Tag Archives: plants

Food With A View

The new Restaurant Border at Chartwell

The new Restaurant Border at Chartwell

Anyone who has arrived at Chartwell in the last month and walked past the brand spanking new and improved restaurant will also hopefully have noticed that the border in front of it has been completely redesigned and replanted too. I was tasked with overseeing this project and with the help of the rest of the gardening staff and volunteers I’m pleased to say that it is now available for your viewing pleasure! There were quite a few restrictions placed on the design including a relatively small budget (of course!), a very narrow border depth and a poor, sloping soil. The border was also required to look as established as possible right from the off in order to screen some of the new restaurant decking. The plants were to be evergreen where possible, drought tolerant and also low maintenance. All of these stipulations actually proved to be a really interesting challenge and actually helped narrow down the plant choice nicely.

Many visitors have been asking about this yellow-leaved plant in the border.  It is the brilliantly named Escallonia 'Gold Brian'!

Many visitors have been asking about this yellow-leaved plant in the border. It is the brilliantly named Escallonia ‘Gold Brian’!

Once the old border had been weeded and dug over, we added some chicken manure pellets to boost the fertility and some of our own Chartwell-made compost to try and improve the soil structure. The planting itself could then begin using the new plants that had been safely stored in our plant quarantine area for the prior 6 weeks since being delivered by our suppliers. This ensured that we could make sure we were not bringing in any new pests or diseases into the garden here. In actual fact it meant that we were able to spot some highly invasive Mare’s Tail (Equisetum arvense) that had sprung up in one of the Bay Tree pots during this time! Phew!

These Lavandula angustifolia ‘Lodden Pink’ plants are really starting to show off their blooms now

These Lavandula angustifolia ‘Lodden Pink’ plants are really starting to show off their blooms now

I had decided to split the 32m border into seven individual sections of approximately 4.5m. The planting would then repeat across these sections but alternate between a pink and white colour scheme in sections 1, 3, 5 and 7 and a blue, purple and yellow scheme in sections 2, 4 and 6. For instance, in the odd-numbered sections you will find the pink-flowered Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Roseus’ while in the even-numbered areas there are blue-flowered Rosemary plants called Rosmarinus officinalis var. angustissimus ‘Beneden Blue’. Some plants such as the lollipop Bay trees (Laurus nobilis) anchor the whole border by appearing in every section. My initial plan for this design can be seen in the picture below. It shows early version that had to be sent to the architects and council planners for approval because the border was tied in with the whole restaurant re-build. Some of the plants changed between making this plan and the final planting process but hopefully it will give you an idea of the effect we were trying to achieve.

My initial plan for the new border

My initial plan for the new border

The new restaurant here at Chartwell is called the Landemare Cafe. The relevance of this name refers to the fact that Mrs Landemare was a cook for the Churchill family, initially at weekend parties here at Chartwell but eventually in a full time capacity here and at 10 Downing Street between 1939 and 1954. Lady Churchill apparently knew she would be able to make the best out of rations and that everyone in the household would be happy and contented. She said that “Mrs. Landemare’s food was delicious. She is an inspired and intuitive cook.”

Ann and Georgie get stuck in with the planting of the new border...

Ann and Georgie get stuck in with the planting of the new border…

...while Steve makes sure all of the plants are well watered in.

…while Steve makes sure all of the plants are well watered in.

A full list of the plants we used in this new border are as follows:

7 x Laurus nobilis standard tree
7 x Cistus cyprius10 x Cistus purpureus
13 x Phlomis fruticosa13 x Rosmarinus officinalis var. angustissimus ‘Beneden Blue’
18 x Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Roseus’
13 x Santolina chamaecyparissus16 x Santolina pinnata subsp. neopolitana ‘Edward Bowles’
13 x Sedum spectabile ‘Iceberg’
21 x Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
21 x Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
13 x Lavandula x intermedia ‘Vera’
18 x Lavandula angustifolia ‘Lodden Pink’
8 x Lonicera japonica ‘Darts World’
6 x Lonicera japonica ‘Hallania’
12 x Hebe ‘Great Orme’
9 x Escallonia laevis ‘Gold Brian’

I chose Lavandula x intermedia ‘Vera’ not only because it is a beautiful plant in its own right and because it it thought to be the original species lavender, but also in memory of my late Grandmother Vera Harris who sadly passed away fairly recently. Once the planting was complete we took a group of volunteers up there and mulched the whole area with woodchips derived from some of the fallen trees and branches we suffered earlier in the year.

The honeysuckles are flowering well in the border right now...

The honeysuckles are flowering well in the border right now…

As are the Santolinas.  These are also known as Cotton Lavender plants even though they are neither cotton nor lavender!

…As are the Santolinas. These are also known as Cotton Lavender plants even though they are neither cotton nor lavender!

Make sure you come and have a walk along this new border the next time you’re here with us at Chartwell. It may not be part of the garden itself but it is still in-keeping with the rest of the garden, using plants, colours and styles that you will find elsewhere throughout the Churchills’ grounds. The fact that some of the plants in this border are also edible, such as the Bay and Rosemary, ties them in nicely to the new Landemare Cafe too.

The Landemare Cafe and new border at Chartwell

The Landemare Cafe and new border at Chartwell

Incidentally, this project was the last one I’ll carry out here at Chartwell for a while and this here blog post is also the last one I will be writing for a time too. I will be starting a 5 month secondment as Assistant Head Gardener at nearby Nymans soon but we hope that the rest of the gardening team here at Chartwell will be able to keep this blog going in my absence! I have written 134 posts in this blog over the last couple of years and it has received over 35,000 ‘hits’ during that time, so long may it continue. I plan to do a bit of moonlight blogging while I’m at Nymans however via my companion Horticulture Week blog which you can find by clicking here, so please feel free to join me there too!

All the best…
Jamie

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Do You Dig Our Digitalis?

Take a good close look inside a Foxglove flower to glimpse its true beauty

Take a good close look inside a Foxglove flower to glimpse its true beauty

With the weather really hotting up right now, it feels like Summer is certainly doing its best to take a hold here at Chartwell. This means that most of the Spring flowers and blooms like Tulips, Daffs, Bluebells and the like have done their turn and given way to the huge array of Summer colour that will soon be completely filling Churchill’s gardens. There are a few plants however that straddle the seasons and one of the best at doing that at the moment is the humble Foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea.

White Foxgloves reach for the sky from the aptly named Foxglove Bed!

White Foxgloves reach for the sky from the aptly named Foxglove Bed!

Foxgloves are classed as a short-lived perennial or more commonly as a biennial. We sow ours indoors in the Summer, grow them on, prick them out and pot them on before planting them out in the Autumn where they happily overwinter before blooming the following Spring. The resulting plant can self seed freely if allowed to but when the resulting flowers are as pretty as they are, who cares?! As you can see from the picture above, we actually have a small area of the garden behind the Golden Orfe Pond actually called the Foxglove Bed that is filled with gorgeous spires of white Foxgloves every year. They really sing out from this dark, shady spot but they are certainly not the only examples within the Chartwell boundaries as you will see throughout this blog post.

The Bomb Crater in the Chartwell woods looks even better studded with Foxgloves

The Bomb Crater in the Chartwell woods looks even better studded with Foxgloves

Digitalis purpurea was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 in his important publication ‘Species Plantarum’. The Genus name Digitalis comes from the Latin for finger (digitus), referring to the shape of the flowers. The species name purpurea simply refers to the colour of the flowers of the wild form, which are frequently purple (although a white-flowered form is also fairly common). OK, so Digitalis purpurea is the latin or botanical name and Foxglove is the common name but were you aware of the sheer number of other common names by which this plant can be known as?

Bloody bells
Bloody finger
Cow flop
Dead man’s bells
Dog’s lugs
Dragon’s mouth
Fairy bells
Fairy fingers
Fairy gloves
Fairy thimbles
Fairy’s cap
Fairy’s petticoat
Fairy’s thimble
Finger flower
Flap dock
Folk’s gloves
Fox finger
Gloves of Mary
Lady’s fingers
Lady’s gloves
Lady’s thimble
Lion’s mouth
Lusmore
Lustmore
Pop dock
Thimble finger
Thimble flower
Throat root
Witches’ bells
Witches’ fingers
Witches’ gloves
Witches’ thimbles

Blimey! I’m not sure what the World record is for number of common names but that’s got to be up there, surely?

In the Cut Flower area of the Walled Garden you will find this 'Apricot' variety...

In the Cut Flower area of the Walled Garden you will find this ‘Apricot’ variety…

...and this glorious 'Pam's Choice'

…and this glorious ‘Pam’s Choice’

Foxgloves are a source of digitoxin, a chemical used in the drug ‘Digitalis’, which has been used as a heart stimulant since as early as 1785. Although normally made using Digitalis lanata leaves, D. purpurea use is not unknown. They are also well-known for their toxicity, and ingestion of the leaves can result in severe poisoning. Despite this toxicity, they have been widely used in folk-medicine throughout the ages. Foxglove Tea (an infusion of the leaves) was taken for colds, fevers and catarrh, and compresses were used for ulcers, swellings and bruises. The Foxglove’s most common use however was as a diuretic against dropsy (an accumulation of fluid in the tissues), for which it was sometimes effective, but occasionally proved fatal! William Withering, an 18th century botanist and physician, discovered that an infusion of the leaves of Foxgloves could slow and strengthen the heartbeat, which in turn stimulated the kidneys to clear the body and lungs of excess fluid. He also showed that Foxglove leaves could be used in the treatment of heart failure, but that high doses could also stop the heart!

More white Foxgloves loom majestically at the back of the Herbaceous Border

More white Foxgloves loom majestically at the back of the Herbaceous Border

Van Gogh is said to have taken Foxglove tincture as a treatment for his epilepsy and art historians believe that the yellow haze that this could cause in the sight of patients for this type of treatment may be responsible for the appearance of many of his yellow dominated paintings. Back in 1554, Nicholas Culpeper (an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer) said that “foxglove was one of the best remedies for a scabby head”! So now you know! In Roman mythology, Flora, the Goddess of fields, crops and flowers, placed a foxglove blossom on Juno’s stomach causing her to instantly conceive. She went from Flora’s garden to the shoreline and gave birth to Mars. In Scandinavia, they say that foxes were saved by the fairies from extinction when the fairies gave them the secret of how to ring the Foxglove bells to warn other foxes of approaching hunters. The foxes were also said to put on these flower gloves so that they would tread more softly among the chicken roosts to capture an unsuspecting hen or rooster. In Wales, Foxgloves were called Goblin’s Gloves and was said to attract the hobgoblins who wore the long bells on their fingers as gloves that imparted magical properties.

Paths in the Chartwell estate are lined with purple Foxgloves

Paths in the Chartwell estate are lined with purple Foxgloves

So whether you believe any of that Foxglove folklore or not, be sure to hurry along to Chartwell soon to catch this year’s crop before they disappear again until next Spring…

Jamie

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An Azara Amongst The Azaleas

The oft-overlooked Azalea Banks at Chartwell

The oft-overlooked Azalea Banks at Chartwell

Everyone who comes and pays us a visit here at Chartwell will have their favourite part of the gardens, probably depending on what time of year they dropped in. For some it might be a walk in the woods or a mooch around the Kitchen Garden while for others the blooms within Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden or the views from the Top Terrace might be highlighted. But not many people will perhaps put forward the Azalea Banks which at this moment especially is a great shame. As you leave the driveway in front of the house via the far roadside corner and head down towards the Croquet Lawn, most peoples’ eyes will be drawn by the Croquet Lawn itself and the sweeping views of the Kent Weald beyond. But turn your head 90 degrees and you will see the part of the garden I’m talking about. The grassy banks don’t lead anywhere, apart from our dark and dingy long-term compost bays which are chained off from the public (don’t worry, you’re not missing much!) but a little amble around this area might just be worth your while.

Rhododendron 'Magnifica'

Rhododendron ‘Magnifica’

Of course, the name ‘Azalea Bank’ itself throws up the old question, “what is the difference between a Rhododendron and an Azalea”? Well, all Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons BUT not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas. Confused? Rhododendron is a genus (a group of plants with shared characteristics) and Azaleas are a group within that genus, rather than forming a genus of their own. To clarify a little more, an Azalea has 5 stamens (pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower) while other Rhododendrons have 10 or more. Furthermore, Azaleas are often smaller and may be deciduous or evergreen while other Rhododendrons are all evergreen. Either way, the Rhododendrons in the Azalea Bank beds are looking blooming marvelous right now as you will see above and below…

Rhododendron 'Daviesii'

Rhododendron ‘Daviesii’

Rhododendron 'Irene Koster'

Rhododendron ‘Irene Koster’

Stunning as they are though, it wasn’t these Rhodies that prompted me to write this particular blog entry. No, there is another plant in this area that is just as pretty, just as interesting and a lot less well known. The other day I was in the gardens with a visiting friend of mine, a gardener from nearby National Trust property Scotney Castle and he asked what the yellow flowered shrubs against the wall here were. And the answer was Azara serrata. Heard of it? If you have, well done! But if you haven’t I wouldn’t be surprised.

Twin Azara serrata shrubs on the Azalea Banks

Twin Azara serrata shrubs on the Azalea Banks

The name may sound like a Harry Potter spell, but these shrubs originally from the also lesser known Flacourtiaceae family but now re-housed in the Salicaceae family, come originally from Chile, not Hogwarts! Also known as the Saw-toothed Azara, these shrubs may look fairly innocuous for most of the year, but right now they are flowering their South American socks off, covered in masses of fragrant, intricate bright yellow blooms. In fact, the sweet chocolatey scent can be smelled from some distance away.

Blue and yellow.  Good colour combo!

Blue and yellow. Good colour combo!

One of the few fully hardy South American shrubs, Azaras are in fact reasonably common in large collections of plants open to the public but virtually unheard of in private gardens. Which is a shame because after hot summers these shrubs can also have a show of round white berries to extend their season of interest. They prefer moist, fertile, humus-rich soil where possible and even grow with their roots permanently in water in their native Chile where they are called ‘Corcolén’ or ‘Aromo de Castilla’. They tolerate full sun but are equally happy in part or full shade, mimicking their woodland habitat of origin.

Our Azaras are offered good shelter from the Chartwell roadside wall

Our Azaras are offered good shelter by the Chartwell roadside wall

In 1794 the genus of Azara was named after Félix de Azara (1742 – 1821), a Spanish geographer and naturalist who did fieldwork in South America from 1781 to 1796. Azara serrata was discovered and named in the same year by Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez who are jointly cited as the authors of many botanical names. Between 1779 and 1788 these Spanish botanists (together with the French botanist Joseph Dombey) visited Chile, Peru and other South American countries, discovering many new plants. Why not do some plant hunting of your own and come and discover us here at Chartwell soon…!

Jamie

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Extra Curricular Gardening

The logo on our new seed collecting bags

The logo on our new seed collecting bags

I’ve been spending a few days away from Chartwell recently, attending some National Trust seminars and events, all designed to help us look after and preserve our plant collection here for now and future generations to enjoy. The latest of these days was spent at Wakehurst Place, the country estate of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and more importantly in this case, the home of the Millennium Seed Bank. Created with funding to mark the Millennium celebrations, the seed bank works with over 80 other countries to save plants around the globe with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future. So far, the seeds of around 13% of the World’s wild plant species have been saved with a target of 25% for 2020.

Gardeners from key South East National Trust properties being shown around the seed labs at Wakehurst

Gardeners from key South East National Trust properties being shown around the seed labs at Wakehurst

As part of the Milliennium Seed Bank Partnership, the National Trust is working with Kew and Wakehurst to try and help their seed saving process by providing access to the vast collection of plants within the gardens and countryside estates that belong to the Trust. In fact, The National Trust’s portfolio of plants is of immense importance and is one of the most significant collections in the UK. Last year, ten properties within the South East took part in the first year of seed collecting including Nymans, Sissinghurst Castle, Sheffield Park and Scotney Castle. For 2104, five further South East National Trust properties will join the scheme, including, we are very pleased to say, Chartwell.

Wakehurst scientists hard at work

Wakehurst scientists hard at work

This process of seed saving will allow us to make sure the key, important plants here in Churchill’s gardens and estate are preserved via their seeds. Our Cryptomeria japonica, for example, which stands proudly by the Golden Orfe Pond is thought to be the oldest in the country. It was planted by the previous owners of Chartwell, the Colquhoun family, from the first batch of seeds that were introduced into the UK by plant hunter Robert Fortune from Shanghai in 1844, ironically via Kew Gardens.

Planted in 1852, our Cryptomeria japonia (Japanese Cedar) tree is a whopper!

Planted in 1852, our Cryptomeria japonia (Japanese Cedar) tree is a whopper!

The process of saving Chartwell’s seeds will be done over a period of time, depending on when the seeds are ripe and viable. The best time to collect seeds is at their natural time of dispersal. Once collected they must be cleaned and then properly dried before they will be taken to Wakehurst for further drying, analysis, x-raying and then cold storage. Once in storage the life span of them will increase exponentially. For example, for every 1% of moisture content that is removed from a seed, the life span doubles!

This multitude of sieves at Wakehurst is used for grading seeds by size and removing the chaff from them.

This multitude of sieves at Wakehurst is used for grading seeds by size and removing the chaff from them.

Here is one of the many, many seed cold stores.  It is -20 degrees in there so this picture was taken through the glass window!

Here is one of the many, many seed cold stores. It is – 20 degrees in there so this picture was taken through the glass window!

And here is the seed saving kit that we will be using this year at Chartwell

And here is the seed saving kit that we will be using this year at Chartwell

We will keep you abreast of our progress throughout the year as we start to save our seeds and submit them for storage at the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place. At the top of this blog post I mentioned that I had been to several of these seminars so it seems a little remiss of me if I don’t let you know what the other ones were about too.

The current Chartwell plant quarantine area is kept separate from the rest of the garden/nursery area

The current Chartwell plant quarantine area is kept separate from the rest of the garden/nursery area

A day held at Scotney Castle a couple of weeks ago on Plant Health gave instruction on how best to avoid plant diseases coming into our gardens. It has encouraged us here at Chartwell to try and achieve at least a National Trust Plant Health Bronze Standard award by working hard to improve a few things such as getting assurances from visiting contractors about their boot and tool hygiene and improving our plant quarantine area where we store plants brought in from outside nurseries. We will keep you posted on our progress with these actions in a future blog.

Kalmia latifolia 'Clementine Churchill'

Kalmia latifolia ‘Clementine Churchill’ (as it should look!)

Another day, this time held at Nymans, was led by the National Trust Plant Conservation Centre, who are there to propagate rare and endangered plants to keep the collections in National Trust gardens thriving. As part of this process, we hope for example to get some new Kalmia latifolia ‘Clemtine Churchill’ plants propagated via laboratory micropropagation, as ours are not currently in the best of health. Again, you can read how we get on with this process in another future blog. For now though, come and visit us here at Chartwell soon and see our magnificent plant collection with your own eyes!

Jamie

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Signs Of Life

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity on here recently. You will have to accept our apologies but I have been on holiday in New Zealand for three weeks where I saw the likes of Lupins, Sweet Peas, Kniphofia, Crocosmia and Agapanthus growing wild by the sides of the roads. In fact the beautiful Agapanthus that we so love over here is considered a weed down under and it is even prohibited to plant it in certain areas! Having been surrounded by so much Summer colour over there it was quite a shock to return to wet and windy England where at first glance everything looks waterlogged and mud-splattered! There are however a few signs of life here in Churchill’s gardens at Chartwell that have been giving us some hope for the much anticipated Spring. It may seem like a long way off at the moment but hopefully the photographs below that were taken this week will inspire you to come along and visit us to lift your soggy spirits…

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start.  You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start. You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'...

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’…

...these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica...

…these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica…

...and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

…and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants.  You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants. You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' shrubs before you actually see them...

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you’ll be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ shrubs before you actually see them…

...while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea 'December Red' are also a sight to behold.

…while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea ‘December Red’ are also a sight to behold.

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

OK, so there's still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

OK, so there’s still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

At he front of the house under the Lime trees you'll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive...

At the front of the house under the Lime trees you’ll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive…

...and these more familiar purple types at the other

…and these more familiar purple types at the other

You'll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds...

You’ll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds…

...while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

…while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter.  They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter. They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

As the frosts haven't hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia 'Lottie Hobby' are still at their best

As the frosts haven’t hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia ‘Lottie Hobby’ are still at their best

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom.  Be sure sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom. Be sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

Well, hopefully this small selection of some of our plants that are currently strutting their stuff will help you see that it’s not all doom and gloom in the gardens of Great Britain right now. We hope to see you here at Chartwell soon where you’ll be able to check these out plus plenty more for yourselves. As they say in New Zealand, you’ll have heaps of awesome fun…

Jamie

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Featured Plant No. 10 – Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma palmata in the Winter Border at Chartwell

Kirengeshoma palmata in the Autumn/Winter Border at Chartwell

With temperatures reaching up to the low-mid twenties here at sunny Chartwell this week you could be forgiven for thinking that its still Summer! However, the reality is that we are most certainly running head first into Autumn now as September grinds to a halt and October’s golden tones can be seen in the distance. It is not surprising perhaps then that while areas such as the Herbaceous Border and the Cut Flower area are still strutting their colourful stuff, the Autumn/Winter Border here in Churchill’s gardens is starting to put on a bit of a show once again too. And it is here that you can find the focus of this week’s blog, our Kirengeshoma palmata plants.

These drooping butter-yellow bells look stunning right now

These drooping butter-yellow bells look stunning right now

While these shade-loving beauties are not the most common plants in the gardens of Britain, there is plenty of reasons to suggest that maybe they should be. You can find them at Chartwell about halfway up the border, nestling happily in the shade of the our huge Walnut tree (Juglans nigra). So suited are they to partial or deep shade, that there is no reason why they couldn’t be the go-to plant for those little sun-starved spots every garden has. There is one proviso though: they only thrive in lime-free soils (and if truth be told, much prefer a sheltered rather than open spot). The soil along our Autumn/Winter border isn’t acidic as such, but it is that absence of alkaline lime that ticks the Kirengeshoma box.

When the flowers fully open you can really see the intricacies of their structure

When the flowers fully open you can really see the intricacies of their structure

Fully hardy in the UK, this herbaceous perennial is commonly known as Yellow Wax Bells and is a member of the Hydrangeaceae family. Native to the woodlands of Korea and Japan, the buds start to form on the elegant, drooping stems in late Summer before they really hit their stride during Autumn. Each plant can reach up to 120cm tall and 75cm wide, but they may need some staking in sandy soils. Although it is generally disease-free, it can be prone to slug and snail attack in some areas. Touch wood that ours seem unaffected so far this year! A moist soil will promote better growth than a dry one and it may need dividing every now and again as it is a clump forming plant in the right conditions.

The palmate leaves are almost as attractive as the blooms

The palmate leaves are almost as attractive as the blooms. They turn gold late in the season if the frost doesn’t nobble them

The name Kirengeshoma is formed from words in the Japanese language. ‘Ki’ means yellow and ‘renge’ means lotus blossom while ‘shoma’ means hat. ‘Rengashoma’ itself is the Japanese common name for Anemonopsis macrophylla which this plant is said to look similar to, although is not the same colour at all. It has been cultivated in the British Isles for more than a century and was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.

There are still plenty of spherical buds on our plants at Chartwell

There are still plenty of spherical buds on our plants at Chartwell

Kirengeshoma palmata is also a medicinal plant, containing biologically active flavonoids in roots and rhizomes. It is generally thought to reproduce sexually through cross-pollination by insects and asexually by spreading rhizomes. It has become rare, almost endangered, in its native Japan in recent years, all the more reason to enjoy the plants that we have over here perhaps.

The Autumn/Winter Border, viewed from the top end where the Cyclamen, Brunnera and heathers are looking fab right now

The Autumn/Winter Border, viewed from the top end where the Cyclamen, Brunnera and heathers are looking fab right now

The Kirengeshoma is by far the only plant to be putting on a show in the Autumn/Winter Border right now. Although the area is only just revving up for a long season there is plenty to catch the eye already as the pictures below can testify…

These Chelsea-chopped Sedums are still burgeoning but the bees love them already!

These Chelsea-chopped Sedums are still burgeoning but the bees love them already!

Most of the Asters are still on their way but this little Aster novi-belgii 'Apple Blossom' is giving an early showing

Most of the Asters are still on their way but this little Aster novi-belgii ‘Apple Blossom’ is giving an early showing

The pink heads of this Miscanthus sinensis 'Flamingo' look amazing rustling in the wind

The pink heads of this Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ look amazing rustling in the wind

The Cardiocrinum giganteum plants are still yet to put on their full dinosaur-headed show but they still look pretty darn interesting even at this stage!

The Cardiocrinum giganteum plants are still yet to put on their full dinosaur-headed show but they still look pretty darn interesting even at this stage!

Some perfectly formed Colchicum speciosum 'Album' bulbs are are starting to rear their pretty heads

Some perfectly formed Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ bulbs are are starting to rear their pretty heads

So when you next pop in to see us at Chartwell, make sure you walk along our Autumn/Winter Border where you might spot a few hidden gems. You’ll find the area in the Orchard running up along one of Churchill’s famous walls. And if you see me around I’ll be more than happy to show you the highlights in person!

Jamie

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Gratefully Received

The 2013 Summer display on the Pink Terrace

The 2013 Summer display on the Pink Terrace

Regular readers of this blog may remember a post from a few months ago when the Bank Of England chose Chartwell as the venue for launching the news of a brand new Sir Winston Churchill £5 note. If not, you can refresh your memory by simply clicking right here. In that blog I talked about the Spring planting in the troughs and containers on our Pink Terrace that included the likes of Hyacinths, Bellis pom-pom daisies, Forget-me-nots, Wallflowers and the like. Well, it will come to no surprise to the green-fingered amongst you that these plants have had their day and have long since been replaced by a selection of Summer bedding beauties.

The pink theme is broken up by whites and purples

The pink theme is broken up by whites and purples

If you venture up on the Pink Terrace right now you will be greeted by a stunning selection of flowering plants such as Chartwell favourite Salvia horminum ‘Pink Sunday’, the absolutely gorgeously scented cherry pie Heliotrope and the cascading ornamental Helichrysum as well as container favourites like Pelargoniums, Argyranthemums and Lobellia. Some pictorial highlights of some of these can be seen below:

It is the colourful bracts rather than the flowers for which this Salvia horminum is grown

It is the colourful bracts rather than the flowers for which this Salvia horminum is grown

The bees love it too!

The bees love it too!

They also have a penchant for the Heliotropium aborescens which smells good enough to eat

They also have a penchant for the Heliotropium aborescens which smells good enough to eat

The helichrysum petiolare cascades over the edge of the troughs...

The foliage of the helichrysum petiolare cascades over the edge of the troughs…

...but also has some pretty flowers of its own

…but also has some pretty flowers of its own

This white Lobellia is beginning to spill out of its container

This white Lobellia is beginning to spill out of its container

While this Argyranthemum 'Mary Wootton' stands tall and proud

While this Argyranthemum ‘Mary Wootton’ stands tall and proud

Even the humble Pealrgonium 'Salmon Princess' is looking pretty fine

Even the humble Pelargonium ‘Salmon Princess’ is looking pretty fine

Now while we like to think that our displays in the Pink Terrace containers always look pretty darn fine, this summer they look even better due to the fact the containers themselves have all been replaced by brand new upgraded versions. The long rectangular troughs and the circular pots had all become very rotten and some even might have struggled to remain in one piece for very much longer! It was thanks to a very generous donation from the Beckenham And Bromley Centre, an association of National Trust members which was founded in 1975 to prosper the work of the National Trust, that we were able to replace them all. We were very grateful for their kind donation, without which we not have been able to present our plants in such a beautiful manner. More information on their association and their work can be found on the National Trust website here, and their own independent website here.

Tea and cake is served!

Tea and cake is served!

To say a proper thankyou to their members we invited them for morning tea at Chartwell last week and a chance to see how their donation had been put to good use. Unfortunately the weather was against us so the Pink Terrace could only be viewed from the dry comfort of Lady Churchill’s Sitting Room. Tea and cake was served however in one of the staff rooms that overlook the gardens and plenty of Chartwell staff were on hand to give thanks including our General Manager Zoe Colbeck and Gardens and Estate Manager Giles Palmer.

Formal Garden Supervisor Matthew Law gives a thankyou speach

Formal Garden Supervisor Matthew Law gives a thankyou speech

Our guests had to admire the Pink Terrace from indoors due to the rain!

Our guests had to admire the Pink Terrace from indoors due to the rain!

We hope the Beckenham And Bromley Centre enjoyed their visit to Chartwell and that you will also when you next get a chance to pop in to see Churchill’s house and gardens. Just make sure to get out on to the Pink Terrace whilst you’re here to enjoy the views over the gardens, estate and Kent Weald as well as the planted containers on proud display there too!

Jamie

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