Tag Archives: Flowers

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

South Africa – Closer Than You Think!

South African flavour under the bright blue skies of Nymans

South African flavour under the bright blue skies of Nymans

In last week’s blog we showed you the Summer Borders, arguably the most colourful part of the gardens here at Nymans right now. Well, running them a close second is surely the South Africa bed, found beyond the house near the Loggia building. The South African bed is a celebration of the plants of the region, making great use of herbaceous perennials, bulbs, daisies and annuals to give maximum colour, playful textures and rhythmic patterns together with bold drifts. In keeping with the Messel family style it aims to have a theatrical element too. The South African Bed is an experiment in hardiness, with the aim to try and have fun, testing new plants whilst increasing the South African collection at Nymans.

The bed in its previous incarnation...

The bed in its previous incarnation…

...before it was cleared ready for planting

…before it was cleared ready for planting

The South African Bed was designed by one of our current gardeners Kirstin Kelly whilst she was training here back in 2011 as part of the Historical Botanical Gardens Bursary scheme. The clearing of the old bed was done that Winter with the initial planting taking place in late Summer the following year. Tweaks obviously still continue to be carried out now, with tasks like direct seed sowing done on an annual basis.

Kirstin starts to plant out her design...

Kirstin starts to plant out her design…

...with the first stage of planting in the early infant border finished in August 2012

…with the first stage of planting in the early infant border finished in September 2012

The planting scheme is a combination of two important elements of the heritage at Nymans. The bed was always known historically as the Wild Garden, with records of a wild flower meadow in the area. Staying true to the wild theme we planted a new meadow with a twist, whereby the bed was made up only of South African plants. This reinstates the second historical element – a South African plant collection. The Messels were great collectors of rare and unusual plants and a large important South African collection was amongst them.

Gorgeous soft pinks of these Watsonia hybrids counter-balance the hot colours elsewhere

Gorgeous soft pinks of these Watsonia hybrids counter-balance the hot colours elsewhere

Other floral highlights include this Berkheya purpurea ‘Zulu Warrior’

Other floral highlights include this Berkheya purpurea ‘Zulu Warrior’…

... and these stunning Eucomis bicolor show-stoppers

… and these awesome Eucomis bicolor show-stoppers

This year our South African Meadow has been basking in all its glory under the sunshine and blue skies of our long hot Summer. The bed is a real beneficiary of this heatwave and after the mild Winter it certainly hit the ground running with plants such as Melianthus major surviving the frost and growing bigger than 5 ft 6 inch Kirstin herself who planted them! The wonderfully gaudy apricots, oranges and pinks of the Watsonia Hybrids have also been a dazzling success, keeping their foliage thorough Winter for a vital head start in Spring.

It's not all about the flowers in this border.  The foliage of this Melianthus major is stunning too.

It’s not all about the flowers in this border. The foliage of this Melianthus major is stunning too.

The South African Bed, also known here as ‘The Wild Bed’, is now the grand old age of two years old and is really filling out nicely. We’re very pleased with our work but if you’re undertaking a similar scheme yourself there are a couple of things to bear in mind. When planting a new bed don’t be in doubt when you read plant information that gives potential final height and spread. They really will grow as tall and as wide as the information states, given the right growing conditions of course. When it also states that they self-seed prolifically, take it from us, they really do! The meadow is now billowing with hot coloured plants and soft textured grasses. There is a river of orange daisies (Dimorphotheca aurantiaca) running thorough accents of Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia ‘Nobilis’) as well as tussocks of reeds (Elegia tectorum) for added texture. We like to think of it as a treasure chest of fun colour combinations and rare and unusual plants, some of which we’ll talk you through below…

Seeing the colours beyond through this Elegia tectorum reed is a great way of revealing the plants gradually.

Seeing the colours beyond through this Elegia tectorum reed is a great way of revealing the plants gradually.

Known as the Thatching Reed, Elegia tectorum is grown in South Africa as a roofing material. This reed like plant comes from a family of plants known as Restios, and it is grown here for its attractive evergreen foliage. Elegia tectorum forms tufted clumps of stunning deep green spikes patterned with brown flower bracts. They flower in Autumn and form attractive seed heads that enjoy a mild and breezy climate. We have situated our plants where the bed undulates down as they like a moisture retentive soil. It is only hardy to -8c however and requires Winter protection in the form of horticultural fleece.

Even the bees love our Red Hot Pokers!

Even the bees love our South African Bed!

Known as Red Hot Pokers or Torch Lillys, plants such as Kniphofia uvaria ‘Nobilis’ (as seen above) have been out of fashion of late but really deserve a bit of a come-back in our opinion. The ones seen here are evergreen perennials producing spikes of vibrant orange flowers from Summer onwards. They are dazzling, flamboyant and architectural. Growing up 2.5 meters high they produce upright accents in this low planting scheme that shout for your attention. Loved by visitors and insects alike, Kniphofia are really useful vertical flowers that come in all sorts of colours from bright reds to jade green, apricots and corral pinks, giving plenty of options to choose from.

Pennesitum villosum 'Cream Falls'

Pennesitum villosum ‘Cream Falls’

Pennesitum villosum, or Feathertop Grass, is one of the easiest, most attractive and supremely tactile grasses to grow. Brilliant white, ‘rabbit-tail’ spikes are produced in abundance from these bushy, clump-forming deciduous plants. ‘Cream Falls’ is highly eye-catching as the spikes catch the breeze, adding movement and texture to the border. These grasses are quick to flower and often used as an annual, although strictly they are a perennial. They are not fully hardy however and so may not make it through our Winters but they are likely to self-seed to perform again the following year though. They should flower from July right through to September, reaching about 45cm high.

These South African Daisies really 'zing' at the front of the border

These South African Daisies really ‘zing’ at the front of the border

Dimorphotheca aurantiaca, also known as African Daisy, Star of the Veld or Cape Marigold, grows to about a foot high, with a dense mass of aromatic leaves, topped in summer by bright orange blooms with a brown centre. It used to be included in the genus Osteospermum, and is still sometimes referred to by that name. These fantastic annuals are easy to grow and flower up to 9 weeks in the Summer months, direct sown here in large drifts to mimic their natural habit in South Africa.

South Africa in Sussex!

South Africa in Sussex!

If you want to include some South African plants in your own garden scheme and some of ours sound a little too exotic for your tastes, don’t forget that the likes of Agapanthus, Crocosmia, Nerines and Pelargoniums are also from that part of the World. Either way, make sure you come and see our South African bed here at Nymans soon. Along with the sub-tropical planting on the Terrace which is full of drama and big leaves and even bigger colours, and not forgetting the vibrant colours of our Summer Borders as seen in our previous blog, we invite you to come along and enjoy the dazzling fruits of our Summer. Just don’t forget your sun glasses!


Filed under Plants and Planting