Category Archives: Plants and Planting

Here be Giants!

At Nymans you can enjoy some exotic species of plants that rather look down their noses at our native counterparts. All hail from the region known as Macronesia which includes Madeira, the Azores, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes. They have all evolved into giants.


Geranium maderense

The above Geranium is superficially like our own ankle-high Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) but this one grows to over a metre tall and up to 2 metres wide.

The dramatic Echium pictured below is in the family Boraginaceae which means it is related to the herb borage, forget-me-nots, and sometime bedding plant Echium vulgare, all of which are dwarfed by this 3m flower spike. This plant will flower in its second or third year after which it will set profuse quantities of seed, then die.

Echium pininiana










Our native flora boasts a few Spurges (Euphorbias) the largest of which would be shade-loving Euphorbia amygdalloides at half a metre tall. The sun-loving giant Euphorbia (pictured below) reaches over 2m tall and 3m wide at Nymans. It is a hybrid between two large growing Macronesian species, E.mellifera and E. stygiana, both of which make good garden plants themselves.


Euphorbia x pasteurii

All these plants can be grown successfully outdoors in the milder parts of the U.K. Echium pininiana seedlings may need protection through the winter. Or simply come and enjoy them and other plant delights at Nymans.

Author: Jon Keen









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Filed under Botany, Half-hardies, Macronesia, Perennials, Plant collections, Plants and Planting, Uncategorized

Tulip Madness and other notes!


Now that spring has sprung, the garden is in full swing with the grass growing rapidly shortly followed by the weeds. We have been busy planting the last of the trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials until the autumn. These have included additions to the prairie beds; Sedum ‘Indian Chief’, Knautia macedonica tied together by the dwarf grass Deschampsia ‘Pixie Fountain’. A number of rare unusual trees and shrubs have also been added to our collection such as Rhododendron ‘Susan’ named after Susan de Vesci daughter of the Countess of Rosse.

Sedum carpark

Sedum ‘Indian Chief’

The Sunk Garden in the heart of the garden is in full flower at the moment with the dark purple/crimson flowers of Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ complemented by the subtle green/pink of Tulipa ‘Greenland’. This will be followed by an injection of colour later in the year when the summer display is planted, but before that you will be able to see Germanic Iris and Cosmos ‘Chocomocha’ jousting for pride of place.


Tulipa ‘Greenland’ complemented by Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’

The stars of the show at Nymans at the moment must be the Tulips with the burnt colours of T. ‘Cario’ and T. ‘Orange Dynasty’ on the tropical terrace with the sweet smell of honey drifting across from Euphorbia mellifera and the towering ruins as a back drop.


Tulipa ‘Cario’ with the back drop of tropical foliage


Just across to the main lawn in the aptly named Ivy bed which holds in a vibrant display of the royal purple of T. ‘Negrita’ and fiery orange of T. ‘Annie Schlider’.


Tulipa ‘Negrita’ and Tulipa  ‘Annie Schlider’ in the Ivy Bed

The Tulip bombardment starts before you even enter Nymans when you are dazzled and wowed by the flamboyant and exciting swathes of T.’Sonnet’, T. ‘Dom Pedro’ and T. ‘Night Rider’ all dark and moody colours.

107 Car park

Tulips at the entrance to Nymans


This is a complete contrast to the entrance to the Pinetum which sees the tall orange T. ‘El Nino’ amid the pristine white of T. ‘Hakuun’ with the backdrop of green from the Pinetum.


Tulipa ‘El Nino’

Stephen Herrington – Head Gardener

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Filed under Botany, Garden History, Perennials, Plant collections, Plants and Planting

The Harold Comber Collection

We are very proud to announce that Nymans Estate has been awarded Plant Heritage status for its Harold Comber Collection. Harold Comber was the son of the first Head Gardener, James Comber, and he collected plants in the Andes and Tasmania in the mid-1920’s.

Harold Comber

Harold Comber

The collection consists of 60 taxa that are either the original plants he collected, or propagated from those originals. His legacy plays an important role at Nymans as we endeavour to maintain the collection as well as add to it.

Chilean Border - August 2013 (2)

Desfontainea spinosa

A form of Desfontainea (pictured above) was collected by Harold in Chile and it is our job to make sure we propagate such plants so they can always be seen at Nymans, and also to make available a stock of such plants to the wider horticultural community.

Myrceugenia leptospermoides 3

Myrceugenia leptospermoides

We also aim to build on this legacy by introducing newly collected plants from these countries. The Chilean plant above came to us via Martin Gardiner of Edinburgh Botanic Garden. This plant is endangered in it’s native habitat.

Weinmannia trichosperma 2

Weinmannia trichosperma

Weinmannia is another Chilean plant, rare in cultivation, that thrives in the shelter of our Walled Garden. Last year we created a new border for Chilean plants in the Walled Garden and we have some new plants to add  to our collection this year including Escallonia x stricta ‘Harold Comber’ and Luma apiculata ‘Nana’ which was a gift from Plant Heritage.

Jon Keen, Gardener.

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Filed under Botany, Chilean Plants, Garden History, Plant collections, Plants and Planting, Tasmanian Plants, Uncategorized

Indian Summers and Chile Autumns

October is off to a mild start this year and this gives some of our rarer plants at Nymans a chance to shine.

Indian Summer.

In our Indian summer border we have a rare shrub called Rostrinincula dependens whose delicate mauve flowers have just started to open upon pendulous racemes.

rostrinincula 4

If the weather stays fine the flowers should open fully serving as a nectar bar for insects and providing contrasting flower form and colour in the border.Here it is mingling with pink Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’, Aster ‘Purple Cloud’ and the variegated grass foliage of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’.

Rostrinincula 2

Chile Autumns.

As the summer eats into autumn, rarities from our Chilean plant collection have a final flourish.Greigia sphacelata is a rare pineapple relative from the Chilean Andes with architectural foliage.


Our specimen was planted 3 years ago and flowered for the first time this year in September. The flowers are rather lost at the base of the foliage but I’m hoping that the flowers will ripen into fruit (known as chupones in Chile) as they are said to be sweet and delicious. Fingers crossed!


Another Chilean rarity is Myrseugenia leptospermoides which is a small, evergreen, shrub in the Myrtle family that is endangered in it’s native habitat. This year it flowered prolifically.


The close-up below shows it flowering and fruiting simultaneously. This plant has provided us with quite a few seedlings that I hope to transplant to other locations in the garden.


Also from Chile hails a plant called Bomarea caldassii. This twining perennial climber is related to Alstroemeria. It’s stems will snake their way through the lower branches of trees and shrubs and then terminate in a multi-flowered head of bright scarlet tubular flowers. Exotic and hardy.

bomarea 3

Our job as gardeners is to try and locate the many and diverse plants we grow in their best locations for them to perform but it does help if the weather can give us a helping hand, extending the growing season for as long as possible.

Author: Jon Keen, Gardener.

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Filed under Herbaceous Borders, Plant collections, Plants and Planting

Wandering Wisterias

In late May and early June when the sun is out, you can often smell the sweet perfume of wisteria at Nymans. Wisterias originate from China, Japan and the eastern United States. Depending on the species, they twine either clockwise or anti-clockwise and have long flower heads.

Wisteria sinensis 'Alba' at the end of the potting shed. A white form with a delicate perfume and long flower heads.

Wisteria sinensis ‘Alba’ at the end of the potting shed. A white form with a delicate perfume and long flower heads.

 Wisterias have played an important part in the history of Nymans. The Japanese exhibition in London in 1903 started the fashion and Nymans was no exception. Ludwig Messel built the pergola by the croquet lawn  where they would have room to spread. One variety is Wisteria floribunda multijuga (syn.m.macrobotrys). This variety carries extremely long flower heads often up to a metre in length. 

Wisterias on the pergola. There are at least three different varieties along the whole length.

Wisterias on the pergola. There are at least three different varieties along the whole length.

Although some of the original plants may still exist at Nymans, there are some varieties where the origins are not known as records were lost in the fire of 1947. Some varieties also suffered in the storm of 1987 when the original pergola had to be demolished.

We are often asked about the care and maintenace of these striking plants. To prune, cut the current seaons long growth back to 5-6 buds from the base. This helps to prevent tangling and twining around other shoots. In February reduce the same growths back to 2 buds. This maintains healthy spurs and encourages larger flowers.

Wisteria sinensis. the variety in the wall garden is not known.The sheltered position means it is often the first to flower in the garden.

Wisteria sinensis. The variety in the wall garden is not known.The sheltered position means it is often the first to flower in the garden.

Today the wisterias at Nymans form a magnificent spectacle- we hope you enjoy their delicate fragrance and striking blooms as much as we do.

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Filed under Botany, Garden History, Plant collections, Plants and Planting, Wisterias

Workin’ On The Wild Side

Every February the garden team escapes from the lawns and borders of the formal garden and heads off into the woods and the wild garden to coppice hazel (Corylus avellana). Ditching secateurs and spades we take up pruning saws and loppers to cut hundreds of pea-sticks which we’ll use as plant supports in our garden borders; hazel  branches are the ideal material .

Volunteer Wendy cutting pea-sticks

Volunteer Wendy cutting pea-sticks

So how do we coppice a pea-stick? Coppicing is a traditional term for cutting a tree or shrub down to ground level, or a low framework, in order to let the plant re-generate. The branches are naturally fan-shaped and with a little pruning to size are perfect for peas to grow through, hence the name, but can also be used as natural plant supports for tall annual and perennial plants in the border. Look-out for future blogs where you will see us placing the pea-sticks in the borders.

 Wendy with freshly cut pea-stick

Wendy with freshly cut pea-stick

This year we have the benefit of a new battery-powered chainsaw. This is much less noisy than a petrol chainsaw and less disruptive to the tranquility of the woodland setting so much so that while we were there we enjoyed the cries of two buzzards circling overhead and the occasional rat-a-tat-tat-ing of a woodpecker. 

The chainsaw doesn’t use forest fuels or emit any fumes and in future we’re hoping to re-charge it with solar panels as we already do with our battery-powered hedge-trimmers. . Nor is there any waste created because any material the Garden Team cannot use as  pea-sticks will be taken up by the Woods Team to make all manner of products in their workshop. Woodland products are available to buy from the Plant Centre all year round and surplus pea-sticks  are available from spring onwards.

Coppicing Hazel with a battery powered chainsaw.

Coppicing Hazel with a battery powered chainsaw.

Another benefit of coppicing is that it lets light into the forest floor providing an opportunity for our native flora to flourish. You can expect to see primroses (Primula vulgaris), celandine (Ficaria verna), wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) and our coveted English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) re-colonise the ground as the hazel re-generates. It’ll be at least seven years before we return to this same spot in the woods to repeat the cycle.

Rest and recuperation for staff and volunteers.

Rest and recuperation for staff and volunteers.


Filed under Botany, Garden History, Garden jobs, Plants and Planting, Winter interest

Seven Wonders of Winter

Seven Wonders of Winter

You would be mistaken to think that winter holds little interest in the garden. As described in our previous blog there is much to grab your attention. Here are seven specific plants that are wonderful in the winter and can be seen at Nymans this February.


Winter wonder 1

Parrotia perscia

Parrotia perscia

Parrotia perscia is an elegant tree with steely grey branches that bare blood red flowers on bare stems in the depth of winter. You do however have to search these flowers out as they are not immediately obvious. They say good things come in small packages, and yes these little flowers are truly delightful.


Winter wonder 2

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum is a true stalwart of the winter garden. They have reflexed petals ranging from deep carmine to pure white, all with a dark purple blotch at their base. The leaves vary in shape and mottling to create a marble effect of pewters, silvers and gem like greens. They are a vision on a frosty morning peeping through a crispy frost to warm your spirits.


Winter wonder 3

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’ is currently in full flower with its pink semi double flowers that have a centre of golden yellow stamens; this is set off by rich deep green foliage. It is a wonderful surprise as you exit the forecourt garden that Maud herself originally designed back in the 1920s.


Winter wonder 4

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’, it is not surprising that ‘Pallida’ is the most popular Witch Hazel with its profusion of wonderfully scented spidery sulphur yellow flowers borne on bare stems. Its flowers have an iridescent glow on a bleak winter’s day that is a sight to behold.


Winter wonder 5

Libertia peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans has fans of sword like leaves with a prominent orange midrib that set the borders a light. They originate from down under and bring a taste of the Antipodean to Nymans. Outside of winter they have saucer shaped white flowers and orange seed capsules.


Winter wonder 6

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has upright stems and graceful arching foliage; it is a grass that adds grace and stature to the winter garden. The cream and green foliage, together with pinkish inflorescences of summer, dry to golden hues in the winter sun.


Winter wonder 7

Tilia x europa

Tilia x europa

Tilia x europa, these stately Lime trees are situated on our east drive as you approach the burnt out ruins of the house. In the low sun they create great atmosphere with their long shadows and deeply fluted trunks. Nymans is all about drama and atmosphere and these grand old trees encapsulate that vision perfectly on a distinctly chilly February morning.


Why not visit us at Nymans to see these seven wonders? If you are having trouble finding any like the small blood red flowers of the Parrotia percsia just ask a gardener and we will pleased to point you in the right direction.


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Filed under Plants and Planting, Winter interest