Plants of the week - May 2020

07th May 2020

Plants of the week - May 2020

Our team are always on the look out for new developments in the gardens. Each week, our Living Collections Manager, Graham, will be sharing some points of interest with us.

7. May

Campanula rotundifolia and Hyacinthoides non-scripta

This week we’ve chosen two plants - Campanula rotundifolia, the common harebell or Scottish bluebell, and Hyacinthoides non-scripta, the common bluebell. Although similar in common naming they’re from separate families and differ in several ways.

The former is a perennial, flowering, herbaceous plant in the bellflower family found in many areas of the northern hemisphere which produces pale to mid violet-blue petals fused together into a bell shape, about 12 to 30 mm long with five long, pointed green sepals behind, from summer through autumn. The Scottish bluebell favours moist but well-drained soil in sunny or partially shaded site and thrives in areas that have an average temperature below 0 °C in the cold months and above 10 °C in the summer, perfectly suited to Scotland’s climate. In the Language of Flowers it stands for childhood, grief, humility, and submission.

The latter is also a flowering perennial but located in Atlantic areas from Spain to the UK. It’s a member of the hyacinth family and this can be seen in the springtime inflorescence of 5 to 12 tubular, sweet-scented violet–blue flowers with strongly recurved tepals. As a species adapted to grow in woodlands, the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter and bluebells are often used as an indicator species to identify ancient woodland. Bluebells are also frequently found in hedgerows, and in the west of their range they can be found growing in open habitats, including coastal meadows like ours at Mount Stuart. In the Language of Flowers they symbolise everlasting love.

Both are known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, butterflies​, ​moths and other pollinators owing to their nectar and pollen rich flowers.

14. May

Drimys winteri

Another of our plants which originated in South America is Drimys winteri; we have three lovely examples currently in full bloom in the Wee Garden. Also known as Winter’s bark or winter cinnamon it’s named after Captain (later Vice-Admiral) John Wynter whose ship Elizabeth accompanied Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind around Cape Horn on his circumnavigation of 1577-80. Captain Wynter is thought to have sent crew ashore in search for medicines when there was sickness aboard returning with Drimys bark, resulting in Winter's bark being recognised as a preventive and cure for scurvy centuries before vitamin C was isolated.

Drimys winteri is a spreading evergreen tree or large shrub grown ornamentally for its glossy, bright green oblong leaves, attractive reddish-brown bark and clusters of creamy white jasmine-scented flowers in late spring and early summer. It was introduced to the UK in 1827.

Originally classified within the Magnoliaceae (magnolia) family its taxonomy was changed to Winteraceae, the key difference being Winteraceae’s small flowers have carpels arranged in a single ring formation whilst those of magnolias are arranged in spirals.

21. May

Lavandula stoechas

In the Kitchen Garden we have this lovely specimen of Lavandula stoechas, known in the UK as French lavender and in the USA as Spanish lavender and indeed it occurs natively in both those and other Mediterranean countries.

It’s a dwarf shrub with narrow, grey leaves and bears dense, oval heads of small bluish-pink to purple flowers topped with a tuft of purple bracts in late spring and early summer. It’s drought, deer, rabbit and dry soil tolerant, a real magnet for butterflies and our all-important bee population. Lavandula stoechas is one of the most popular small garden shrubs in the UK owing to its highly aromatic evergreen leaves however in Australia it’s classified as an invasive and for the past 100 years has been declared a noxious weed in the state of Victoria.

French lavender has many uses beyond being ornamental; air fresheners, insecticides, as an antiseptic, digestive, antibacterial and in aromatherapy essential oils.

28. May

Telopea truncate

From the Wee Garden’s Australasian selection our choice this week is Telopea truncate or the Tasmanian waratah, first scientifically described in 1805 by French botanist Jacques Labillardiere after his collecting it during an exploration of Van Diemen's Land – now Tasmania – in 1792/93.

It’s a small to medium sized evergreen shrub with thick, narrow pointed leaves, and bears beautiful flowerheads of brilliant rich crimson from June to September. Its Latin nameTelopea is from the Greek telopos, meaning "seen from afar", a reference to the brightness of the beacon-like flowers.

After flowering, curved leathery follicles develop, hanging downwards on wooden stalks, and eventually they split longitudinally to release around 16 winged seeds.

It grows best in a cool climate with ample water and good drainage, and has done well in cultivation in the UK.