Tag Archives: Plant Hunting

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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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 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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