Tag Archives: Pelargonium

Neighborhood (Plant) Watch

8 Jan

Like Seattle, people in the UK can talk about the weather for hours, which is a handy thing if you are trying to make small talk and don’t know what to talk about. People have been telling me this year’s winter has been milder than it has been in a couple of years, which I really appreciate. Though since we just started winter last month we still have January and February to see if Mother Nature decides to change her mind. It’s been quite windy lately and sheets of rain whipping through Edinburgh, but between all of that we’ve had a few calm sunny days.

The Viburnum x bodnantense across the road can be smelt throwing out its soft perfume on (relatively) warm days.

The Viburnum x bodnantense across the road can be smelt throwing out its soft perfume on (relatively) warm days.

I love that Edinburgh is a walkable city. On my way to the grocery store, museums, and parks, I like to take different streets to see the more intimate parts of town. Plus I like to see what people have growing in front of their apartments. Some homes were very fortunate to have little garden spaces in the front (and some in the back), but most places were paved over. So potted plants and containers of all sizes are a common sight.

Most apartment gardeners have myriad of pots.

Most apartment gardeners have myriad of pots.

The neighbors in the basement level to the left have a wonderful collection of plants. All the potted plants are lovingly arranged and organized. I can imagine it filled with annual flowers and riots of color in the warmer months.

The neighbor's plants down below.

The neighbor’s plants down below.

The neighbors in the basement level to the right are a little bit more eclectic. On the staircase going down, you are immediately greeted by a terrarium. I wonder what secret plantiness is hiding in there.

An outdoor terrarium? It almost looks like there is a Lycopodium living in it!

An outdoor terrarium? It almost looks like there is a Lycopodium living in it!

On the other side of their patio you see this:

Putting a (hopefully) decommissioned toilet to good use!

Putting a (hopefully) decommissioned toilet to good use!

The apartment down from the one above has a nice collection of containers in front. The plant choices of Fremontodendron and olive hint at the types of plants laying down below in the basement level.

I love the cobalt blue containers plus extra points for the Fremontodendron (behind the olive, against the wall on the left).

I love the cobalt blue containers plus extra points for the Fremontodendron (behind the olive, against the wall on the left).

Unfortunately, my camera died the way back home, so I could only get a shot of one side of the patio. The patio is dotted with tropical plants including passion flowers and an Abutilon (which is looking quite alive and good for January).

I bet it's a nice grotto of tropical flowers in the summer.

I bet it’s a nice grotto of tropical flowers in the summer.

It seemed that anywhere I looked pelargoniums (aka zonal geraniums) were still growing and blooming, which really shows how mild it’s been. For the longest time I didn’t like zonal geraniums. I think it was the association with cheesy bedding schemes and their weird smelling leaves, but since then I have learned that pelargoniums are quite tough and deserve a second chance with jaded gardeners/plant snobs – you know who you are!

Still blooming and a nice bright pink, I might add.

Still blooming and a nice bright pink, I might add.

This apartment really took on the idea of container gardening. It looks like a full on garden. The mature potted trees give lovely height and structure and the seasonal annuals really create a cohesiveness between the containers and bring in much needed color to combat the dreary winter weather. I like the addition of the palm and Phormium, a nice strong evergreen contrast to the deciduous trees and soft leafy bedding annuals.

Look at the range of plants!

Look at the range of plants!

As I walked past I was taken away by the weeping cherry tree in the back. I think young weeping cherry trees are a little awkward in a garden – unless trained up to appropriate height – since the branches tend to drape much to early when young resulting with flowers buried in the dirt. Cleverly here, the tree can weep as freely as it likes without the earth below to spoil its graceful posture.

I bet it looks so lovely in spring with a cascade of pink/white.

I bet it looks so lovely in spring with a cascade of pink/white.

Further down the block I saw this entrance and thought it was cute, but then the trough on the right made me do a double take.

Oh I love the pansies - wait...what's that on the right?

Oh I love the pansies – wait…what’s that on the right?

I leaned in for a closer look and I thought it was a Haworthia! (Haworthia is a genus of succulent plants originating from Africa and are not cold hardy.) It’s growing in a container in an exposed site and what puzzled me most was that very evidently it has been growing undisturbed here for a few years. I took to Facebook that night and it turns out it is Haworthia look-alike Aloe aristata. This Aloe is from the winter rainy high elevations of South Africa and lends itself to growing well outside in the UK.

Are my eyes deceiving me? Is that a hardy Haworthia?!

Are my eyes deceiving me? Is that a hardy Haworthia?!

As I looked back (and below) I realized whoever lives here has a taste for tropical/succulenty plants.

Looking back up the street. (The lady on the left jokingly asked if she could be in one of my photos.)

Looking back up the street. (The lady on the left jokingly asked if she could be in one of my photos.)

In addition to tall beautiful specimens of Trachycarpus fortunei and Cordyline australis  emerging from the depths, there is a yucca at the foot of the palm and potted plants including an Agave, an Aloe vera and some Sempervivum.

A statuesque Trachycarpus fortunei with lovely frayed older leaves - much like a botanical illustration.

A statuesque Trachycarpus fortunei with lovely frayed older leaves – much like a botanical illustration.

A mature Cordyline australis with faded inflorescences.

A mature Cordyline australis with faded inflorescences.

Oh I bet that Aloe vera is feeling a bit chilly...

Oh I bet that Aloe vera is feeling a bit chilly…

The next apartment, which I think is actually an office for a business, had a nice healthy Fastia in bloom.

Nothing like a healthy Fatsia for a softening touch of the tropics.

Nothing like a healthy Fatsia for a softening touch of the tropics.

Another block down another planty person must live here. There was a range of plants with wonderfully different shapes, textures, and colors. Though it seems like the focus was on evergreen foliage, some of them, such as the ChoisyaOsmanthus and Sarcococca, would also provide some flowers and sweet fragrance.

Very foliaceous and a nice touch with the Eucalyptus.

Very foliaceous and a nice touch with the Eucalyptus.

More foliage...

More foliage…

and more foliage!

and more foliage!

Around another block there is this wonderful secluded basement patio (except for the fact that nosey people like me enjoy peeking in).

I love the bench for relaxing - a walled garden in the city.

I love the bench for relaxing – a walled garden in the city.

This it on a quiet street next to a church. I know some may find it bleak, but I like it. I love seeing an effort to green up a space and there is nothing more encouraging to see. Plus it’s fun seeing the Pyracantha and bulbs busting out of the pot (literally).

I like the shiny leaves and golden berries against the slate-grey walls.

I like the shiny leaves and golden berries against the slate-grey walls.

Across the street there is a small tree hole erupting with growth! If the birch tree wasn’t enough, there is a giant rose climbing up and arching over into the sidewalk, and a large Brachyglottis greyi ballooning out through the “cage”.

This tree hole(?) is stuffed!

This tree hole(?) is stuffed!

It’s nice to see green and life thriving in a place surrounded by stone and concrete. Again, very encouraging! (Plus there is something poetic about seeing plants escaping and busting out of their confines.)

Evidence of someone trying to keep the overflowing planting in check.

Evidence of someone trying to keep the overflowing planting in check.

On the same street there is this apartment with more evergreen goodness. The Pieris and camellias must be lovely in the spring.

I love seeing people's personal collection of pots and plants.

I love seeing people’s personal collection of pots and plants.

Back at the apartment, the landlady has a wonderful collection of houseplants. In my last post I mentioned that the houseplants in the entrance really excited me, but little did I know what treasures the living room would hold. The night I arrived, I was invited to have some drinks with the landlady, her daughter, and friends (it was the daughter’s birthday) in the living room and to my delight I saw more thriving houseplants!

The plants growing and blooming in the living room are a wonderful sight!

The plants growing and blooming in the living room are a wonderful sight!

I loved the range of plants in there, but what I was most impressed with was the not just growing, but a thriving and blooming florist azalea! Normally these azaleas are doomed to die when they enter any home, but this one was doing very well. (The landlady said she is just as surprised as I am, but I think she is just being modest.)

Seriously this is beyond words - an amazing feat!

Seriously this is beyond words – an amazing feat!

It might be the combination of large, bright windows and cool temperatures in the living room that is allowing this florist azalea to flourish. Either way, I’m entranced!

Those flowers just glow with the promise of spring.

Those flowers just glow with the promise of spring.

Sitting next to the florist azalea is her collection of blooming clivias. Clivias are as tough as nails: they can take dim, dry, and drafty situations and plus they grace us with flowers during the winter when color is most appreciated.

One of the toughest houseplants around.

One of the toughest houseplants around.

I love the much needed fiery flowers of Clivia during the winter.

I love the much needed fiery flowers of Clivia during the winter.

Such a welcoming sight. Almost all of the landlady’s houseplants are Victorian classics, but the one, and only one, in the TV room is the poster child for Victorian houseplants.

This perfect specimen of Aspidistra rightly deserves center stage in the window.

This perfect specimen of Aspidistra rightly deserves center stage in the window.

Yes, it is an Aspidistra! Also known as “cast iron plant”. They were very popular then, because, like their common name suggests, they could survive Victorian parlor rooms. These rooms were drafty, dry, dim, and smokey – a death sentence for most houseplants. Despite all of these things aspidistras would stay alive and look quite good (though,  understandably, they didn’t grow much). There are many Aspidistra species and they are naturally found growing in the dim and often dry-ish forest floors throughout east Asia. The species Aspidistra elatior is most commonly grown as a houseplant (which is the species of this one), it is hardy enough to grow outside in USDA zone 6. If you have dry shade and nothing seems to grow there, an Aspidistra is a good candidate.

I love the deep green and glossiness.

I love the deep green and glossiness.

Every morning and evening I am greeted by her pelargoniums in the kitchen window. She also keeps those live herbs that you can buy at the grocery store there too. I love that she has plants that are well suited to the conditions of the apartment and they carry on with their planty lives without taking over her’s.

The landlady just picked the basil leaves (two pots on the left) the night before.

The landlady just picked the basil leaves (two pots on the left) the night before.

Here’s my temporary “houseplant” while I am staying here. Yup, another Primula! Though this one doesn’t really have a scent, it’s quite cheerful and it reminds me of home and when I have to sadly leave Edinburgh I can guerrilla plant it somewhere in the city. Anyway, I gotta run again, but I will write to you soon!

So sweet and cheerful.

So sweet and cheerful.

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Catch Up

15 Dec
One of the many (I mean many) Nerines still blooming in the Propagation Glasshouse.

One of the many (I mean many) Nerines still blooming in the Propagation Glasshouse.

Ever since I got to the UK it feels like a lot of time has past in a short period of time. Like I’ve always lived here (or have been for a few years) and yet at the same time I feel like I just got here and time has zipped away. I don’t know what it means, but it’s an unusual feeling. Though looking back, I can’t believe I have been here a little over three months now! It has been an amazing experience so far and I can’t wait to head off to my next adventure! (Well, after I’ve had a few more minced pies.)

Let’s see, where did I leave off in my last post? I finished my week with the Seed department at the end of October, then I went off to the Glasshouse department, then with the Formal department, then with the Alpine department, last week with the Herbaceous department, and now this week with the Woodland department – my final department.

Gone to Seed / Oct.28 – Nov.1

Apparently some of these boxes are nearly 100 years old (that or I heard incorrectly).

Apparently some of these boxes are nearly 100 years old (that or I heard incorrectly).

Slipping into the Seed department on my first day I was greeted by the dusty warmth, and the coziness of the room put me at ease. In the main workroom botanical prints hung on the walls, strange gadgets sat quietly on the counters, and books and sieves were caringly stacked on shelves. In the drying room beyond any free space was covered with boxes filled with drying seed heads, pods, and small berries. At all times of the day I was offered tea and biscuits; I’ve never had so much tea and biscuits my entire life. This was very much grandmother’s house.

Gently crushing the Amsonia seed pods with a rubber stopper, so that  the seeds will slip out of the chaff easier.

Gently crushing the Amsonia seed pods with a rubber stopper, so that the seeds will slip out of the chaff easier.

The Seed department have many jobs, which include collecting and cleaning seeds for the RHS gardens, but their biggest job is to collect seeds for RHS members annual seed requests. Members are mailed a catalogue every year in late autumn and during winter they can order seeds collected in the gardens free of charge. Employees are also encouraged to request seed. This entire process includes going out – rain or shine – to collect seeds, drying them, cleaning them, packaging them, and filling requests. A lot to do for a  department of four, but after the garden went through some internal changes it has been whittled down to two staff members. (Just recently, the two staff just became one.)

Here Rachel and I are collecting Gaura seeds in the much appreciated autumn sunshine.

Here Rachel and I are collecting Gaura seeds in the much appreciated autumn sunshine.

I am collecting seeds from one of my favorite American prairie plant genus: Silphum.

I am collecting seeds from one of my favorite American prairie plant genus: Silphum.

The Seed department tries to offer a diverse range of seeds, so all annuals, perennials, shrubs, some trees, and glasshouse plants are fair game. Timing is everything, so whenever seed is collected the date is written down and the earliest time of everything that was ever collected is compiled and saved. This helps the seed collectors keep in mind when they should start checking for seeds of a particular plant species. As you can imagine an ornamental garden is all about keeping up its appearances and long-lived floral displays, so the one main hurdle to the Seed department has to deal with is tidy gardeners. Dead-heading cleans up spent flowers and to induce more flowering on plants, but it makes it difficult – and frustrating – to collect seeds when nothing is left to develop.

Our seed bootie for the day!

Our seed bootie for the day!

After collecting, the goods are brought back to the drying room immediately for decanting. The seed heads are sorted into their own time-stained brown boxes and left to dry and dehisce. With specimens that are particularly wet or need a bit of “ripening” they are laid out on rough parchment paper in the drier. As the seeds dry, everyone rotates throughout the room and eventually end up as pure cleaned seeds. 

My favorite gadget in the Seed department is the aspirator (a regular volunteer amusingly calls the asphyxiator). This strange looking contraption is basically a tube and lever emerging out of a Dr.Who-blue box. The aspirator separates the chaff from the seed buy blowing the lighter chaff up and out of the seeds. This is very useful if the seeds are too numerous and fine – thought not too fine – to separate by hand.

Ah, yes! The aspirator!

Ah, yes! The aspirator!

Okay so what happens, is that the seed and chaff mixture is placed into a small sieve and slipped into the bottom of that clear tube.

Uncleaned seeds in the clear container and sieve, and clean seeds in the cooper pan.

Uncleaned seeds in the clear container and sieve, and clean seeds in the cooper pan.

The lever on the left side controls the force of the air flow, and when set at the right force almost all of the chaff will be blown up into the container at the top leaving the seeds in the sieve below.

Around they go!

Around they go!

Upon the gentle breath of the aspirator...

Upon the gentle breath of the aspirator…

.. the chaff and light seeds, which are probably unviable, are carried to the top.

.. the chaff and light seeds, which are probably unviable, are carried to the top.

After all that - squeaky clean!

After all that – squeaky clean!

The key is to have the strength of the air “bounce” the seeds about a third to half way up the tube. This would ensure the majority of the chaff is gone and any lighter seeds are separated as well.

A Glassy PlaceNov.4 – 8

Looking up the path from the Arid Zone.

Looking up the path from the Arid Zone.

It was wonderful to work inside again (especially when there was a down pour that week). There is something uplifting about being in a warm environment surrounded by lush greenery, the smell of dampened earth and the dreamy fragrances of flowers from far off lands.

Chinese and Japanese chrysanthemums waiting patiently in the wings.

Chinese and Japanese chrysanthemums waiting patiently in the wings.

The main project this week was to put the chrysanthemum display together for Japanese Week. Due to the wonderfully warm summer some of the chrysanthemums were in full bloom much too early, however we did what we could and pulled the display together.

As busy as bees!

As busy as bees!

Some of the chrysanthemums never made it into the displays, instead they were cut back and sent up to propagation to recuperate.

I was mum-ified!

I was mum-ified!

All of these chrysanthemums take a whole year to grow, train, and groom for a show that lasts at most three weeks. The amount of time and commitment that it takes to grow perfect display specimens is really astounding (and this is all one by one staff member up in the Propagation department).

Phew! After two (and a half) days and a gazillion chrysanthemums later.

Phew! After two (and a half) days and a gazillion chrysanthemums later.

How a about a procession of chrysanthemum photos? You betcha!

This deliciously droopy chrysanthemum was one of my favorites.

This deliciously droopy chrysanthemum was one of my favorites.

Curls of good butter.

Curls of good butter.

So alien.

So alien.

Looks like something from the deep.

Looks like something from the deep.

So marvelously drippy.

So marvelously drippy.

The color of a good caramel.

The color of a good caramel.

One of my other favorites - such luscious golden locks!

One of my other favorites – such luscious golden locks!

Like a fading fountain firework.

Like a fading fountain firework.

So tempting, I just want to lay my head on it.

So tempting, I just want to lay my head on it.

A caldera of smoldering magma!

A caldera of smoldering magma!

There is something so appealing about tussled petals...

There is something so appealing about tussled petals…

Phew! And that was just a sampling. The Plectranthus trials display were wheeled into the empty hallway (first photo) where the chrysanthemums were waiting.

Plectranthus trial display in full billowy bloom.

Plectranthus trial display in full billowy bloom.

Between all the chrysanthemum madness, I helped with preparing the glasshouse every morning before opening and watering, repotting, and staking in the growing houses in the back.

Caught in the act of cleaning up the bananas!

Caught in the act of cleaning up the bananas!

One of the grow houses where plants come to recover or grow on to ideal sizes.

One of the grow houses where plants come to recover or grow on to ideal sizes.

Staking all the Calanthe orchids for the Christmas display to come...

Staking all the Calanthe orchids for the Christmas display to come…

Life inside the warmth had to come to an end, but next week I would get acquainted with a world I was not very familiar with.

Formally with Formal / Nov.13 – 15

The famous mixed borders at Wisley back in September.

The famous mixed borders at Wisley back in September.

This was a shorter week because I spent the beginning of the week with the former curator at the Chelsea Physic Garden (which I still need to finish and post)  and her family. Unfortunately I also didn’t take any photos this week, so please bare with me. First, I have to say that formal gardens are not my thing, but I can appreciate them. My personal garden at home was far from formal (though my mother wishes it were) and, when I was an intern at the Smithsonian Gardens a summer ago, I barely scratched the surface of formal gardening.

At this time of year, what was mostly happening was cleaning up and prepping for winter. The bedding had all been designed and planted – though I did help with planting some conifers in the walled garden – the main tasks was weeding, and cutting back and dividing tired perennials.

Looking up into the Jubilee Rose Garden from the Country Garden in September.

Looking up into the Jubilee Rose Garden from the Country Garden in September.

The Formal department is responsible for the “face” of Wisley: the canal, both rose gardens, the walled garden, the country garden, both the mixed boarders and the AGM borders, the model gardens, and the E.A. Bowles’ Garden. They are the first gardens that greet visitors and the last ones to send them off. It really is tough joggling all of these sights, especially in an ornamental garden where everything needs to be pristine and immaculate.

Pining for Alpine / Nov.18 – 22

Just gently placing a plant in the main display house.

Just gently placing a plant in the main display house.

Gosh, what a chilly week! I was glad I was (mostly) under shelter again, but unlike the Glasshouse, these houses were kept a little above freezing. The Alpine department is a fun quirky group who look after the Rock Garden, the Alpine Meadow, the Alpine Display Souses, the Crevice Garden, and the Bonsai Collection.

Like the Glasshouse, every morning we would start by unlocking all the display houses and checking up the displays. If flowers have faded or a plant is starting to look tired, a perkier one is taken out of the grow houses to put in its place. This ensures that the display houses are always showing the best of what is in bloom and showcasing

the diversity of the collections. Though during this time of year, it was a bit difficult finding anything other than foliage. Most of the autumn blooming bulbs had finished and like all alpine-y plants the bloom period is quite short. (If your growing season is short, you gotta take care of business quickly.)

The delicate Crocus flowers looked as if they would float right into the air.

The delicate Crocus flowers looked as if they would float right into the air.

Most of my week was spent dead-heading and grooming plants, but I also got to try my hand at striking saxifrage cuttings and repotting Sempervivum (the now trendy hens-and-chicks plant).

These saxifrages are ready to be started over again by cuttings.

These saxifrages are ready to be started over again by cuttings.

How about a few more photos from the display house? I was attracted to the undersides of the leaves of this Lachenalia bolusii. The pattern reminds me of 80’s zebra print leggings.

Totally tubular!

Totally tubular!

Speaking of Lachenalia, just look at the flowers of this species! Amazing!

I love the unearthly teal flowers of Lachenalia viridiflora.

I love the unearthly teal flowers of Lachenalia viridiflora.

With just a little bit of sunshine, every bud opened up.

With just a little bit of sunshine, every bud opened up.

Check this Oxalis palmifrons out! Usually they like have shamrock-shaped leaves, but this one has done something completely different. Each little adorably fuzzed pinwheel is actually one leaf.

The little fan shaped leaves are so mesmerizing.

The little fan shaped leaves are so mesmerizing.

Okay last photo. Pterostylis is a genus of terrestrial orchids found in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia. This particular species (Pterostylis coccina) is endemic to New South Wales Australia, meaning it can only be found there in the wild. It looks like it could bite…

Doesn't it look like a thirsty goblin?

Doesn’t it look like a thirsty goblin?

One glasshouse leads to another, so next week I went further up the hill and found myself in the Propagation department for a week.

Props to Propagation / Nov.25 – 29

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

Remember those ‘craze-anthemums’ and the bedding plants in the formal display beds? Well, this is where all the magic happens! I see the Propagation department as the blood of Wisley. Without the Propagation department many plants would have to be bought in year after year, lots of rare wonderful things in the gardens could be lost without making copies, and without a place to quarantine new plants for assessment, potentially new pests and diseases could be introduced.

All the seasonal displays (there is about eight to nine back to back) are propagated, grown, groomed, and prepared here in the Propagation glasshouses, and not only that, this is all done by one person. It’s actually quite unbelievable and this is really an art form where impeccable timing is everything. Remember those chrysanthemums in the Glasshouse for Japanese week? Here they are now:

Just resting until about mid February when the whole process starts again.

Just resting until about mid February when the whole process starts again.

These are also waiting for next year too:

All these scented geranium cuttings are for next year's display. (This one is for you Agnes!)

All these scented geranium cuttings are for next year’s display. (This one is for you Agnes!)

Seriously, this is all done by one person. How perfect are these poinsettias? I couldn’t find a single blemish or find one that was wilting and dropping leaves. (These have been taken down to the Glasshouse two weeks ago and the Christmas display should be completed now.)

Perfection!

Perfection!

I did a little bit of everything while I was with Propagation . I struck a few cuttings, potted rooted ones up, watered, groomed, and helped deep clean the main house. The Herb Garden, which is under the watchful care of the Fruit Department, is getting revamped and many of their herbs are getting propagated as cuttings. (The powers that may be decided that the Herb Garden should really only contain culinary herbs, so all the medicinal herbs were removed and dispersed elsewhere.) I did my little part and helped pot up their Hyssopus officinalis, which should be ready to go out next spring.

These Hyssopus cuttings are getting counted and recorded.

These Hyssopus cuttings are getting counted and recorded.

Working in the cool morning air.

Working in the cool morning air.

Another day I seeded some stock flowers. When I come back in May, I should be able to see and smell them then.

Measuring out seeds for sowing next year's Mother's Day display - all scented flowers!

Measuring out seeds for sowing next year’s Mother’s Day display – all scented flowers!

On my final day I was able to help inspect and repot some Chinese peony cultivars that came all the way from China. They got accidentally sent to the main offices in London, so the poor things sat in a hot, dry, and dark box since early October. Luckily they are very tough plants, so all but maybe one survived just fine.

Looking quite alive despite the ordeal they went through.

Looking quite alive despite the ordeal they went through.

Peonies are one of my most favorite flowers – it’s probably due to my father’s love for them – so working with them was not a chore. Rather it reminded me of home and my own garden.

Examining for damage, insects, and mold.

Examining for damage, insects, and mold.

The shipment comprised of both tree and herbaceous peonies. Though their habit and form are quite different, but they all want three main things: good drainage, full to part sun, and not to be planted too deeply. Traditionally these two types of peonies almost impossible to cross, but Mr. Toichi made this miraculous cross in the 1940’s and these hybrids came to be known as Itoh peonies.

The bench where all the action was happening.

The bench where all the action was happening.

They look much more comfortable, don’t you think?

Freed from their corsets and potted up with plenty of room to grow.

Freed from their corsets and potted up with plenty of room to grow.

While we were cleaning the main house Emma found a dormant butterfly and in the warmth it started to wake up. At first I thought it was a Mourning Cloak, but when it opened its wings it was a beautiful Peacock butterfly!

Peacock butterflies usually hibernate in the winder as adults.

Peacock butterflies usually hibernate in the winder as adults.

In the cool house a few of the Vireya were blooming. This particular cultivar was intensely tangerine – a wonderful sight on a dreary gray day.

Vireya is a subgenus of Rhododendron and are found in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Vireya is a subgenus of Rhododendron and are found in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Remember the Nerine photo at the being of the post? Here are the rest of them:

There are thousands of Neirne in there...

There are thousands of Neirne in there…

Here is a couple of the many benches filled with plants for the next growing season. They all look so young and full of promise.

The future tender perennials for bedding next year.

The future tender perennials for bedding next year.

That’s so Herbaceous / Dec.2 – 6

Little party hats to protect the Gunnera buds from hard freezes and excessive wet.

Little party hats to protect the Gunnera buds from hard freezes and excessive wet.

Remember I mention about that reshifting in the Seed department section? Well, both Formal and Herbaceous were one department, but they got ripped apart into two departments during that time. The Herbaceous department looks after the Glasshouse Landscape, the Glasshouse Borders (which was designed by Piet Oudolf), the Wild Garden, and Seven Acres. These are quite large areas, but they manage with the limited team that they have.

On to our next clump!

On to our next clump!

I started out first in the Wild Garden where my main job was to help Mike shred clippings and leaves back into the beds and groom the bamboo collection. The Wild Garden has been cultivated before Wisley became a thing. It is a remnant of the Oakwood Experimental Garden (a garden on the estate of George Fergusson Wilson) which its main purpose was to try out different methods of growing difficult plants successfully. Today the garden is kept in that style to honor George Fergusson Wilson and some of the plants in the garden are the originals.

At the other end of the wild Garden Mike and I worked away at clearing up bamboo rhizomes he had dug previously and cutting back canes that were falling over. On my way over in the first morning I noticed a stand of bamboo that looked a little dead. It turns out it was very dead, in fact it had bloomed and set seed earlier in the summer. Many bamboo species die after they bloom and sometimes leaving whole dead forests. Though this doesn’t happen often since on average bamboo blooms every 65 years or so, but some species can take up to 120 years before they bloom.

All around the stand many little Chusquea gigantea seedlings can be seen sprouting up.

All around the stand many little Chusquea gigantea seedlings can be seen sprouting up.

The work that week was mainly clearing, mulching, weeding, cutting back, dividing perennials, and prepping for winter. One of the bigger tasks I helped with was fleecing the South African Meadow to give the seedlings a chance to establish before they are left to their down devices in the future. The South African Meadow lives on the outer edge of the Glasshouse Landscape, and like the American Meadow, it was started entirely by seed. The South African Meadow is somewhat slow to establish because the top dressing of sand was placed to discourage weeks and help with drainage, was applied a little too deep and the seedlings are taking longer to reach the soil below.

We were shingling with the prevailing winds, so that the icy cold would roll over the fabric instead of work its way in through the seams.

We were shingling with the prevailing winds, so that the icy cold would roll over the fabric instead of work its way in through the seams.

Here we are half way through.

Here we are half way through.

Such ghostly figures rising up in the low sunlight.

Such ghostly figures rising up in the low sunlight.

What a weird sight: a frosted Gazania covered with oak leaves.

What a weird sight: a frosted Gazania covered with oak leaves.


Woody, a Goodie Dec.9 – 11

Unfortunately I also forgot to take any photos, so again, please bare with me. Also, this was week was cut short unexpectedly and for the latter half I was confined to my bed with a virus. (I got over it within 48 hours and I am fine now.)

This is the Pinetum back in September.

This is the Pinetum back in September.

Anyway, the Woodland department is small team that essentially looks after the rest of Wisley. These areas include the Arboretum, Battleston Hill, and the Pinetum – which are all huge areas.

This is the Boardwalk on Battleston Hill back in September.

This is the Boardwalk on Battleston Hill back in September.

Most of my time this week was helping with the revamp of the Mediterranean beds on Battleston Hill. The beds are undergoing a layout change so that plants from the different Mediterranean-like climates of the world are grouped together by geography, i,e. the Mediterranean Basin, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa, California, and Chile (plus a slightly random succulent bed).

I love the beautiful red fruit on this Malus spectabilis in the Arboretum (back in September).

I love the beautiful red fruit on this Malus spectabilis in the Arboretum (back in September).

Other than that I helped remove bedding plants and leaves for the winter and on Wednesday I helped the Fruit department sow poppy seeds in the Wildflower Meadow to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of WWI next spring.

PHEW! That was the longest post ever! Anyway, I hope that was a good read, but there will be more to come soon. I can’t believe this is already my last week working at Wisley and after this I will be off to Scotland. It’s so exciting – I can’t wait to see and experience a new place! Anyway, until next time!

Rainy Sunday

13 Oct
I love how perky and optimistic the cosmos are and they make good cut flowers.

I love how perky and optimistic the cosmos are and they make good cut flowers.

Sorry! I know it’s been some time since I have updated. The weather has been cool today and rain has been steadily falling since the morning: it’s a perfect day to catch up on things. Other than doing household chores and updating my expenses, my roommate and I headed to the garden for a walk in the rain and a browse through the Plant Centre and Gift Shop.

Before I got here I told myself that since I am only staying at Wisley until Christmas break I wouldn’t buy any plants, instead I would live vicariously through the gardens. It went well for the first week, but by the second week I indulged in cut flowers. (I still wasn’t quite satisfied.) By the fourth week I found myself in the Plant Centre shopping for plants. My first instinct was to go with seeds because they were inexpensive and I can easily pack them away when I need to pick up and leave to my next placement. These seeds needed to be able to handle drafty (windowsill) conditions, lower light, and didn’t require involved treatment for germination. This led me to the annual section and I grabbed a packet of Tropaeolum (nasturtiums) and Calendula seeds. Both these plants are tough and will still grow even if conditions aren’t perfect.

It's hard to say no to hot colors when the weather is graying.

It’s hard to say no to hot colors when the weather is graying.

While browsing the Plant Centre I passed a display of pansies and I couldn’t resist their little grumpy faces, so I stopped to look. Pansies – or botanically speaking, Viola – naturally lend themselves as autumn and winter bedding annuals because they can survive (and even bloom) frost, wet, and low light levels. If you plant/seed out pansies in the autumn they will out grow and bloom the ones you plant out in spring. I tend to go for the yellow ones since they are usually sweetly scented, but since pansies are started from seeds that rule doesn’t always work. It turned out that the only one with the gene for fragrance was ‘Banana Cream’, so I sniffed out the one with the strongest scent and a six pack came home with me.

Pansies are really tough and it's unfair that word pansy has a negative connotation in pop culture.

Pansies are really tough and it’s unfair that word pansy has a negative connotation in pop culture.

Appearently the slugs and snails love them too.

Appearently the slugs and snails love them too.

One of my projects while I was working with the Trials Department this week was to take down a potted Begonia display. While we pulled the plants out of their pots and tossed them into a trailer to be composted, I took pity and saved some of the bright flowers for a bouquet. In the mix were a few hot colored Pelargoniums, so I collected the blooming stems and added them to the bouquet. (I think this Pelargonium is part of the Caliente Series, since it has the same intensity as the one I have back in Seattle.)

The hot coral color is quite spicy, which is perfect for brightening up a room.

The hot coral color is quite spicy, which is perfect for brightening up a room.

A few of the flowers have fallen off, but the Begonia flowers are equally as hot as the Pelargonium.

A few of the flowers have fallen off, but the Begonia flowers are equally as hot as the Pelargonium.

As some of the flowers faded, one thing led to another and I felt compelled to keep the clippings alive, so I decided I would propagate them. So today the Pelargonium stems got sliced up into bite size cuttings and I left both the Begonia clippings to see if they will do anything in the water. I hope the Pelargonium cuttings take root quickly, because that means flowers won’t be far behind and by the time I will have to move they will be suitable for travel.

They are quite snug, but if they all take they will make a very busy specimen.

They are quite snug, but if they all take they will make a very busy specimen.

I saved a couple tin cans the past week and planted the Tropaeolum seeds a few days ago in one and potted up a pansy from the pack in the other today. I picked the bushiest out of the pack since it’s bound to stretch in the lower light and an already straggly plant stretching for the light is not a comforting sight. I am hoping I will see (and smell) few flowers in about a week or two.

Lovely and lush with buds developing beneath the leaves.

Lovely and lush with buds developing beneath the leaves.

The Tropaeolum seeds have swelled up, but no sign of roots yet. The Calendula seeds on the other hand are germinating within a few days of being sown. It’s kind of amazing. I feel that I may have flowers within a month, but that may be wishful thinking for indoor conditions.

The lanky Calendula seedlings are a sign that I don't get a lot of direct sunlight.

The lanky Calendula seedlings are a sign that I don’t get a lot of direct sunlight.

Aside from picking plants that can put up with my dim window conditions I also thought about packability. When it comes time for me to pack up and leave the Tropaeolum and Calendula can be restarted from left over seeds. The Pelargonium can be cut back to tuck away for easy transport and the empty containers stacked and packed. (I haven’t forgotten about the begonias, they can come too if they root.) I guess this what you may call a “suitcase garden”.

It's nice to have something living other than me in the room.

It’s nice to have something living other than me in the room.

It’s nice to wake up and come home to a windowsill full of greenery and flowers – I just hope the plants will do well despite their makeshift conditions. Anyway, I will write posts soon on my visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and my time working with Informatics and the Trials Department. Anyway, I hope to see you soon and here’s to suitcase gardens!

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