Plants of the week- September
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.
As we enter September and the season starts to change this week we’ve picked another southern hemisphere beauty at its best just now. Hoheria sexstylosa, the long-leaved lacebark or ribbonwood, is an evergreen from the western coastal regions of New Zealand, from the family Malvaceae, the same family as an August plant of the week, Reevesia Pubescens. Hoheria is derived from the Maori word houhere.
Currently flowering in the South shrubbery, Hoheria sexstylosa’s name sexstylosa refers to its flower having six styles, the little protuberances within the flower which support the stigmata. Featuring a very straight trunk, a graceful weeping habit and delicate white starry fragrant flowers it’s a frost hardy plant but needs shelter and only achieves its elegant form if given sufficient space.
Our specimen, an Argyll & Bute champion for height and girth, stands at 13.6m, unusually tall for plants cultivated in the UK.
Introduced to the UK in 1826 Gevuina avellana, the Chilean hazelnut or avellano chileno in Spanish, is a hardy exotic evergreen originating from moist forests in the mountains of southern Chile. The name Gevuina comes from guevin, the Mapuche Indian name for the Chilean hazel and avellano is from the Spanish settlers having found its nuts similar to European hazelnuts although they’re not closely related.
From August to October the hermaphroditic Chilean hazelnut carries many racemes of ivory white flowers, each carrying up to 25 pairs of spider-like blooms, and acorn sized dark red nuts which turn black. Its seed shells contain tannin, used for the tanning of leather, and its seed oil is used as an ingredient in both sunscreen and cosmetic moisturisers due to its having a high palmitoleic acid content.
Widely cultivated in Chile as an edible nut-producing tree and related to the macadamia nut, in the UK Gevuina avellana is grown as an ornamental plant, a good honey plant for bees as is seen in our specimen located on the banking in the Wee Garden.
In the Wee Garden we have an interesting and ornamentally attractive shrub, Dichroa febrifuga, commonly known as the blue evergreen hydrangea or Chinese quinine. Its genus name comes from the Greek “dis” meaning twice and “chroa” meaning colour, and its specific name is from the Latin “febris” meaning fever and “fugare” meaning to expel, the English derivative being “febrifuge”, any substance used to reduce fever. In its native China, Nepal and Vietnam Dichroa febrifuga is one of the 50 Fundamental Herbs used in Chinese medicine, using the shoots and bark of its roots.
It’s a rounded, compact, evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves, producing white flower buds whose petals though white on the outside are blue inside, and attractive gentian blue berries in late summer lasting through the winter. Dichroa febrifuga is best suited to warm-temperate and sub-tropical regions – Bute! - where little frost occurs.
At the rear of the Rock Garden is a fine example of Liriodendron chinense, the Chinese tulip tree, from the family Magnoliaceae. Hailing from the provinces of China and northern Vietnam it was introduced to Europe in 1901 from Hubei by Ernest Wilson on his first collecting trip for Veitch. Similar to the American species, Liriodendron tulipifera, it differs subtly by having slightly larger and more deeply lobed leaves and shorter inner petals in its flowers.
With excellent wind resistance and temperature hardiness to up to -12C this tree likes rich and humid soil and is valued as a honey tree and a butterfly attractor.
Our Chinese tulip tree was planted in 1993, is currently 10m tall but is yet to flower as its maturity may take a further 10 years.
It’s well worth viewing in late October when it’ll be in its full autumn colours.