really appreciate them fully.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance

Following on from my last post about 'The Jungle' at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, I thought it would be nice to show a series of photos from Trengwainton Gardens, near Penzance. We visitied the day after Heligan, way back at the end of May.

Whilst Trengwainton is very different to Heligan, I found it to be just as exciting. The gardens are renowned for their collection of rare specimen exotic trees and shrubs, and I was not to be disappointed. From a plantsman's point of view, this place is paradise!

Owned by the National Trust, this 26 acre garden boasts a wonderful microclimate thanks to it's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the gulf stream on the South Western edge of the UK. It is close enough to the sea to benefit from the associated mild winters, but far enough away to avoid issues with excessive salt scorch and exposure. The dense planting of woodland surrounding the gardens also provides an effective windbreak, ensuring that the many decidedly tender plants flourish within the grounds. 

One of the highlights of Trengwainton is its stream garden. This small watercourse has been brilliantly planted with marginal aquatic plants and moisture loving species. Immaculate hostas jostled with brightly coloured primulas and Zantedeschia aethiopica - both the standard white form and the ever popular 'Green Goddess'. We timed our visit to perfection - the stream garden was looking stunning!

Hostas and primulas - a perfect choice for moist ground in dappled light.
As a gardener, plant combinations such as this are always inspiring!
Zantedeschia, primulas and crocosmia in the Stream Garden.
Along with the healthy stands of Zantedeschia, other plants from the aroid family included Arum italicum  and Lysichiton americanus - the American Skunk Cabbage. The latter had finished flowering, but evidence of it's bright yellow spathes remained in the shape of the seed heads, covered in ripening fruits. Technically, this structure is termed an infructescence. How about that for a word to casually slip into conversation?!

Lysichiton americanus - the American Skunk Cabbage with ripening seeds.
Trengwainton has a remarkable collection of Tree Ferns, and I cannot ever remember seeing so many Dicksonia antarctica growing in one place! This species seemed to be self sowing itself, with young plants growing all over the place - testament to the mild and humid conditions. And not only were there lots of them, but some were big. Really big! In fact, some of the Dicksonia antarctica were the biggest I've ever seen.

Other species of tree fern were also to be seen. Dicksonia fibrosa and Dicksonia squarrosa both looked to be in good health. If only I could get away with growing them here in my garden!
Petasites in the foreground, Dicksonia antarctica in the background.
Some of the Dicksonia were enourmous! Cyathea dealbata in the background.
The prize for the most impressive fern had to go to Cyathea dealbata, of which there were a couple of simply gorgeous specimens. This fast growing species is notoriously tender. I could see no signs of pots being sunk into the ground for the summer months, so I assume they were permanent plantings. A mighty fine effort indeed! For a truly tropical effect, it is hard to beat the sight of the wonderfully luxuriant fronds and black trunk. I've been keen to grow this plant for some time, and if I ever find a small juvenile plant for sale I'd find it hard to resist!

Cyathea dealbata. I want it!
Backlit Cyathea dealbata fronds. Nice!
With so many trees and shrubs of note, it is hard to pick just a few to highlight here. However, I will make a mention of this Pseudopanax which was starting to produce it's adult leaves, as opposed to the long stiff leaves found on a juvenile plant. Close by, a large Fatsia polycarpa was busy pushing out a large flush of new leaves.

Silouetted pseudopanax
Fatsia polycarpa
The notoriously fickle Coryline indivisia appeared perfectly at home, growing on a sunny bank in a woodland clearing. This relative of the much more common, and much less demanding Cordyline australis, has a reputation for suddenly going to terminal decline for no apparent reason. The roots of this plant need a constant environment with no significant fluctuations in moisture levels or sudden changes in temperature. Consequently, it never survives for long in a pot, and needs very careful siting in the garden.
Cordyline indivisia
My final photo of this stunning garden is of an impressive Schefflera taiwaniana. This plant is gradually becoming more widely available and is highly effective within the exotic style garden. Commonly seen as a single stemmed small shrub, there were several specimens at Trengwainton that were moderate sized trees, and were certainly the largest that I'd set eyes upon. This particular species is on the wish list for my own garden, but I can only dream of a specimen the size of these!

Schefflera taiwaniana - not a bad size! Cyathea dealbata behind.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Of mice and Gardens...


Have you missed me?!

Two months have come and gone since I last wrote a post on this blog. And the reason for my neglect I hear you ask? Well, the finger of blame can be firmly pointed at the simply massive amount of work I've had on recently. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. Thankfully, work levels have returned to a more manageable level and normal blogging service can be resumed. It's time to dust off the keyboard and get typing!

Much has happened here in my own garden, not least the annoying attack on our strawberry patch by a pesky family of wood mice. Whilst most of the space in the garden is used for growing exotic style plants, I'll always grow strawberries. I simply cannot resist their deliciously sweet and juicy fruits. However, this year, whilst eagerly parting the leaves of my lush and previously fruit-laden plants I found that virtually every strawberry, both ripe and unripe had been nipped off, partially nibbled and then cached in a pile, presumable ready for seconds at a later date. Sometimes gardening can be very demoralising!

One down, but how many more?!
Being a bit of a softy, I set a humane mouse trap and so far have caught several of the little pests, including a disturbingly young one. They've all been taken for a drive. I do hope that they're not now causing destruction in someone else's garden!

Moving back on topic, and picking up from where I left off back at the beginning of June (was it really that long ago?!) I thought it would be nice to share a few photos from my Cornish travels.

First up, here are a load of shots from the Lost Gardens of Heligan. If you've not been to visit this garden then you really should! There are many different styles of garden on offer here and Heligan really does have something to interest every taste. The remarkable history of the gardens and their subsequent restoration simply adds to the feeling of the place.

The area known as 'The Jungle' was my personal highlight, and this is where this bunch of photos were taken. The Jungle is sub-tropical planting on a grand scale and is situated in a south facing valley containing a stream and a series of ponds, creating the perfect microclimate: warm, humid and sheltered. As the name implies, the whole area is densely vegetated, both with sub-tropical plantings and encroaching woodland. During the garden's restoration, much of the invading undergrowth was cleared away, and the surviving original plantings have been supplemented by newer plants that compliment the original sub-tropical planting.

I'll let this short selection of photos do the talking!

The top pond, surrounded by huge tree ferns, gunnera, bamboos, trachycarpus and wonderful stands of Lysichiton americanus - the American Skunk Cabbage

Arisarum proboscideum creates a carpet of leaves.

Crinodendron hookerianum - The Chilean Lantern Bush.

Gunnera manicata was abundant. And huge!

I'd love the chance to work on such a scale! Big vistas over stands of Gunnera in The Jungle.
Old Trachycarpus fortunei framed by the beautiful leaves of Kalopanax septemlobus.
Beschorneria yuccoides in full flow.
More Beschorneria yuccoides, this time framing a flowering Trachycarpus.
No 'UK Jungle' is compleat without Musa basjoo! They had one or two in this planting!
More Musa basjoo looking striking amongst the other foliage.
Musella lasiocarpa. I've never managed to overwinter this banana relative.
Tree ferns? Check. Cornwall does Dicksonia antarctica rather well. Heligan has some fantastic giants!
Hopefully these shots give a slight taster of the Heligan Jungle experience! The rest of the gardens are well worth a visit too and contain much more of great interest to the sub-tropical gardener. As I mentioned earlier, get yourself down to Heligan if you've not been before!


I'll add some photos from Trengwainton Gardens in another post (another brilliant garden near Penzance) and I promise that you'll not have to wait so long for them. Honest!