08 February 2016

Tree Flowers: February 2016: Chinese Witch Hazel

In this series I'm looking at the flowers of trees - and this is probably one of the smallest trees that will be featured. Collins Complete British Trees gives a guideline height at maturity of just 4 metres and in horticultural terms the witch hazel would often be termed a shrub. However, biologically speaking there is no difference between a tree and a shrub even if it is multi-stemmed rather than a singe trunk. We have a rather lovely rowan in our garden and that required a lot of encouragement to adopt a single trunk and still sends out shoots at ground level.

Even if this a tiny tree, the flowers pack a might punch, providing some much needed colour. I photographed this witch hazel, which is Hamamelis mollis 'Boskoop', and it pleasantly stood out and I felt drawn to it.

Witch hazels (Hamamelis mollis) are native to China, and introduced to Britain by Charles Maries of James Veitch & Sons in the 19th century. However, this particular cultivar is from The Netherlands. Whitman Farms, Oregon in the US, write that this cultivar may be the oldest in production. 

The flowers have ribbon-like petals with the stamens being red in colour. As you can see in the photo above, the flowers put on their display before the leaves arrive and that the branches are covered with flowers. The flowers are also supposedly scented, but I have to admit, I've never noticed any scent from the witch hazels I've come across - primarily at Westonbirt Arboretum. The mollis part of the latin name refers to the leaves, which have fine, felt-like hairs, as described in RHS Latin for Gardeners. David Gledhill in the fourth edition of The Names of Plants writes that Hamamelis refers to plants with 'pear-shaped' fruits

Used ornamentally in gardens and parks, as well as in arboretum collections, unlike the American witch hazel, the Chinese witch hazel doesn't really seem to have any other uses. Perhaps for firewood after pruning, but due to its small size and slender branches pruned wood from the Chinese witch hazel wouldn't last long. However, I do think it's lovely just to like a thing because it's pleasing to look at and not because it's an earner economically.

Boskoop (Hamamelis ‘Boskoop’) | Whitman Farms. 2016. Boskoop (Hamamelis ‘Boskoop’) | Whitman Farms. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.whitmanfarms.com/allplants/ornamental-plants/other-plant-groups/witch-hazels/boskoop-hamamelis-boskoop/. [Accessed 07 February 2016].
Gledhill, David. The Names of Plants. 4 edition. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Hamamelis mollis Background . 2016. Hamamelis mollis Background . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.coblands.co.uk/info/hamamelis-mollis-background. [Accessed 07 February 2016]. 

Harrison, Lorraine, and The Royal Horticultural Society. RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 plant names explained and explored. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2012.
Sterry, Paul. British Trees: A Photographic Guide to Every Common Species. First Edition edition. London: Collins, 2008.

01 February 2016

Lacock Abbey: A wander through the greenhouse

Lacock Abbey is located near Chippenham in Wiltshire and has been around in various forms since 1232, when Lady Ela the Countess of Salisbury laid the first stone. It has had a varied history and is probably most famously known as the birthplace of photography - specifically they type that uses negatives - the process invented by Fox Talbot.

The abbey and surrounding village were given to the National Trust in 1944. Both abbey and village are commonly used in television and film, appearing in productions such as Harry Potter and recently Wolf Hall.

While all of this is wonderful, today we'll have a short wander through the greenhouse (by today I obviously mean 23 November last year!).

Near the entrance both Abutilon 'Cloth of Gold' and Cape Leadwort were putting on a welcoming show.

This pink beauty is highlighted by the bright yellow anthers. It looks like a species of Grewia, but I couldn't see a name tag for confirmation.

A lovely pot of Sarracenia pitcher plants and hung by the wall was a pot of Polygonum capitatum, which can also go by the name of pink buttons - quite adorable.

Hybrids of Streptocarpus were potted up on one of the benches, providing a splash of colour. These are best served by life in a greenhouse or conservatory, but can survive on a windowsill - however they don't seem to flower quite as often. High up in the greenhouse are grapes: I'd have quite liked a bowl of grapes that day!

Until last year, I'd only ever seen alstroemeria in bouquets in England, so was very happy to hear that they thrive outdoors here. I'm hoping to grow some at some point as I really like the patterns the petals provide - they're so cheering and a joy to behold.

Imagine having a garden that could accommodate a greenhouse of this size! All the plants that could be grow, a place to hide off and have a cup of tea. All the experiments to be done and exotic plants to observe. Perhaps that's for another lifetime! Until then, thankfully Lacock is down the road for me and membership means I can always pop in for a quick look.

Note: Thanks to members of Grows On You for identification help with the Polygonum and Grewia.