Wordless Wednesday – A blushing silver pear

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The delicate, pink blush of Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ blossoms are just showing

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All wrapped up in furry white mohair-like sepals

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By the time the buds are completely open the pink will be gone

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Revealing large snowy white blossoms with effervescent purple spotty anthers

Posted in The home garden, Trees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

In a Vase on Monday – Amethyst and Turquoise

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I love seeing blues appear in the spring flowers: the scilla, hyacinth, pulmonaria and anemone, but when I went to look for some to pick I found that I’ve only flirted with the true blues in the garden. My bunch of flowers in today’s vase for Cathy’s IOVAM meme is therefore more amethyst and turquoise in tone.

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I’ve cut some freshly emerged Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ for dark foliage, before the frosts hit it this week. Euphorbia ‘Chameleon’ is unfurling in heavy plum colours, having seeded all around, so a few shoots of those have been added too. They are nice with the flowering currant, which I can never get fully behind but grow mainly for the bees.

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Our grape hyacinth ‘Valerie Finnis’ is just beginning to flower in pots and they are gentler on the eye than the cobalt blue more common type, so I’ve collected a few of those too.

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A hellebore (self-seed) hangs over the vase like a lady’s parasol. I don’t have that many hellebores in fact so I rarely pick any, but today I  purchase two new Harvington speckled types: one yellow and one pink, so in future things maybe more interesting.

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With the recent warmer weather  Erysimum ‘Bowles’s mauve’ is just coming into its stride (although it has flowered all winter long).

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I’ve been cutting down dogwood over the last two weeks, but in places it was already quite advanced into leaf, so for foliage I’ve used a little bit of that in the mix and a branch of tree heather ‘Alberts Gold’. It has been raining heavily this afternoon, so many flowers were closed or battered by the time I came to gather the blooms together. These flowers are therefore ‘sturdy’ examples. Fortunately, the sun came out for the last of the photos and that has lifted the colours somewhat … even as the temperatures are falling rapidly.

Do check out Cathy’s anniversary vase and also the enthusiastic contributions linked in the comment section.

Have a good week!

Posted in Flowers, Spring | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

A walnut collection and hard graft

I know that I’ve mentioned before that the National Trust at Wimpole Estate looks after a National Collection of Juglans. One of the reasons that Plant Heritage encourages the creation of national collections is to future-proof the incredible stock of cultivated plants that exists in the UK. So collection holders undertake to conserve, grow, propagate, document their charges. It is a labour of obsession and love.

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Juglans mandschurica ssp. sieboldiana is stunningly ornamental tree

I would be interested to know how often other collections get called upon to provide material for propagation, but I know that it is fairly rare request for the walnut trees at Wimpole. However, a few weeks back we were hosts to some visitors who wished to take cuttings of some of the Juglans regia cultivars for grafting and I have to say that it was a great feeling to have the trees serve this purpose.

In fact our visitors, John Bilton and Nick Dunn, are on a tree hunt following a call from the Royal Horticultural Society for information on heritage walnut varieties in southern England. They hope to be able to track down and reproduce varieties trialled in collaboration with the East Malling Research Station between 1929 and 1935. John Bilton explains what they have previously been up to in this Veteran Tree Association newsletter (from page 6).

Back at Wimpole, armed with pruning tools and collection bags, we worked our way around the Pleasure Grounds visiting a list of ~ 10 specimens of interest.

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Nick Dunn taking cuttings from J. regia ‘Pedro’

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Documenting and bagging cuttings

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Good scion material (hopefully)

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Taking material from J. regia ‘Tremlett’s Giant’

After a busy morning, Nick and John had collected a decent amount of material from each target tree. The plan is that these scions will be grafted on to prepared Juglans nigra stock. Apparently the chance of a successful graft is higher with this combination. The grafting process will use the hot-pipe technique, which again increases graft success rate.

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Hot callus grafting system at Frank Matthews Nurseries (Courtesy Nick Dunn)

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Bench graft hot-pipe set up with Aesculus scions (with kind permission Nick Dunn)

Hopefully, the end results will be healthy clean grafts, like this example below.

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Bench graft Walnut (Courtesy Nick Dunn)

We should know more later in the year …

Posted in Food, fruit, Trees, Wimpole Hall | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Tulip ‘Ancilla’ and the dusty footsteps

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Ever wonder how tulip petals get so cover in pollen?

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It’s those dratted pollen beetles. They bathe in the amazing pollen harvest and then …

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… walk out of the flower and on to the next

This is Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Ancilla’ with gold-centred, red-ringed,  waterlily-shaped flowers

Posted in Flowers, Spring, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Dusted with gold

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One of the first bumblebees to emerge after winter, a queen Buff-tailed bumblebee covers herself with pollen as she forages amongst the crocuses

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Honey bee doing pull-ups, with pollen sacs adding a bit of resistance work!

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Posted in Bees, Flowers, Wildlife, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Catkins – Dancing, tumbling, pollen-laden heralds of spring

The other day as I came round the corner of the alley, the sun was shining directly behind a young hazel tree and light was being dispersed by long, bouncing catkins. I had my phone with me so I took a photo:

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Hazel catkins, Corylus avellana

You can see a tiny red female flower glowing on the right, towards the bottom. Catkins always remind me of Dick Sanders, who was my RHS level 2 horticultural lecturer. He loved quizzes and to prepare us for the short answer section of the exams he would punctuate dry theory sections with fast response tests to name 6 or 10 of something related to the topic: ten dry shade plants, six plants that grow in water etc. Catkins* came up when wind pollination was covered of course. But the test was a tough task, because once you’ve mentioned the obvious ‘hazel, willow and alder’ what’s next??? I struggled for one or two more, but didn’t get to six in time. Yes, you had only a minute to write them down.

In case you are interested and have been left hanging by the challenge, as I was, to get you to six I’ll give you: oak, walnut and poplar and in case you want to stetch it to ten there are also birch, mulberry, hornbeam, sweet chestnut. Amazing isn’t it? You probably knew most of them, but had never thought about it.

Since I was taking pictures of a golden alder the week before

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Alder catkins, Alnus incana ‘Aurea’

…  I though that I would collate some catkin pictures to share, because catkins are harbingers of the spring and I am so looking forward to that. Due to their nature, catkins are often very transient features on the trees that they adorn and are easily missed. You might be more likely to notice them on the ground though, torn off by winds.

So here are six catkin producing trees (sorry, but my photos don’t extend to ten):

Hazel, Corylus avellana

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Hazel, Corylus avellana

Alder, this one is Alnus glutinosa

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Alder, Alnus glutinosa

Willow, this is goat willow,  Salix caprea

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Willo, Salix caprea

Oak, an example would be Quercus robur

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Oak, Quercus robur

Walnut, this example is Juglans mandschurica

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Chinese walnut, Juglans mandschurica

Poplar: This is a black poplar, Populus nigra

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Black poplar, Populus nigra

* Catkins  comes from the old Dutch word katteken, for kitten’s tail, but they are also referred to as aments (from the latin word amentum meaning strap)

Posted in Spring, Trees | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Wings of Life

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The beautiful, moss-aged samara of Acer Griseum – ready to fly

Posted in Trees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments