Tag Archives: Botany

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

Awesome Autumn!

Acer + Hydrangea = Nymans in Autumn

Acer + Hydrangea = Nymans in Autumn

Nymans is often referred to as a garden for all seasons, but for many of our vistors and indeed members of the garden team, Autumn is perhaps the favourite of them all. The showy blooms of Summer may well have faded into memory but the kaleidoscope of colour at this time of year never ceases to dazzle and excite. Whether it’s the fiery foliage tones or the beautiful fruits that adorn the trees that you’re after, Nymans should certainly be top of your list of places to visit soon. In this week’s blog we’ll take you through some of the highlights that await you…

The view from the formal gardens to the Arboretum

The view from the formal gardens to the Arboretum

And here it is in some more detail

And here it is in some more detail

Perhaps the most obvious place to start looking for turning leaf colour is in our Arboretum and even if you can’t make the journey through there, you can still take most of it in from the Prospect look-out which the Messel family designed for just such a thing. The deeper you get into this part of the estate the more examples of leaf colour you’ll find but one of the feature trees there at the moment is this beauty:

Carya ovata Also known as the Shagbark Hickory, the golden leaves on this tree are stunning...

Carya ovata
Also known as the Shagbark Hickory, the golden leaves on this tree are stunning…

...and they look just as attractive as their make their transition from green to yellow

…and they look just as attractive as their make their transition from green to yellow

Before we really get stuck in to some of the amazing Autumn leaf colour here at Nymans, it is worth taking a minute to find out why the leaves of trees all over the World turn from green to shades of yellow, orange and red each year. Plants make food to grow via photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide and water into sugars using the energy in sunlight. This energy is captured by a green pigment in the leaves and stems of the plant, called chlorophyll. In Winter, with less sunlight, chlorophyll is not produced, but still remaining is the crucial chemical pigment behind leaves turning yellow – carotene. Also the main pigment in carrots, this yellow pigment is always present in the leaves but it isn’t visible until the production of chlorophyll slows in Autumn. Low temperatures also destroy chlorophyll so cold nights quicken the yellowing of leaves. As a tree prepares to shed its leaves in preparation for Winter, a layer of cells form across the base of each leaf stalk which restricts the movement of sugars back into the body of the tree. Concentrated in the leaf, sugars react with proteins in the cell sap to produce anthocyanin, a purply red pigment. It is the combination therefore of carotene and anthocyanain that produces the wonderful colours that we see on our trees every year.

Carotene is clearly the dominant pigment in the leaves of this Carya cordiformis (or Bitternut Hickory)...

Carotene is clearly the dominant pigment in the leaves of this Carya cordiformis (or Bitternut Hickory)…

..and it also looks absolutely stunning against the bright blue Sussex sky!

..and it also looks absolutely stunning against the bright blue Sussex sky!

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words so it’s probably best if I shut up for a moment and let our foliage photographs do the talking! Click on any of the images in this blog for a bigger better view…

This Euonymus alatus near the Prospect is covered in pinky purple leaves...

This Euonymus alatus (Winged Spindle bush) near the Prospect is covered in pinky purple leaves…

...while this Cornus controversa at the other end of the garden near the entrance, is slowly turning a lovely orange colour

…while this Cornus controversa (aka the Wedding Cake Tree) at the other end of the garden near the entrance, is slowly turning a lovely orange colour

This Rhus typhina near the Quarry Pit also has interesting furry stems

This Rhus typhina, also known as the Staghorn Sumac, can be found near the Quarry Pit and also has interesting furry stems

One of the classic trees for Autumn foliage colour is the Liquidambar styraciflua, or Sweet Gum tree

One of the classic trees for Autumn foliage colour is the Liquidambar styraciflua, or Sweet Gum tree

And this Parrotia persica, commonly known as the Persian Ironwood, isn't too shabby either!

And this Parrotia persica, commonly known as the Persian Ironwood, isn’t too shabby either!

You can't go too far wrong with an Acer tree when it comes to Autumn.  This Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' in the Pinetum for example, is one of the first to do its thing

You can’t go too far wrong with an Acer tree when it comes to Autumn leaf colour. This Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in the Pinetum for example, is one of the first to do its thing

Also in the Pinetum, this Acer palmatum 'Akegarsu' has pure blood red leaves...

Also in the Pinetum, this A. palmatum ‘Akegarsu’ has pure blood red leaves…

...while our 'Bloodgood' Acer adds red winged seed pods to the mix

…while our ‘Bloodgood’ Acer adds red winged seed pods to the mix

In the Top Garden, this Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium', or Full Moon Acer, looks great no matter which angle you view it from!

In the Top Garden, this A. japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, or Full Moon Acer, looks great no matter which angle you view it from!

Down in the Rock Garden meanwhile, A. palmatum Dissectum Group, in the right light looks like it might be on fire!

Down in the Rock Garden meanwhile, A. palmatum Dissectum Group, in the right light looks like it might be on fire!

Enkianthus are another great group of plants to check out at this time of the year.  Like most Acers this E. perulatus is also native to Japan

Enkianthus are another great group of plants to check out at this time of the year. Like most Acers, this E. perulatus from the Heather Garden is also native to Japan

While as the name suggests, Enkianthus chinensis hails from from another area of Asia!

While as the name suggests, Enkianthus chinensis hails from from another area of Asia!

Leaves don't have to stay on their trees to look good either.  This thick carpet of Acer and Tulip Tree leaves has an Autumnal charm of its own too

Leaves don’t have to stay on their trees to look good either. This thick carpet of Acer and Tulip Tree leaves has an Autumnal charm of its own too

It’s not all just about the foliage however here in the Nymans gardens in the Autumn. After many of our plants have spent all Summer happily flowering away, if they’re pollinated, those flowers soon produce fruits and seed pods in a wide variety of shapes and colours. Perhaps not as easy to spot as a tree covered in brightly coloured leaves, these beautiful berries and fantastic fruits are well worth seeking out however. Here are some of the picks of the bunch…

This Sorbus 'Leonard Messel' is obviously a very important tree here at Nymans, as it is named after the son of the original owner Ludwig Messel

This Sorbus ‘Leonard Messel’ is obviously a very important tree here at Nymans, as it is named after the son of the original owner Ludwig Messel. You can find it near the Prospect

Judging by the berries alone, you might think this is another Sorbus, or Mountain Ash.  This pale yellow berries belong to a Stranvaesia davidiana 'Fruto Luteo'.  This is actually a type of Photinia and is sometimes referred to as the Christmas Berry.  See if you can spot it along Winter Walk

Judging by the berries alone, you might think this is another Sorbus, or Mountain Ash. These pale yellow berries belong to our Stranvaesia davidiana ‘Fruto Luteo’ however. This is actually a type of Photinia and is sometimes referred to as the Christmas Berry. See if you can spot it along Winter Walk

If pink or yellow berries aren't you're thing, how about the orange fruits on this Cotoneaster franchetii var sternianus?

If pink or yellow berries aren’t you’re thing, how about the orange fruits on this Cotoneaster franchetii var sternianus?

If you head to Holly Corner at the far end of the gardens you'll see many varieties of holly.  Some aren't ftuiting yet but this Ilex aquifolium 'Aurifodinia' is clearly ahead of the game!

If you head to Holly Corner at the far end of the gardens you’ll see many varieties of holly. Some aren’t fruiting yet but this variegated Ilex aquifolium ‘Aurifodinia’ is clearly ahead of the game!

In the Top Garden behind the June Borders, you 'll find this Berberis wilsoniae shrub.  The berries are successionally turning from white...

In the Top Garden behind the June Borders, you ‘ll find this Berberis wilsoniae shrub. Native to China, its berries are successionally turning from white…

...through coral pink...

…through coral pink…

...to a deep pink, almost red colour

…to a deep pink, almost red colour

Perhaps some of the more unusual Autumn fruit here at Nymans, these Euonymus grandiflorus f. salicifolius are very photogenic so make sure you bring your camera!

Perhaps some of the more unusual Autumn fruit here at Nymans, these Euonymus grandiflorus f. salicifolius seed pods are very photogenic so make sure you bring your camera!

Anyone who read our blog from a couple of weeks ago on the Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta tree near the Tennis Lawn could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps that tree would win the award for most interesting Autumn fruit here at Nymans. Well, we think we might have found a contender for the crown and it’s another Magnolia:

Magnolia hypoleuca

Magnolia hypoleuca

What do you reckon? Also often called Magnolia obovata and commonly referred to as the Japanese Bigleaf or Japanese Whitebark, this tree is heavily associated with the Kurile Islands off Japan where it was first discovered. Earlier in the year you would have seen it covered in large creamy, scented flowers that can reach up to 20cm in diameter. Even at this time of the year though there are still plenty of other flowers to feast your eyes on here, as this last set of photos only goes to show…

Persicaria affinis 'Superba' combines blooms with colour leaves and is also a big hit with the bees too

Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’ combines pretty blooms with mesmerising leaf colour and is also a big hit with the bees too!

Surprisingly some of our Rhododendrons have decided to flower again, such as this rare R. cerasinum.  Originally from Tibet, it was first described in 1931

Surprisingly some of our Rhododendrons have decided to flower again, such as this rare R. cerasinum. Originally from Tibet, it was first described in 1931. We are obviously hoping that a second flowering this year won’t affect the blooms for next year

There is still time to catch these Hesperantha flowers in the Rock Garden...

There is still time to catch these Hesperantha flowers in the Rock Garden…

...which is also where you'll find this Daphne transatlantica bush

…which is also where you’ll find this Daphne transatlantica bush

Autumn crocuses are also beginning to pop up everywhere...

Autumn crocuses are also beginning to pop up everywhere…

...and as long as the frosts hold off you'll still be able to see plenty of Salvias, Dahlias and Fuchsias like this 'Voltaire' variety

…and as long as the frosts hold off you’ll still be able to see plenty of Salvias, Dahlias and Fuchsias like this ‘Voltaire’ variety which can be found near the Forecourt

Hopefully this little picture show has whetted your appetite to come and see the Autumn extravaganza here at Nymans for yourself very soon. As the weather appears to be staying mild for a while, now is the perfect time to snap a few pictures of your own too. Of course, there is plenty more to see and do here at all times of the year so to make sure you keep up to date with all that is going on at Nymans, don’t forget you can interact with us on both Twitter and Facebook as well as finding out all the important visitor information via our official website. If you want to be alerted by email when each new Nymans Garden Blog is published, simple click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of this page and carry out the instructions.

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The Most Magnificent Magnolia?

Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta in all its glory!

Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta in all its glory!

You might expect the months of Spring and early Summer would be the time when Magnolias are putting on their best show, but some also look fantastic during Autumn too, like the one we’re going to be looking at in this week’s blog. Our Magnolia sargentiana var robusta tree can be found just past the Italian Loggia building at the far end of the garden but it is certainly worth taking a walk to go and see right now, as the pictures throughout this article will no doubt show.

These are the stunning blooms that can be seen earlier in the year...

These are the stunning blooms that can be seen earlier in the year…

It is these pendulous pink seed pods that are the main attraction right now

…but it is these pendulous pink seed pods that are the main attraction right now

Magnolias are amongst the most primitive of flowering plants and there are around 100 species of Magnolia which grow wild in southeast Asia, in southeastern North America, and in high land areas in the north of South America. All can make good garden plants but they are naturally dependent on climate and conditions. Here at Nymans, our Magnolias seem to thrive nicely, especially this particular one which has reached a grand old height in its current spot, achieving a great shape and form in the process.

Those seed pods in a little more detail

Those seed pods in a little more detail

Magnolia sargentiana was discovered in 1903 by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson, in the hamlet of Yin-Kou, west of Wa-shan, in the western Sechuan province of China. According to Wilson this was the largest of the Chinese magnolias. In 1908 he returned to Yin-Kow to find that the tall tree had been cut down but he managed to collect seed of other Magnolia sargentiana from the surrounding area, and during that same expedition, he collected seed of the variety robusta. It was named in 1913 by Rehder and Wilson after Charles Sargent – the Director of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston from where Wilson had been sent. The name ‘robusta’ refers to the flowers which are larger and more showy then the standard species, reaching up to 9″ across when fully expanded in some cases.

Here you can see a pod where some seeds have been produced after pollination while others haven't

Here you can see a pod where some seeds have been produced after pollination while others haven’t

They are also sitting side by side with the buds of next year's blooms

They are also sitting side by side with the buds of next year’s blooms

There are some years when this Magnolia doesn’t flower too well, perhaps because the tree is exhausted after a prolific flowering spell the previous year. This year just gone was a great year for blooms on our tree though, as you can see by the number and size of seed pods, but judging by the flower buds already present, hopefully next year will buck the trend and be another corker too! The pointed buds of Magnolia sargentiana var robusta, like many Magnolias, are covered with attractive silky hairs and are also enclosed in leathery bracts to protect the flowers within.

Only Smarties have the answer!

Only Smarties have the answer!

It is not just the seed pods and flower buds that are winning over our visitors at this time of year however. As you can see from the above picture, the pods themselves are starting to split open to reveal masses of orange Smartie-like seeds inside. To maximise their ripening potential these little jewels hang from the seed pods on thin white umbilicus strands as you can see from the pictures below:

Here is the seed dangling from the pod...

Here is the seed dangling from the pod…

...and here is one that has fallen onto the path edging below

…and here is one that has fallen onto the path edging below

Our tree is thought to be a ‘Wilson Original’ in that it was grown from the first batch of seeds that the great plant hunter sent to this country from his expedition, and then planted here at Nymans in the very early 1920’s. It is also important to Nymans because it is one of the parent plants that brought about Magnolia ‘Anne Rosse’, Anne being the grand daughter of Ludwig Messel who purchased Nymans in 1890.

Here are the seeds beginning to emerge from their pods...

Here are the seeds beginning to emerge from their pods…

...and here is the empty pod once a seed has ripened and fallen

…and here is the empty pod once a seed has ripened and fallen

With so many huge seed pods hanging from the tree, more than the gardeners here can remember seeing for quite some years, we are a little worried that any high winds might be too much for the boughs to handle and may cause them to break or snap off. Luckily that hasn’t been a problem so far though and fingers crossed that it won’t. We think the reason behind the high number of flowers and pods this year may be down to all of the rainfall we experienced last Autumn and Winter combined with good weather for pollinating insects in the Spring and Summer. The tree certainly seems in fine fettle right now, especially when you consider it is nearly 100 years old, as the picture below goes to show:

The inner branches of the tree are well adorned in vigorous, healthy new shoots like this one

The inner branches of the tree are well adorned in vigorous, healthy new shoots like this one

So the next time you come and visit us here at Nymans, make sure you make your way down to the far end of the gardens and see our stunning Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta tree for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Of course, there is plenty more to see and do here at all times of the year so to make sure you keep up to date with all that is going on at Nymans, don’t forget you can interact with us on both Twitter and Facebook as well as finding out all the important visitor information via our official website. If you want to be alerted by email when each new Nymans Garden Blog is published, simple click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of this page and carry out the instructions.

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The Nymans Plant School

Last week's Nymans 'plant ident' set up in the gardeners' mess room

Last week’s ‘plant ident’, set up in the gardeners’ mess room

As well as being a Grade II listed garden with a fantastic history behind it, Nymans is also rated by Roy Lancaster as having a plant collection that is in the top five of gardens open to the public in England. We are therefore rightly very proud of that huge collection of very rare plants and because of that we try and make sure our staff and volunteers have as much knowledge of those plants as possible so that we can pass that information on to our visitors. With this in mind, each week a senior member of the garden team chooses a selection of plants that the rest of them team must try and identify and then learn a little bit more about. As you can see from the above picture, cuttings from each plant are placed in water on the window sill of the garden mess room for each set of ‘contestants’ to have a go at! In this week’s blog we thought we’d show you the plant choices from last week so that you can join in for yourselves at home. All of the plants in this ‘plant ident’ can be found in the Walled Garden so you won’t have to walk far to see all of them quite quickly if you pay us a visit…

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana

Also known as the Handkerchief Tree, Dove Tree or Ghost Tree, Davidia involucrata was once considered to be the Holy Grail of exotic flora. Scottish plant hunter Augustine Henry first found a single tree in China, sending a preserved example back to Kew, but when another great plant hunter, Ernest Henry Wilson, was dispatched by the Veitch nursery in 1899 to bring back specimens, he found that it had been felled for building purposes! He later found a grove of the trees overhanging a sheer drop but still managed to collect some material. In 1901 his ship was wrecked on the journey home but Wilson managed heroically to save the Davidia specimens!

The fruit of the Handkerchief Tree

The fruit of the Handkerchief Tree

This tree is obviously usually know for the large white floral bracts in late Spring but at the moment lots of our visitors are interested in the hanging fruit too. Each fruit contains 6–10 seeds, which germinate erratically, while the trees themselves may need 10–20 years to flower. Native to south central and south west China, Davidia is named after Father Armand David, a French missionary and keen naturalist who lived in that region. The species name involucrata means ‘ring of bracts’.

Albizia julibrissin 'Rosea'

Albizia julibrissin ‘Rosea’

Also known as the Persian Silk Tree, this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it beauty is currently flowering well in the Walled Garden, something it doesn’t necessarily do every year. Native to southwest and eastern Asia, it has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). The Genus was named after Italian nobleman Filippo Albizzi, who introduced the tree to Europe in the mid 18th century. The species name julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian word for ‘silk flower’.

The intricate foliage of the Persian Silk Tree

The intricate foliage of the Persian Silk Tree

Another name for this plant is the Sleeping Tree. This is because the leaves slowly close up when it is dark or sometimes during heavy rain storms. This is obviously in response to light levels, the flowers also being more prolific at the top of the tree. This ‘Rosea’ cultivar is much more frost hardy then the generic form of the tree and therefore much better suited to the climate down here in Sussex.

Cornus kousa 'Madame Butterfly'

Cornus kousa ‘Madame Butterfly’

Native to Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan, Cornus kousa is more commonly known as Chinese Dogwood. Some dogwoods are grown for their brightly coloured stems in Winter but these larger types bloom profusely in late Spring and through the Summer with large showy bracts surrounding the inconspicuous flowers. As we head into Autumn however, it is their fruit which is catching all the attention. These compound berries are actually quite sweet to taste if you can remove the flesh from the rough skin and are sometimes even used to make wine. There are plenty of other forms of Cornus here at Nymans. In fact in the Walled Garden alone you will also find the following:

Cornus 'Gloria Birkett'

Cornus ‘Gloria Birkett’

Cornus kousa 'Centennial' with the Nymans Baby Arch beyond

Cornus kousa ‘Centennial’ with the Nymans Baby Arch beyond

Flowering Cornus trees had many uses for early European settlers in the United States. The wood is shock-resistant, is able to withstand abrasion, and wears smoothly under friction. This wood was therefore used for the likes of barrel hoops, bobbins, farm implements, golf club heads, hayforks, knitting needles, mallet heads, pulleys, rake teeth, rolling pins, sledge runners, splitting wedges, tool handles, weaving shuttles, wheel cogs, and wheel hubs! The powdered bark was used as toothpaste, while both the inner bark and the root bark were used as an antiseptic. The outer bark contains cornine, betalic acid, gallic acid, tannic acid, verberalin, and verbenalosida, and so many physicians made medicines it. They were listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1894 and in the National Formulary from 1916 to 1936.

Jovellana violacea

Jovellana violacea

Also known as the Slipper flower or the Teacup Flower, this unusual rarity from Chile hides away at the far end of the Walled Garden here at Nymans but it really is worth seeking out. It was brought back from Edinburgh Botanical Gardens by our head propagator Charlene a few years ago and she plans to take cuttings to make lots of new plants this Autumn. This herbaceous perennial is in the Calceolaria family but the leaves when crushed produce a very strong spicy mint fragrance. This South American stunner is similar to the slightly more common Jovellana punctata, although that particular plant has white flowers instead of pink.

Colletia cruciata

Colletia cruciata

This rare South American oddity is one of the spikiest, spiniest plants you are ever likely to see and you certainly wouldn’t want to fall into a thicket of it! The large flat section are actually modified stems with the leaves themselves being very small and insignificant and only forming on new growth. The white flowers begin to arrive in early Autumn, and while also small, are heavily scented of vanilla, but just go careful of the spines if you try and give them a sniff!

Guess what the common name of this plant is!

Guess what the common name of this plant is!

As you can see from the picture above, the very apt common name of Colletia cruciata is the Jetplane Plant! Other names include the Anchor Plant or the Crucifixion Thorn. With the flattened stems being able to catch more sunlight and the thorns stopping predators from eating the plant, Colletia cruciata has adapted very well to survive in a variety of conditions. While it is accustomed to arid climates, it can tolerate regular rainfall if grown in fast-draining soil such as that here at Nymans.

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

The final plant choice from last week should need no introduction to regular readers of this blog. The Chilean Myrtle was featured heavily in a post we produced back in mid August but if you missed it you can play catch up by clicking here. To summarise it quickly for you here, Luma apiculata, previously known as Myrtus apiculata, is native to the central Andes between Chile and Argentina and is covered in fragrant white flowers in Summer, which are very popular with bees, and then deep purple berries in Autumn. Our largest Chilean Myrtle, the stunning stems of which you can see above, was brought back from South America by celebrated plant hunter Harold Comber who also happened to be the son of James Comber, the first Head Gardener at Nymans!

Here are those flowers we were talking about...

Here are those flowers we were talking about…

...and here are the berries

…and here are the berries

So the next time you come and see us here at Nymans, make sure you explore the Walled Garden fully on your way around the gardens and see how many of these six plants you can spot. Watch out though, if one of the gardeners see you they might just test you on them! Of course, there is plenty more to see and do here at all times of the year so to make sure you keep up to date with all that is going on at Nymans, don’t forget you can interact with us on both Twitter and Facebook as well as finding out all the important visitor information via our official website. If you want to be alerted by email when each new Nymans Garden Blog is published, simple click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of this page and carry out the instructions.

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Salivating Over Salvias

The corner of the Salvia bed here at Nymans

The corner of the Salvia bed here at Nymans

Over the last three or four years, the garden team here at Nymans have been busy building up our collection of Salvias. This is of course in keeping with Leonard Messel’s fascination with collecting plants and other possessions, but the most important reason is for their more obvious aesthetic qualities. From a purely gardening standpoint, adding more ornamental Salvias to our horticultural displays is a bit of a no-brainer, as these stunning plants add so much colour in late Summer in such a huge range of shades and forms. They are also pretty drought tolerant, which suits the low watering policy at Nymans, as well as being relatively low maintenance plants that mostly just get on and do their flowering without too much input from us gardeners. In this week’s Nymans Garden Blog we’ll show you some of our star Salvias and let you know where you can find them the next time you visit us.

Salvia 'Hot Lips' is sometimes referred to as the Nymans Salvia!

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is sometimes referred to as the Nymans Salvia!

The widely recognised link between Nymans and Salvias in very recent times stems from perhaps one single variety: Salvia ‘Hot Lips’. One of the most talked about and popular of the modern Salvias, when we started growing this around the gardens a few years ago we had so many inquiries about it that we started to make it available for sale to our visitors. And it is on the back of that one plant that our extremely popular nursery scheme of growing plants purely for sale in the Nymans Plant Centre initially took off. We still grow it here today but it is important to note that there is so much more to the Nymans Salvia collection than that one variety, as you will see below.

Salvia involucrata 'Bethellii', or Roseleaf Sage, is a herbaceous perennial from Mexico

Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’, or Roseleaf Sage, is a herbaceous perennial from Mexico

The best place to see the Nymans Salvias is in the corner beds surrounding the Rose Garden. Currently containing around twenty different types of Salvia in a huge range of colours, this has the be the part of the garden for all Salviaholics to head to first. As Summer starts to wane and some plants are beginning to be past their best, most Salvias are just hitting their stride. Whether you like soft muted whites and blues or hot pinks and reds, there is certain to be a Salvia in this area for any discerning eye. But rather than go on about them at great length, why don’t we just let the pictures do the talking and show some of our favourites to you instead? Click on the pictures for a bigger, better view…

Salvia 'Indigo Spires' is a borderline-hardy, vigorous hybrid that blooms from early Summer right through to November in good conditions

Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ is a borderline-hardy, vigorous hybrid that blooms from early Summer right through to November in good conditions

Salvia microphylla 'Wild Watermelon' is one of the best small-leaved Salvias, thriving in dry conditions.  The big bottom 'lip' makes this variety really stand out

Salvia microphylla ‘Wild Watermelon’ (or Baby Sage) is one of the best small-leaved Salvias, thriving in dry conditions. The big bottom ‘lip’ makes this variety really stand out

Salvia 'Waverley' is a fast growing, continual flowering plant of American origin that provides a ready supply of cut flowers and acts as a butterfly and bee attractant too

Salvia ‘Waverley’ is a fast growing, continual flowering plant of American origin that provides a ready supply of cut flowers and acts as a butterfly and bee attractant too

Bog Sage, or Salvia uliginosa (meaning 'of the marshes')  was described and named by botanist George Bentham and will survive most UK Winters

Bog Sage, or Salvia uliginosa (meaning ‘of the marshes’) was described and named by botanist George Bentham and will survive most UK Winters

Salvia microphylla 'Trebah Lilac White' has very aromatic stiff foliage and fragrant blooms

Salvia microphylla ‘Trebah Lilac White’ has very aromatic stiff foliage and fragrant blooms

Salvia curviflora, also known as the Tubular Bells Salvia, almost never wilts but is best known for its curved lower petal

Salvia curviflora, also known as the Tubular Bells Salvia, almost never wilts but is best known for its curved lower petal

This Salvia discolor is known as the Andean Silver-Leaf Sage.  It will produce almost black-blue flowers from beneath the white bracts later in the year

This Salvia discolor is known as the Andean Silver-Leaf Sage. It will produce almost black-blue flowers from beneath the white bracts later in the year

The reason that so many of these Salvias thrive so well in this part of the garden is for a variety of reasons. Firstly, this area is bathed in full sun for much of the day and is also backed by a tall Yew hedge that provides plenty of shelter. Furthermore the sandy soil here means that the well-drained conditions that these plants love is also well catered for. The beds and borders in this section are looked after by Ness, one of our gardeners here, and she plans to add even more new varieties to this scheme next year. For now though, let’s have a look at some of the other Salvias in this corner of Nymans that are strutting their stuff right now…

Salvia patens is a tender, tuberous rooted tender perennial from Mexico that has soft, hairy petals and leaves

Salvia patens is a tuberous rooted tender perennial from Mexico that has soft, hairy petals and leaves…

S. patens 'Cambridge Blue' is a variant on the species with a lighter, more delicate shade of blue

… while S. patens ‘Cambridge Blue’ is a variant on the species with a lighter, more delicate shade of blue

Salvia 'Silas Dyson' is a shrubby perennial Salvia that was raised and named at Dyson Nurseries in nearby Kent

Salvia ‘Silas Dyson’ is a shrubby perennial Salvia that was raised and named at Dyson Nurseries in nearby Kent

Salvia microphylla  'Trelissick Creamy Yellow' is a tall woody Salvia with a perfect built-in colour combination!  Named after the National Trust property in Cornwall

Salvia microphylla ‘Trelissick Creamy Yellow’ is a tall woody Salvia with a perfect built-in colour combination! Named after the National Trust property in Cornwall

Salvia 'Amistad' is such a new plant that the breeders have only just applied for breeding rights.  "Amistad" is Spanish for friendship, perhaps a comment on how well the flowers and foliage combine

Salvia ‘Amistad’ is such a new plant that the breeders have only just applied for breeding rights. “Amistad” is Spanish for friendship, perhaps a comment on how well the flowers and foliage combine

Salvia microphylla 'Pink Blush' is bushy, spreading sub-shrub that looks great at the front of a border

Salvia microphylla ‘Pink Blush’ is bushy, spreading sub-shrub that looks great at the front of a border

Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Enigma' is also known as the Anise Scented Sage.  Give it a sniff and find out why...

Salvia guaranitica ‘Blue Enigma’ is also known as the Anise Scented Sage. Give it a sniff and find out why…

Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, with nearly 1000 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. Within the Lamiaceae family itself, Salvia is member of the tribe Mentheae within the subfamily Nepetoideae and is one of several plants commonly referred to as sage. Salvias are distributed throughout the Old World and the Americas, with three distinct regions of diversity: Central and South America (approximately 500 species), Central Asia and Mediterranean (in the region of 250 species) and Eastern Asia (around 90 species). The defining characteristic of Salvias is their unusual pollination mechanism. It consists of two stamens (instead of the typical four). When a pollinator probes a flower for nectar, a lever causes the stamens to move and the pollen to be deposited on the pollinator. When the pollinator withdraws from the flower, the lever returns the stamens to their original position. The lever of most Salvia species is not specialized for a single pollinator, as some plants are, but instead is generic and selected to be easily released by many bird and bee pollinators of varying shapes and sizes.

New Salvias being grown from cuttings in our glass houses

New Salvias being grown from cuttings in our glass houses

The name Salvia derives from the Latin salvere which means “to feel well and healthy”. The verb is also related to salus which translates as “health, well-being, prosperity or salvation”. These both refer to the plant’s historic healing properties and is most likely linked to the sage herb. Pliny the Elder was the first author known to describe a plant called “Salvia” by the Romans, likely describing the type species for the genus, Salvia officinalis. Here at Nymans we don’t use our Salvias medicinally but you can view more of the ornamental varieties in our Summer Borders (more of which you can read about in this previous blog entry) including the following…

This Salvia horminum 'Pink Swan' also comes in white and purple versions.  The interesting parts of this Salvia are actually the bracts, the flowers being very small and insignificant

This Salvia horminum ‘Pink Swan’ also comes in white and purple versions. The interesting, coloured ‘petals’ are actually the bracts, the flowers themselves being very small and insignificant

Salvia farinacea comes in shades of purple and silvery white.  The stiff stems make great cut flowers.

Salvia farinacea comes in shades of purple and silvery white. The stiff stems make great cut flowers.

These Salvia 'Lighthouse Red' plants may look small but that's only because they have only just been planted to replace early Summer flowering annuals that have already gone over

These Salvia ‘Lighthouse Red’ plants may look small but that’s because they have only just been planted to replace early Summer flowering annuals that have already gone over

Hopefully this blog has whetted your appetite for coming and seeing our Salvias for yourself very soon. There is plenty more to see elsewhere in the gardens at Nymans of course if Salvias aren’t your thing however! To make sure you keep up to date with all that is going on here, don’t forget you can interact with us on both Twitter and Facebook as well as finding out all the important visitor information via our official website. If you want to be alerted by email when each new Nymans Garden Blog is published, simple click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of this page and carry out the instructions.

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The Chilean Myrtle & The Head Gardeners’ Son

Luma apiculata in the Chilean Borders at Nymans

Luma apiculata in the Chilean Borders at Nymans

Although the dazzling display of the Summer Borders is taking centre stage within the Walled Garden here at Nymans right now, there is much more to that area than just our amazing annuals. The prime example of this are the Chilean plants which fill the inner borders of the Walled Garden, and are aptly named the Chilean Borders. Nymans has an extraordinary collection of Chilean plants, despite the massive distance between South America and Sussex! Chilean plants grow remarkably well here due in part to our fertile soil and sheltered conditions within the walls. Through a long association with the country and the skilled cultivation work of our team we now have over 100 different species of Chilean plants thriving outside in Nymans Garden.

The largest of our four Cilean Myrtle plants

The largest of our four Chilean Myrtle plants

One of the stars of our Chilean collection right now is Luma apiculata, or Chilean Myrtle. These large evergreen shrubs not only show off with their older branches clothed with a cinnamon and cream coloured bark, but also with their aromatic white flowers which adorn the stems in great numbers. Later on in the year these flowers will be replaced by masses of dark purple berries. These hardy plants thrive in either full Sun or partial shade and tolerate east, south or west-facing aspects, not particularly fussy whether that spot is sheltered or exposed. They also aren’t overly particular about the soil type they put their roots into. Although The Chilean Myrtle grows along water currents in the Valdivian temperate rain forests in Chile, it romps away in soil that is predominately chalk, clay, sand or loam, no matter whether the pH is acidic, alkaline or neutral. They are also generally pest and disease-free and requite little pruning so what’s not to like?

As you can see they're very popular with the bees too!

As you can see they’re very popular with the bees too!

And here is some of that delicious bark in a little more detail

And here is some of that delicious bark in a little more detail

Reaching up to 8 – 12 metres in height with an ultimate spread wider than 8 metres, they can take anywhere from 20 – 50 years to actually reach this size however. Also known as Orange Wood or Shortleaf Stopper, the main areas to find these slow-growing plants in their native habitat are on the Quetrihué Peninsula and on Isla Victoria on the Nahuel Huapi Lake. The most notable Chilean myrtle forest of the Los Arrayanes National Park covers 20 ha of the Quetrihué Peninsula, where the cinnamon-coloured myrtles leave almost no space for other trees. Outside of Chile they are quite rare however so we are lucky here at Nymans to have four specimens in our Chilean Borders. The edible fruit is appreciated in Chile and Argentina while the delicately scented flowers are important for honey production in South America. The Chilean myrtle also has medicinal uses for the Mapuche people of Chile (‘Mapuche’ being the local translation for ‘myrtles’).

Harold Comber 1897 - 1969

Harold Comber
1897 – 1969

The largest of our Chilean Myrtles is known here as one of our Comber Originals. This means that it is one of the actual plants brought back from Chile by celebrated plant hunter Harold Frederick Comber. The eldest child and only son of James Comber, who was Head Gardener here at Nymans to Ludwig Messel from 1895 to 1953, Harold was actually born at Nymans. Initially working in the gardens at Nymans under his father, Harold eventually went to study at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, where he lead plant hunting expeditions to Chile and Argentina, one in 1925-26 and the other in 1926-27. The areas selected were carefully chosen where the climate was considered to be similar to most areas of Britain. His collections were of great interest and during the late 1920’s and early 30’s, many receiving awards from the RHS. In total he brought back around 1200 species from South America, some of which were sent straight to Nymans. Comber also had several plants named after him including Escallonia × stricta ‘Harold Comber’ and Gaultheria leucocarpa ‘Harold Comber’.

Another comber plants here at Nymans is this Weinmannia trichosperma

Another Comber plant here at Nymans is this Weinmannia trichosperma

Nymans has one of best collections of Chilean Plants growing outside in the UK, in fact the second largest in Britain after only Edinburgh Botanic Garden. The collection is both historic and current with venerable old plants collected by Harold Comber growing alongside new arrivals from the Darwin Initiative or Edinburgh’s Martin Gardner’s introductions. The majority of our plants come from Central and Southern regions of Chile, an area recently classified as the ‘Chilean Winter Rainfall- Valdivian Forests Biodiversity Hotspot’. This area covers 40% of Chile’s landmass, stretching south of the Atacama desert. The Weinmannia shown above was collected by Comber in July 1927 and is a typically Chilean shrub – understated and elegant. Comber gives us an insight into the intricate and painstaking nature of seed collecting when we wrote “I should be able to get plenty of seeds of Weinemannia this year, We have a big axe!”.

Berberis valdiviana

Berberis valdiviana

Another Comber find, this Berberis valdiviana was collected on 28th April 1927 and should dispel any snobbery about Berberis as it is one of the finest shrubs in cultivation. Comber was excited to discover it: “Our first camp near the far Western end of Lago Lalog was a success in that we found a new Berberis which will oust Berberis darwinii if it proves hardy and amenable to cultivation. It is a loose, evergreen shrub of vigorous habit, and here in the middle of November is covered with large warm apricot coloured flowers and rosettes of leaves bearing 5-10 stalked blooms”.

This Persea lingue may not look that impressive at first glance but it is actually a Champion Tree as the tallest in the UK

This Persea lingue may not look that impressive at first glance but it is actually a Champion Tree as the tallest in the UK

Collected by Comber May 1926 Persea lingue is a relative of avocado. Our specimen however comes from the Edinburgh Botanical Garden collection. Harold was obviously a hardy individual as his account of his sleeping arrangements at this time reads “The open air life is suiting me well, and although at 6000 ft it is very cold at night and windy. I slept quite comfortably outside with two blankets and a canvas, better than in the tent where the noise does not permit sleep!”

The Chilean Borders at Nymans, like much of the garden, is an exciting area that is constantly evolving in line with the historical spirit of experimentation here. The development of these borders will involve thinning-out or removing non-Chilean plants and replacing them with new plants
propagated from our current stock, or grown from seed obtained from botanic gardens such as Edinburgh where much research and conservation work relating to Chilean flora is currently on-going. There is plenty of interest throughout the borders right now including…

...this stunning huge clump of Lobellia tupa...

…this stunning huge clump of Lobellia tupa

...the mix of pink seed heads and red berries  of the Amomyrtis luma...

…the mix of pink seed heads and red berries of the Amomyrtis luma

...and the unusual jewel-like white berries on our Azara serrata shrubs

…and the unusual jewel-like white berries on our Azara serrata shrubs

So the next time you’re in the Walled Garden at Nymans and you fancy a change of pace from the bright colours of the Summer Borders, why not take a few steps over to South America and experience the charms of our Chilean Borders?

To make sure you don’t miss anything that is going on here at Nymans, don’t forget you can interact with us on both Twitter and Facebook as well as finding out all the important visitor information via our official website.

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