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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.
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.
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.
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
Once upon a time, highly scented and colourful Spring borders connected with our iconic Summer borders. Today we are carefully reinstating this lost Edwardian feature within the Wall Garden at Nymans, where a mixture of plants inspired by and connected to the early 20th Century will be showcased.
The Spring and Summer borders were developed between 1904 and 1915, with key involvement from Ludwig Messel’s youngest daughter, Muriel. She became a pupil of eminent gardener of the time and neighbour William Robinson of Gravetye Manor. Robinson, one of the early practitioners of the mixed herbaceous border of hardy perennial plants, assisted Muriel with creating these borders.
Aims and Objectives
By returning this lost and important historic feature, the Wall Garden shall be brought back to its original splendour, with all of the key features reinstated. All paths within the Wall Garden will once again take visitors on their intended journey. The curving paths through the Victorian Lawns shall become the key routes to see naturalised bulbs. The Spring and Summer paths reconnect the two most prolific blossoming seasons. While the circular paths of the Chilean border shall take you through the flora of the Southern Equator.
The Messel family were avid collectors and particularly cherished things of beauty, meaning and aesthetics, including plants. In keeping with this family history, the border will feature a collection of spring plant species, some of which have been selected for their historic connection to the era in which this border was originally created.
During the early 1900’s Narcissus hybridization was all the rage. In particular, the production of pure white Daffodils was greatly desired by gardeners. One of the first white hybrids named Narcissus ‘Beersheba’ bred by Reverend George H Engleheart featured in the Spring Borders. We hope to return ‘Beersheba’ and create a new collection of Narcissi here at Nymans.
Nature as Art
The new borders will be mixed, featuring shrubs, herbaceous perennials and bulbous plants. Unlike the summer borders, this border shall have visible structure throughout the year, becoming most showy and colourful in springtime. The style of these borders shall embrace a combination of the William Robinsons gardening principles notably that of “naturalised” planting within the constraints of a formal bed setting.
Gertrude Jekyll, a lifelong friend and collaborator with Robinson, will also be a key influence when selecting colour combinations and in how we plant. Her artistry in planting design, especially of borders, helped to transform plant collections into beautiful pictures, into art.
Jekyll’s style grew in popularity during and following the publication of her book:‘Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden’in 1914. A style that has stood the test of time and is still celebrated today.
Work has already begun on the Spring borders’ planning and cultivating, planting starts in autumn and they will come back to life in spring 2017.
Victoria Summers, Trainee Gardener
The pruning of the Nymans rose garden is now well under way and in this edition of the blog we’ll share some practical hints and tips with you, as well as explaining the reasons for doing what we do.
Roses are prickly plants so it is important to use the correct equipment, including gloves and eye protection. Roses such as the Moss and Rugosa types, which have thousands of tiny prickles (note: roses do not have thorns) are much more bothersome than those with larger protective hooks.
Before pruning a rose we consider its position in the bed and visualise a rough pruning height – roses in the centre, or at the back, can be pruned higher than those at the front. Otherwise, it is good to match heights between like plants and between those in similar positions, and to prune away from path edges.
There are many types of rose and their pruning requirements vary, but as a general rule: remove dead, diseased and dying material; try to create a pleasing shape with a good balance of shoots, and avoid crossing stems where possible. Remember, old wood can act as a support for newer stems. Also, when pruning, we stand back to view the rose from where it will be seen by our visitors.
The weather can be a challenge at this time of year: pruning in very cold temperatures can potentially lead to stems being crushed by the secateurs; a good clean cut with a sharp blade will look something like this. When buds are breaking early due to warmer weather, care must be taken to avoid damage.
Dead or dying rose plants are easy to identify and can be dug up and replaced. Suckers (i.e. unwanted rootstock growth) can be tricky to spot, especially if they have been overlooked previously and now merge with the main plant; however, different stem colour, leaf shape and growth rate are usually giveaways. Suckers should ideally be dug out.
At the end of a day’s work it is important to dispose of the rose prunings (diseased or not) via a process called phytosanitation; this involves simply burning the waste material to help avoid any future fungal re-contamination.
To save time later we dig out weeds as we prune, especially from the centre of the rose, and check that the labelling is correct; a tag around the base of the plant is very effective. The next steps will be to feed, mulch and tidy the edges, and assess any gaps in the roses or under-planting.
Tom Whalley, Assistant Gardener
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
From mid-autumn to mid-winter is the perfect time to take hardwood cuttings. It’s a great time to take material that we missed out on in the summer months. This technique is used for deciduous trees, shrubs and, we like to use this method for the propagation of Cornus, Philadelphus, Lonicera, Forsythia and Viburnum.
Here’s how we do it: We pick a strong piece of the current years growth, cut the stem into 15-30cm lengths making sure that at the bottom of the stem you cut straight under a node and at the top of the cutting you cut above the node on a slant. The slant has two purposes, one is to signify the top of the cutting and the other is to help rain drop off the top of the cutting to help prevent rot.
Once you have prepared your cutting, it needs to go into a mix of 50% propagation compost and 50% grit. Or, you can put your hardwood cutting into a trench in a prepared piece of open ground. once you have done these actions, you will need to water your cuttings and if in a pot, place in a sunny sheltered position, like a coldframe, and leave both types of cuttings until the following autumn.
The most important thing is to not let the cuttings dry-out during this time. When rooted in autumn, your cuttings can be potted on or left in the trench to bulk out and be moved at a later date to the desired area.
Charlene Chick – Propagator
About a week ago Vicky and I set out to plant tulips in the bookshop bed…Owing to the narrowness of the plot, and the grasses there being tightly spaced, it made sense to uproot everything in order to simplify the bulb planting process.
The grasses (Stipa tenuissima) and salvias (Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ and Salvia confertiflora) were carefully prised from the ground, potted up and moved to safety; some of them could then be returned later.
The tulips selected were different in colour from the ones already present, which meant unearthing the old bulbs for use elsewhere, a process that involved removing soil; this in turn created a suitably deep base for planting.
Tulipa ‘Spring Green’, Tulipa ‘Shirley’ and Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ were chosen for this bed. Before proceeding, bulbs with signs of disease or damage were rejected then around 140 healthy new bulbs were thoroughly jumbled up.
To avoid obvious lines or patterns the new bulbs were distributed much as seeds are scattered, and were planted where they fell (or moved if too close); this was intended to create a naturalistic effect.
It is best to plant tulips from mid- to late autumn when the weather is cold to prevent the spread of tulip fire, a fungal disease. A planting depth of two or three times the bulb’s height and spacing of at least twice the bulb’s width is advised.
Once safely in position the bulbs were buried and the soil worked flat. Note that in clay or sand you can incorporate organic matter, and in poor soils consider adding nutrients.
Some of the original plants were reinstated to avoid leaving the bed bereft of interest. Any gaps could be filled with bedding, or the whole area mulched for a tidier appearance.
The remaining new bulbs went to areas that had not previously included tulips. Spreading them thinly meant that a large area could be covered to provide a broad-reaching display.
The task complete, we can look forward to a striking show in spring when these plants reveal their colourful goblet-like flowers.
Tom Whalley, Assistant Gardener