AUCUBA JAPONICA 'CROTONIFOLIA'

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' shrub in garden
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' is a popular, hardy, evergreen shrub, noted for its robust constitution and ornamental foliage. The type species was first brought the attention of European gardens by German botanist and nurseryman John Graefer (1746–1802), gardener to the King of Naples at the Palace of Caserta. Incidentally, Graefer was previously a pupil of the celebrated English botanist Philip Miller, chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, and one of the most prominent botanical gardens of Europe during the 18th century.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' close up
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'
The genus was named by Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743–1828), an apostle of Carl Linnaeus who was considered to be the father of modern taxonomy.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' has proven to be extremely tough under garden conditions, thriving in city air pollution, dry shade, and salt-laden coastal winds.

The glossy leathery leaves are between 15-20 cm long, narrowly ovate and widely toothed towards the apex. Aucuba japonica species and their cultivars are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' is male which, unlike the popular 'Variegata' cultivar, means that it will not produce blooms of the attractive, ornamental red berries.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' to reach an overall height of 2-4 metres and width of 2-3 metres. While the type species natural habitat includes rich forest soils of moist valleys, thickets, by streams and near shaded moist rocks, garden specimens will be happy growing in full sun to partial shade, in most moist but well-drained soils.

As well as the garden, it is suitable for growing in urns or other containers in a shady courtyard, and may even be grown as houseplant in well-lit halls and patio gardens.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

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TEASEL - Dipsacus fullonum

Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum seed heads in winter
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum, otherwise known as wild teasel or Fuller's teasel is an ornamental herbaceous plant with an upright habit grown for its ability to attract seed eating birds. However its is perhaps best known for its ornamental dried flower heads which are used in floristry. Fuller's teasel differs from wild teasel having stouter, and somewhat recurved spines on the seed heads. It is actually a cultivated variety which was once widely used in textile processing. The dried flower heads were employed as  a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool.

Native England, and also found to a lesser extent in Eurasia and North Africa, teasel is a herbaceous biennial with prickly stems and leaves, but it is best known for its large, ovoid flower heads which can be between 4–10 cm long and 3–5 cm wide on top of a basal whorl of spiny bracts. Under favourable conditions teasel can reach an overall height of between 1–2.5 metres.  The first true flowers appear in July and August, emerging in a belt around the middle of the oval flowerhead, and then open sequentially toward the top and bottom of the flower head. This then creates two narrow belts of blooms as flowering progresses. Small seeds 4–6 mm long maturing in mid-autumn and are an important winter food resource for a number of seed-eating birds, notably the European goldfinch.

It is a robust species capable of surviving in a wide variety of habitats, and commonly found in damp grassland and field edges, or on disturbed ground, such as roadside verges and waste grounds. Unfortunately this has also caused it became a pest species in the Americas, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand where it is often considered to be a noxious weed. For best effect grow teasel in moist or moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However it will tolerate shade and heavy clay, and chalky soils. Once established it will self-seed readily.

Image credit - Eaden horticulture

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ACONITUM NAPELLUS

Aconitum napellus - Monkshood blue flowers
Aconitum napellus - Monkshood

Commonly known as 'Monkshood' in reference to the shape of its unusual blooms, Aconitum napellus is a hardy, herbaceous perennial plant, and a popular, although some may say misguided, choice for the garden. The reason why it can be misguided is because all parts of this rather beautiful plant are poisonous, deadly even to those particularly sensitive to the aconitine toxin, hence its other common name of 'Wolfsbane'.

Native to western and central Europe, Aconitum napellus is noted for its deeply cut foliage and intensely blue flowers. Under favourable condition you can expect it to grow to 1-1.5 metre tall and with an approximate spread of 0.1-0.5 metres. The dark-green, palmate leaves are rounded, between 5–10 cm diameter and five to seven deeply lobed segments. The blooms are dark purple to bluish-purple in colour, and are produced in July and August. Each narrow, oblong, helmet-shaped flower is approximately 1–2 cm long.

Plant Aconitum napellus between October and March in a moist, deep soil. They will perform best in partial shade but will tolerate full sun if soil conditions remain moist throughout the growing season. After their second year, mulch annually in the spring.

 Aconitum napellus can be cut back after flowering to encourage bushier growth. Cut down the flowering stems of all specimens in October.

The Aconitum napellus cultivar 'Spark's Variety' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Warning. Always wear gloves when handling as the aconitine toxin is absorbed easily through the skin.

Image credit - Jean-Pol GRANDMONT licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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ACER GRISEUM - Paperbark Maple

Peeling bark from the paperbark Maple' - Acer griseum
The paperbark Maple' - Acer griseum

Commonly know as the 'Paperbark Maple'. Acer griseum, is arguably one of the most beautiful of all small trees - let alone all acer species and cultivars! Native to the central Chinese provinces of Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shaanxi and Sichuan, Acer griseum was first collected by French missionary Père Paul Farges and the Irish plantsman Augustine Henry.

It is a deciduous species with a spreading habit, originally described by Adrien Franchet in 1894 as a variety of Acer nikoense. It was subsequently recollected and introduced to cultivation in Europe in 1901 by notable English plant collector Ernest Henry 'Chinese' Wilson (1876–1930). Its present name was attributed by German botanist Ferdinand Albin Pax (1858–1942) in 1902.

In its native habitat Acer griseum can reach a height of up to approximately 20 metres. However this is considerably less in European cultivation, where you can be expected to achieve a height of 6–9 metres with a canopy width of 5–6 metres. The leaves are trifoliate, dark green above and a bright glaucous blue-green beneath. Depending on conditions, they will often display an attractive red and scarlet autumn colour before leaf-drop in the autumn.

The yellow flowers are produced on pendulous downy stalks in the spring and are few and far between. Pale-brown, paired, winged-fruits (known as samaras) follow.

Acer griseum is best noted for its ornamental reddish-brown bark which on mature specimens will peel away in small sheets to reveal a cinnamon-coloured under-bark.

It will be happy grown in either full sun or semi-shade on most moist, but well-drained soils.

Acer griseum received the Award of Merit in 1922 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Main image credit - By Photo by and (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Co-attribution must be given to the Chanticleer Garden. - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1996014

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ARBUTUS UNEDO 'RUBRA'

Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' with dark pink bell-like blooms
Arbutus unedo 'Rubra'

Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' is a large bushy evergreen shrub or small tree with rough bark and dark green leathery leaves. Commonly known as the 'pink strawberry tree', it is a naturally occurring variety which was first discovered by Scottish botanist William Aiton (1731–1793) in 1785. The type species was named and described by Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) in Volume One of his landmark 1753 work Species Plantarum. William Aiton was responsible for naming the variety. The first recording of this natural variant growing in the wild in Ireland was in 1835, which is also the earliest known date of its cultivation.

Under favourable conditions, Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' will reach a height and spread of approximately 6 metres  It has attractive glossy evergreen leaves

It is noted for it rosy-pink urn-shaped flowers which are produced in panicles in the autumn. Red, strawberry-like fruits will ripen at the same time, although a result of the previous years blooms.

 Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' will be happy growing in any non alkaline, fertile, moist but free draining soil. Yet despite its Ericaceae family classification, it has been proven to be one of the most tolerant of all the genus of alkaline conditions, even growing on chalk. When planting into heavy or poorly drained soils, dig in plenty of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost beforehand.

Young specimens are less resilient from the cold than mature plants and are prone to damage in freezing conditions. With that in mind, provide a sunny, sheltered position that will protect your Arbutus unedo 'Rubra from cold northerly and easterly winds. Other than in the mildest regions of the United Kingdom, provide additional winter protection for the first few years. Mulch in the spring, but avid it touching the trunk.

Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984, the Award of Merit in (1925).

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SKIMMIA JAPONICA VEITCHII (FOREMANII)

Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' with flower bud
Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' 

Skimmia japonica, along with its various cultivars, is a popular, mound-forming, evergreen garden plant. Native to Japan, the Ryukyu Islands the Philippines, China and Formosa, it has been under cultivation at Royal Kew gardens as far back as 1838. However, it wasn't until 1861 that it came to the prominent attention of professional gardeners and horticulturists after it was re-introduced from Japan by well known Scottish botanist and plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880).

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' is usually the plant of choice' for most gardeners, but as this particular species is dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants) and the Rubella form is male, it will not produce the spectacular berries associated with this genus. This is where the female clone Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' makes sense.

Described in 1874 by Paris based, French botanist Élie-Abel Carrière (1818 – 1896), Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' is believed to have been introduced by John Gould Veitch (1839 – 1870), horticulturist and traveller, and one of the first Victorian plant hunters to visit Japan. Veitch was in Japan at the same time as Fortune, however there is no reference to him bringing back this specific introduction. Neither has any authentic plant been documented.

Skimmia japonica ‘Veitchii’ is a vigorous female clone with distinctly broad-ovate, aromatic leaves. Small but dense clusters of white star shaped flowers appear in mid and late spring. These are followed by large bunches of long lasting brilliant red, waxy fruits which appear from mid-autumn onwards.

Under favourable condition you can expect Skimmia japonica ‘Veitchii’ to reach a height and spread of between 1-1.5 metres. Plant in a moist, well-drained soil in a  right position but one which is protected from the midday sun. Full sun can cause the top-most leaves to bleach yellow.

It will perform best in slightly acidic soils, however it will also tolerate chalk if plenty of organic matter has been previously dug in.

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HOW TO GROW SKIMMIA REEVESIANA
SKIMMIA ANQUETILIA
SKIMMIA JAPONICA 'RUBELLA'
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CAMPSIS X TAGLIABUANA 'Madam Galen'

Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Commonly known as the 'Trumpet Creeper', Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen' is arguably the hardiest and most attractive of all species and cultivars within the Campsis genus. It is a selected cultivar of the hybrid Campsis grandiflora x Campsis radicans which first entered cultivation in 1889. The hybrid name 'tagliabuana' commemorates the 19th-century Italian nurseryman, Carlo Ausonio Tagliabue.

Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen is a vigorous climber which under favourable conditions can reach a height of between 8-12 metres and a width of approximately 2.5-4 metres. It has light-green pinnate leaves which can be comprised of up to 15 small leaflets. They are usually grown on walls, upon which they cling to using aerial roots.

It is noted for it exotic, trumpet-shaped, orange to red blooms. Each flower can be up to 8 cm long that appear in loose clusters of 6 to 12.

Although Campsis are fully hardy, they will always perform better when grown against the protection of a warm, sunny wall. Plant into a moist, but well-drained soil. If you want to grow Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen' as a patio plant then us as large a container as you can safely handle, filled with a good quality soil based compost such as John Innes No.2. It is generally worth add extra horticultural grade grit for better drainage.

Prune back overgrown specimens in February or March.

Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1959

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CAMPSIS  X TAGLIABUANA 'Madam Galen' 
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CLEMATIS TANGUTICA

Clematis tangutica in yellow flower
Clematis tangutica

Commonly known as the 'Orange Peel Clematis' or 'Golden Clematis', Clematis tangutica is dense-growing, deciduous climber noted for its thick, rich-yellow, lantern-like blooms.

It was discovered for western science in 1872 by Russian geographer Nikolay Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky (1839–1888), a renowned explorer of Central and East Asia. Collected from the Gansu province (then known as 'Terra Tanguturu' to Europeans) in China only herbarium specimens had made it back to Royal Kew gardens, received from St Petersburg in 1898. It wasn't until 1890 that the first living specimens arrived in the United Kingdom and Clematis tangutica rendered cultivation. The British plant explorer William Purdom (1880–1921) reintroduced the species in 1911. This form was raised at Wisley and the subsequent seeds were widely distributed from 1919 onwards.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Clematis tangutica to grow to approximately 3 to 5 metres high. It is an easily grown species with attractive divided, sea-green foliage, and slightly downy stems. The flowers are 4-5 cm long, nodding at first and produced on long downy stalks during the autumn. Late blooms arrive at the same time as the first, silky seed heads form.

Clematis tangutica can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Plant with the crown 5-8 cm deep (to encourage new shoots to grow from below ground level) in a moisture-retentive, well-drained soil, preferably with an alkaline or neutral pH. Keep the roots and base of the plant cool and shaded by other plants or a layer of pebbles at the base.

Pruning is relatively easy. The flowers appear on the current year's growth so cut back the stems to a pair of strong buds 15-20 cm above ground level before new growth emerges in early spring.

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ARALIA ELATA

Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Commonly known as the 'Japanese Angelica Tree, Aralia elata is a considered to be either a tall, suckering shrub or small, sparsely-branched tree.

Native to Japan, China, S. Sakhalin, and S. Korea, it was introduced to western science in approximately 1830, and first named as Aralia grandis in 1840 by the Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel (1811–1871). The name Aralia elata var. elata is now the accepted name, as described by German botanist Berthold Carl Seemann (1825–1871).

Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Under favourable conditions, you can expect Aralia elata to growing up to 10 m in height. The bark is rough and gray with prickles, while the large, double-pinnate leaves are approximately 60–120 cm long. The leaves are gathered mainly in a ruff-like arrangement towards the tips of the stems and will often turn an attractive pale-yellow to reddish-purple colour in the autumn.

The small, white flowers appear in late summer and are produced in large umbels. The subsequent fruit is a small black drupe (stone fruit).

Aralia elata will perform best in deep loamy soils, in partial shade, however it will grow in poorer soils and in full sun. Provide a sheltered position away from strong winds to prevent damage to the leaves.

Despite its exotic appearance, Aralia elata is both tolerate of drought and many urban pollutants.

Be aware that handling bark and roots can cause allergic skin reactions.

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ARALIA ELATA

COTINUS COGGYGRIA 'ROYAL PURPLE'

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Commonly known as the 'Smoke Tree' due to the wispy, 'smoke-like' appearance of its feathery plumes, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is a popular, multiple-branching, deciduous ornamental shrub. The genus name derives from the Greek word 'kotinus' meaning olive.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' was a selected cultivar raised at Lombarts Nursery in Boskoop, Holland, and introduced into the United States in 1953.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
The true species is native to a large area from southern Europe, east across central Asia and the Himalayas to northern China and has been grown in Britain since 1656

Noted for its velvety, dark-purple foliage and flowers, under favourable conditions it will mature over time to reach an approximate height of between 3-5 metres. Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is generally as tall as it is wide.The ovate to obovate leaves are up to 7 cm long and emerge a rich maroon red in spring. They will turn their characteristically dark purplish-red to purplish-black later on in the summer. Small purple flowers are produced in July borne on loose, feathery panicles of blooms.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is surprisingly easy to grow and will perform well in most ordinary, well-drained garden soils. Provide a position of full sun to achieve the darkest colour,

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

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COTINUS COGGYGRIA 'ROYAL PURPLE'

ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB

rosebay willowherb
rosebay willowherb
Known as 'Fireweed' in the United States as it is often the first plant to grow following the ravages of fire, rosebay willowherb - Chamerion angustifolium is a perennial herbaceous plant native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Although rarely heard now, it was also known as bomb weed due to its rapid colonization of bomb craters during the second world war.

Rosebay willowherb
Botanical illustration of rosebay willowherb
Once considered a British  rarity, rosebay willowherb was originally confined to just a few locations with damp, gravelly soils. Today it is a common sight in many British gardens due to the expansion of the railway network, and the associated soil disturbance. However it is usually considered to be little more than an invasive weed.

Growing to approximately 2 metres tall, it has a strongly spreading habit due to its creeping underground stems and can easily produce clumps of around 1.5 metres. The leaves are uniquely unusual and easily identified during all stages of its lifecycle. This is because the leaf veins do not terminate on the edges of the leaf like other genera, instead they form circular loops which join together inside the outer leaf margins.

Flowering from July to September, the 4-petalled 2 cm wide pink blooms appear in terminal racemes, followed by reddish-brown linear seed capsules. The seeds have silky hairs which aids wind dispersal.

Ornamental form of rosebay willowherb can be grow in most moist but well-drained, humus-rich soils in full sun or partial shade.

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BUDDLEJA GLOBOSA

Buddleja globosa
Commonly known as the 'Orange Ball Buddleja', Buddleja globosa is a deciduous ornamental shrub noted for its deep-yellow to orange blooms. native to both dry and moist forests of the Andes in Peru, Chile and Argentina. It has a long history of cultivation, first introduced to British gardeners by the firm of Kennedy and Lee (two families of prominent Scottish nurserymen at the Vineyard Nursery in Hammersmith, west of London) in 1774. It was subsequently described and named by Scottish botanist Professor John Hope (10 May 1725 – 10 November 1786) in 1782.

Buddleja globosa
Botanical illustration of Buddleja globosa
Buddleja globosa is an erect, medium-sized shrub which under favourable conditions can attain a height and width of approximately 3-5 metres. In the milder regions of northern Europe it can almost be considered as an evergreen species. The large lanceolate leaves are tawny beneath with a wrinkled surface. The scented blooms are borne in globular heads, arranged in terminal, tapering clusters 12-20 cm long. The flowers appear in May and June, borne on the previous season's wood.

Plant Buddleja globosa in October and November or in May and April. They will be happy in a good loamy soil, and will even tolerate lime. They will perform best in full sun.

As this species flowers on the previous seasons growth, they should be lightly pruned after the blooms have faded by removing them along with approximately 5 to 10 cm of stem.

Buddleja globosa received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society's in 1993.

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Buddleja globosa

WEIGELA FLORIDA

Weigela florida
Weigela florida
Originally classified as Weigela rosea by English botanist John Lindley (1799 – 1865), Weigela florida was the first species within the genus to be collected for Western gardens. Names in honour of German scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel (1748 – 1831), it was first discovered for western science by Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880) who sent back the first specimens to England in 1845. It was renamed as Weigela rosea by Russian-German botanist Alexander Georg von Bunge (1803 – 1890), and published in the Annales des Sciences Naturelles; Botanique in 1839.

 Weigela florida
Botanical illustration of Weigela florida 
Native to north China, Korea and Manchuria, Weigela florida is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach a height and spread of approximately 2 metres. It has a wide spreading habit and arching branches with ovate-oblong to ovate, acuminate leaves. Each leaf is finely wrinkled with prominent veins.

The blooms are funnel-shaped, reddish or rose-pink on the outside, but paler within. Typically the flowers appear in May and June along all of the shoots produced the previous year. Occasionally a second crop of blooms can appear later on in the summer to early autumn.

Plant Weigela florida from October to March in any good, moist but well-drained soil.It will thrive in full sun or semi-shade.

This is arguably the most commonly seen species in production although there are a number of ornamental cultivars that are worthy of garden space. Both Weigela florida 'Foliis Purpureis' and Weigela florida 'Variegata' have received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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THE ELEPHANT-HAWK MOTH

The Elephant hawk moth
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor is a large, impressive species with an adult wingspan of between 58-70mm. It is widespread in the England and Wales, scarcer in Scotland and only found in isolated pockets in Ireland.

It is arguably one of the most attractive of our native moths with olive-green patterned pink forewings and body. The hind wings are marked pink and black.

The Elephant hawk moth
Elephant hawk moth caterpillar - Deilephila elpenor
The juvenile caterpillars are green in colour, and appear from July to September, when they pupate. As the caterpillars mature will either remain this colour turn brown and heavily marked. They also have large eye-spots on the 4th and 5th body segments. The thick body tapers to an end with a backward facing, curved 'horn'.

Like the majority of moths, it's a nocturnal species with the adults emerging in May and August. It can sometimes been seen at dusk feeding on nectar-rich blooms, and resting during the day.

The Elephant hawk-moth usually only produces one generation per year which overwinters as a pupae. The common name reflects the trunk-like front of the body, which along with the eye spot will swell up when alarmed to scare off predators. The 'trunk' is also raised up in a snake pose in order (it is believed) to protect the head of the caterpillar.

Honeysuckle is a particular favourite as well as other tubular flowered plant species such as petunias and the Fuchsia triphylla cultivars. The caterpillar feeds on Rosebay Willowherb, Great Willowherb, Bedstraw and various garden fuchsia species and hybrids.

Main image credit - nick goodrum licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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THE ELEPHANT-HAWK MOTH

RED ADMIRAL BUTTERFLY

Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Although believed to be a British native, as it is one of the last butterflies to be seen before winter sets in, the Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta natural habitat actually ranges throughout temperate Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America which makes it a migrant species.

It is a striking black species with bands of red on its forewings and hindwings, and white spots near the tops of the forewings. Look carefully and you will also see some small blue spots at the bottom-most tip of the hind wings. The undersides of the wings are mostly black, but with a dull repeat of the upper wing patterns. There is no colour or pattern distinction distinction between male and females. The eggs are green  but turn darker as they age.

Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
There is a certain amount of variability with the caterpillars, although they will always have a black head. The most usual form is black-ish, with a freckling of white spots. There is also a series of yellow marks down each side which form a wavy line. On each segment there are black or yellow spines. Each segment will have a red ring at the base. Pales versions of the caterpillar can occur with a greenish or yellowish body and pale spines. The pupa is grey with gold marks.

Red Admirals arrive in the UK from North Africa and southern Europe in the early summer onwards. They eggs singularly on the undersides of leaves, which will hatch after just a week. The solitary caterpillar will then live inside a 'tent' make from curled leaves, and will be ready to pupate after a month or so. The pupa will hang head down from a line of silk

Main image credit - By ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΖΑΧΑΡΑΚΗΣ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69029398

In text image credit - By Charles J Sharp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51145681

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NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica

Naked Man Orchid - Orchis Italica
Naked Man Orchid - Orchis Italica
At first glance the naked man orchid - Orchis italica, does not appear to deserve its rather cheeky common name. Native to the Mediterranean, this species of orchid looks like many other European orchids with its bright pink, densely clustered flowers. However, bend down and take a closer look and you may not quite believe what you are seeing. Why? Because each individual flower looks remarkably like a naked man in all his glory.

Naked Man Orchid - Orchis Italica
Naked Man Orchid - Orchis Italica
Given the right conditions, the naked man orchid plan will appear in large clusters in the spring, flowering from late March to April. The flowers borne in a dense spike approximately 20 inches in height and can vary in colour from white to dark pink. They sometimes have darker spots on the lip and the hood has dark pink veins. It prefers to grow in a  low nutrient soil partial shade.

Like most plants whose shape give indications of organs or parts of the body that can be healed, this one is no different. Since Roman times, it has been used as a treatment for men's virility as an aphrodisiac.

Luckily the naked man orchid is edible, in fact its tuberous root is particularly nutritious and can be made into a flour similar to arrowroot, known as salep. It’s used predominantly in Turkey in desserts and beverages however its popularity caused the naked man orchid to become a victim of its own success. Without sustainably grown populations, wild plants have been collected for centuries and in the past century has created a decline in the wild orchid population. It now has a 'threatened status' making it illegal to harvest wild plants or to export true salep powder.

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THE MOTH ORCHID - Phalaenopsis species and cultivars

The Moth orchid - Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
The Moth orchid - Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
The Phalaenopsis genus of orchids contains approximately 60 species and numerous cultivars, many of which have been produced artificially under laboratory conditions. Native to southern China, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, the Bismark Archipelago, and Queensland, Phalaenopsis orchids are a highly ornamental, extremely popular and long lasting flowering plant.

The generic name Phalaenopsis simply means 'Phalaen-like', this comes from the similarly named genus Phalaena, which contains a group of large moths. The flowers of some of the species within Phalaenopsis genus are said to resemble moths in flight, which explains their common name - Moth orchids.

The Moth orchid - Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
Phalaenopsis japonica
Most Phalaenopsis species are epiphytic (a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant) shade plants, although there are a few which are considered to be lithophytes (plants that grow in or on rocks). Unfortunately there hasn't been much research undertaken on Phalaenopsis in their natural habitat, although we know that in the wild some species grow below the canopies of moist and humid lowland forests protected against direct sunlight, while others will grow in seasonally dry or cool environments.

A number of Phalaenopsis species have a unique and fascinating 'body-part recycling' system whereby the spent flowers metamorphose into working green, photosynthesising leaves after pollination. As with many other flowering plants, the petals of the Phalaenopsis orchid are designed to attract pollinating insects, but in all other plant genera so far discovered the petals are discarded after pollination. In many Phalaenopsis species, the flowers escape a programmed death by producing chloroplasts. The flowers turn green, become fleshy and begin to photosynthesise just as regular leaves do.

Phalaenopsis orchids are typically hardier than other species of orchids, which makes them an excellent choice for first-time orchid growers. In the wild, Phalaenopsis species are accustomed to subtropical temperatures around 20 to 35 °Celsius, although they are robust enough to adaptable to indoor temperatures of between 15 to 30 °Celsius. Avoid temperatures below 18 °C as over-watering can causes root rot. As expected from their native habitat, they requires high humidity and low light levels so keep your Phalaenopsis out of direct sunlight and regularly spray with rainwater distilled water.

Phalaenopsis orchids are usually grown in clear pots with is the result of their epiphytic lifestyle. Like the spent flowers mature roots are also able to produce chloroplasts within the roots also allowing them to photosynthasise. This is why they will fair far better in pots that will allow in light.

When potting on use a coarse bark mixture with added charcoal, perlite. In warmer climates add some sphagnum moss, or horticultural sponge to prevent the rooting medium from drying out too quickly. Do not worry if your orchid roots are exposed about the rooting medium as this is perfectly natural. Avoid the temptation to try and push them back into the soil as this can do more harm than good.

there is a saying with orchids and that is to water weekly and feed monthly. The preferred method is to carefully submerge the entire pot for a minute or so and then allow to drain before placing it back in its usual position. Using tepid rainwater, or reasonably pure tap water if you are lucky enough to have it. Avoid using cold water and don't allow water to remain in the crown of the plants for more than a couple of hours as it can induce rotting. Do not allow the root system to fully dry out. Feed with a specialist orchid fertiliser or a quarter strength regular fertiliser.

Re-pot after flowering, but only to the next sized pot. If you over-pot then it may take several years for moth orchids to re-flower. Wash away old compost from the roots before working the new compost gently and firmly around the roots.

In text image credit - By snitch from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan - This file has been extracted from another file: Phalaenopsis japonica (Rchb.f.) Kocyan & Schuit., Phytotaxa 161- 67 (2014). (34153976831) (2).jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69679255

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora
HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

SEDUM SPECTABILE

Hylotelephium spectabile
Hylotelephium spectabile
Although correctly classified as Hylotelephium spectabile, Sedum spectabile, is a gorgeous ornamental herbaceous plant native to China and Korea and often grown as drought-tolerant groundcover. It goes by the genus common name of stonecrop, a reference to their habit of growing on rocks or stony ledges.

Hylotelephium spectabile
Close up of Hylotelephium spectabile blooms
Under favourable conditions you can expect Sedum spectabile to achieve a height of approximately 40 cm  tall, However, while the broad thick erect stems can grow to around 70 cm, they tend to collapse under their own weight, forming a spiral effect on the ground. The thick, shallowly scalloped, and broadly elliptic, grey-green leaves are formed in an alternate pattern on the top 3/4 to 1/2 of the stem, naturally dropping off from the base of the stem during the growing season.

The pollen rich, star-shaped pink flowers are produced in flat terminal clusters up to 15 cm across which appear in late summer

Grow Sedum spectabile in a moderately fertile, in a well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Plant in full sun. It is particularly drought and heat tolerant, especially once established.

The stems will naturally die off over the winter but leave them in place until the spring when they can be easily snapped off at the base.

Sedum spectabile received the Awarded of garden merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

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SEDUM SPATHULIFOLIUM 'CAPE BLANCO'
SEDUM SPECTABILE

SEDUM SPATHULIFOLIUM 'CAPE BLANCO'

Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco'
Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco'
Also known under the cultivar name of  'Cappa Blanca', Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco', is a hardy, ornamental ground cover plant whose parentage is native to western North America. The Sedum genus is commonly known as the 'Stonecrops' due to their preference for rocky habitats. The species name spathulifolium refers to their spade-shaped leaves.

Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco' is an evergreen perennial with succulent stems and crowded rosettes of thick, purple-tinged grey-green leaves. The leaves emerging from the meristem are bloomed a striking, silvery-white. Under favourable conditions is can forming a wide mat up to approximately 10 cm in height.

Flattened heads, approximately 5 cm wide, of bright yellow flowers appear in May and June. After flowering, leave the dead stems on the plants until the spring when they can be easily snapped off.

Plant Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco' during suitable weather between October and May. Grow in a sheltered position in a moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. That being said it is also known to tolerate light shade. It is surprisingly drought tolerant, but protect from excessive winter wet as this can cause root rots to take hold.

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SEDUM SPATHULIFOLIUM 'CAPE BLANCO'
SEDUM SPECTABILE

NICOTIANA SYLVESTRIS - The Flowering Tobacco plant

Nicotiana sylvestris - the flowering tobacco plant
Nicotiana sylvestris - the flowering tobacco plant
Nicotiana sylvestris is an imposing yet stunning flowering half-hardy annual, and is believed to be one of the parents of Nicotiana tabacum, the plant used in modern tobacco production. Nicotiana tabacum does not exists in the wild and is only found in cultivation.

Nicotiana sylvestris - the flowering tobacco plant
Nicotiana sylvestris - botanical illustration
Native to Argentina, Nicotiana sylvestris is a leafy plant which can grow up to  5 ft tall. Its stout stems carry lyre-shaped, and slightly sticky leaves which are mid-green in colour. The blooms are produced on spikes which appear in August. Each flower is white, trumpet shaped and approximately 3 1/2 inches long. The are highly fragrant and open in the evening. The scent is strongest at night, so that they can attract pollinating moths. They will close in full sun, but can remain open on dull days. Once pollinated each flower will eventually produce a large quantity of small seeds.

Grow Nicotiana sylvestris in a rich, well-drained soil preferably in a warm and sunny position. They may require additional support but only in exposed areas, and some shade from the mid-day sun in hotter climates.

Nicotiana sylvestris gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993, the genus name of which was named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century French diplomat and scholar.

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NICOTIANA SYLVESTRIS - The Flowering Tobacco plant

HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
The White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata (previously known as Habenaria radiata is an absolutely gorgeous species of terrestrial orchid native to China, Japan, Korea and Russia. Its natural habitat includes grassy wetlands and seepage slopes in moderate to high mountains, and while it is commonly found in cultivation it is sadly is in rapid decline over its entire natural range. Over collection would have been a contributing factor in the past, but more recently their loss has been due to the destruction of their habitat.

Pecteilis radiata comes in the form of small, pea sized tuber from which grass-like leaves are produced, alternately on a single stem. The leaves number up to 7, and are between 5-20 cm long and about 1 cm wide. The spike continues upwards until it releases an unbranched flower spike which can be up to 50 cm tall. Each spike will usually produce 2 or 3 flowers but sometimes it can be as many 8 which being to bloom in late July until their peak in August.

White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
It is no surprise that Pecteilis radiata received its common name of 'white egret flower' from its exquisite, pearly-white flowers. The sepals are simple, small and green, while the extravagant lip has three main lobes. The two biggest extend laterally and are highly fringed, while the center lobe is simple, elongate, and pointing downward. Taken as a whole the flower looks remarkably like a white egret in full flight!

Over the summer new bulbs will form on short underground stems while the old bulb slowly dies away. A healthy bulb can produce up to 3 replacement bulbs and this new generation will be fully formed, individual plants by late October.

Pecteilis radiata is easy to cultivate due to its liberal production of new tubers each season. Grow them as you would any bog orchid and, very importantly, allow the bulbs to dry off in winter. Do not plant them in normal potting soil or liberally use fertilizer.

Plant them just below the surface, approximately 1 cm deep, pointy side up, in any mix that is water retaining and acidic in reaction. You can make your own rooting medium using natural weathered pumice, peat moss, and a bit of sand (ratio of 1 : 1 : 1/2) then top dress with a thin layer of dried sphagnum moss. Alternatively use perlite mixed with sand and moss peat.

Place them in a sunny, warm position and keep them moist, but not wet.  It can take a few weeks before the new growth emerges, but once it does, increase watering.  When the weather becomes hotter and the plants are growing strongly, water them so that they are permanently wet, but not waterlogged. Use clean rain water if possible, otherwise use tap water that has been allowed to stand for 48 hours.

Once they are finished flowering you will still need to keep them wet until the heat of summer has passed. Come the autumn they will only need to be kept moist. Once night temperatures start to drop below 15 C the bulbs will start to go dormant.  All dead growth can be removed at that time and the bulbs can be allowed to dry off, but not so that they dessicate otherwise the bulbs will die. Add small amounts of water every few weeks is necessary, particularly if the pot is kept in low humidity.  Keep the plants cool and dry throughout the winter at a temperature of between – 0 to 10 degrees Celsius.

Recover all newly formed bulbs in March or early April and throw away any old, dead or diseased bulbs and roots.  The new bulbs will be bright tan or light brown in color and firm to the touch while the old bulbs will be dark and soft.  Replant them immediately to start again.

Fertilize with a very dilute inorganic fertilizer with micronutrients.  In May and June  fertilize every other week, making sure that the pots are fully flushed with fresh water to avoid salt build up.

Main image credit - By sunoochi from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan - [Toyama, Japan] Pecteilis radiata '蘭月 - Rangetsu' (Thunb.) Raf., Fl. Tellur. 2: 38 (1837), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81949089

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora

Swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora
Swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora
The swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora is a stunningly beautiful terrestrial orchid from the Colombian Andes.

It was discovered during a ten year expedition (1777 to 1788) to Peru and Chile by botanists Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez. However it wasn't formally classified until 1798 when it was named in honor of Don Francisco de Angulo, Director-General of Mines, in Peru.

Anguloa uniflora is only about 18 to 24 inches tall with thin pleated leaves above conical pseudobulbs. The most outstanding feature of this plant are its complex flowers which at a certain stage of opening look uncannily like a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth - be it a rather ugly one. These large, fragrant, creamy-white, waxy flowers usually bloom in the spring and in the summer and are overwhelmingly fragrant. Each bloom develops from a single stem that rises from the base of the pseudobulbs.

The lip of the flower is hinged so when pollinating insects enter the flower in search for nectar, they are pushed against the column where a packet of pollen (called a pollinium) is secured to them, generally on the head or abdomen. When the insect enters another flower of the same species, the pollinium will stick to the stigma of the second flower.

In its natural habitat Anguloa uniflora is found at elevations of 1400 to 2500 meters, so it is no surprise that when growing it at home you will need to create conditions of intermediate to cold temperatures and shade. The growing medium should be kept evenly moist although it will require less water in winter. To encourage flowering, watering should be decreased after it has finished its growth.

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SCHOMBURGKIA EXALTATA
The Amazing Monkey Orchid
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THE BEE ORCHIDS
THE BUTTERFLY ORCHID - Psychopsis papilio
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
THE FLYING DUCK ORCHID
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
THE ORCHID MANTIS
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora
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WHAT IS AN ORCHID?

BULLEY'S PRIMROSE - Primula bulleyana

Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana
Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana
Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana is an absolutely gorgeous species of semi-evergreen perennial from the Primulaceae family. Native to the Yunnan province in China, it was first introduced to European gardeners by George Forrest in 1906. Forrest named this new species of primula after Arthur K Bulley, a cotton broker from Liverpool and a keen amateur gardener who was the first to sponsor Forrest on his many plant hunting expeditions to China. Bulley also founded the Bees Ltd. nursery and was responsible for the introduction of many new hardy plant and alpine species to the UK in the early 20th century.

The natural habitat of Bully's primrose are damp, free-draining hillsides, so it makes sense when planting in a garden environment to plant them in a sunny position although it will tolerate partial shade. Primula bulleyana is best grown in a deep, damp, even boggy soil and will do particularly well beside a pond, but not with the roots completely submerged. It will establishes itself as a strong clump with a couple of years and has proven itself to be very hardy when grown in northern European conditions.

Primula bulleyana will form a basal rosette of simple light-green leaves, 5–14 inches long and 1–4 inches wide and is listed as one of the group known as candelabra primulas. So called because of the tiered arrangement of their flowers. The sturdy, erect flowering stems appear from June to July and can be as much as 24 inches in height. These stems rise in groups bearing 5-7 whorls of orange-yellow flowers 1 inch across which open from red buds. Cut back any spent flower stems.

Primula bulleyana can be propagated by division in early spring, although it will propagate itself by self-sown seedlings so long as the seed lands in damp conditions.

 Primula bulleyana gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Main image credit - By Eric in SF - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8317802

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POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'
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POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace'
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' 
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' is a gorgeous ornamental perennial which has a history of cultivation dating back to the mid 1600's. English plant breeders took this cultivar to their hearts and after centuries of careful selection they have given us what we have today.

Strangely Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' has had a habit of falling in and out of fashion with growers but was particularly popular with Victorian gardeners. In fact the Victorians held Polyanthum 'Gold Lace' cultivars in such high regard that they used to display them on stages draped with black fabric and place frames around them to view them without distraction!

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace'
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' 
Unfortunately the years of continuous hybridization in search for perfect blooms has caused Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' to lose its hardy ruggedness. So while there are still easy to grow from seed they tend to be treated as annuals, particularly in colder northern European climates.

The flower of the Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' is similar to that of Primula auricula cultivars in that it is formed by a single petal only. However being divided at the edge, it appears for all intents and purposes to be five or six petals. The flowers will vary in colours from plant to plant from red, through to brown and sometimes so dark they appear almost black! There is a tendency for the darker forms to produce a lacing of silver rather than gold. These are more correctly known as Silver Lace.

Growing to a height and spread of approximately 20 cm Polyanthus primula 'Gold Lace' is noted for its has unusual golden-eyed flowers with rich mahogany-crimson petals and gold laced edges. It has ovate mid-green leaves, which are occasionally seen with a reddish tint.

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace will perform best in a moist, slightly acid soil in partial shade. However they can tolerate a position of full sun if the soil is kept moist.

Be aware that polyanthus leaves are a particular favourite if both slugs and snail and so preventative measures will need to be put in place to maintain top condition.

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OLD ENGLISH PLANTS - Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’
POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'
THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The orchid primula is arguably one of the most delicate and beautiful of all the primula species. Native to the Chinese regions of north-west Yunnan and south-west Szechwan this distinctive species differs from many of it relatives because of its highly ornamental, compound flower spike.

Primula vialii was first brought to the attention of European gardeners after its discovery by the well-known Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873-1932). It was originally named Primula littoniana after his friend, Consul G. Litton, however this is now relegated to a synonym. It turns out that Forrest was beaten to the post by another plant hunter, the French missionary botanist Père Delavay who had already named this new discovery Primula vialii.

The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
In its native habitat the orchid primula prefers to grow in wet meadows, near water in valleys and rather strangely in thickets of prickly oak bushes.

The erect, spear-shaped (lanceolate) leaves are produced in tufts and are a light green in colour. They are are soft, hairy and can be as much as 30 cm long on mature plants.

The flowers are produced from June to July and are formed on stout stems up to 60 cm tall. The flower buds and calyces are scarlet while the flowers themselves open up to a lavender-blue colour.

When grown as a garden plant the orchid primula is best grown under light woodland conditions but in a suitably moist, slightly acidic soil. They will they also grow in a more open situation so long as the are not allowed to dry out over the summer. They are often grow as an aquatic marginal plant and while they may tolerate waterlogged conditions they will not thrive.

Primula vialii received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

Image credits - By I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4041931

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