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Trillium ovatum

Trillium ovatum

I am enchanted by the western counterpart of the ever-popular Trillium grandiflorum with which most of us associate all Trilliums, the world over. T. ovatum is native to C. California and its territory runs right up north to Vancouver and British Columbia. Although the two related species are geographically well and truly separated, they could be confused in the garden. I have come across two distinct forms in cultivation and one of the finest stands I have ever seen is in the woodland landscape at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. My accompanying picture was taken there. Cultivation is really quite straightforward. A good depth of decent, well-drained soil enriched with extra compost and leaf mould will suit well. I would plant all trilliums in a partly shaded spot and ensure that, despite the need for deciduous shade the soil will dry out during the growing season.
Propagation is possible from freshly-sown seed, followed by a measure of patience! A special form should be divided up carefully during the dormant season.

You will need to search carefully for available plants and I would recommend making contact with the following nurseries to discuss availability.

Ron McBeath at Lamberton Nursery, 01289 308515

www.pitcairnalpines.co.uk, tel. 01738 583213

Edrom Nurseries, www.edrom-nurseries.co.uk, tel, 018907 71386

Plants of the month, February

There can be no doubt that, particularly as I write this piece in the first weeks of February 2011 when still well and truly hamstrung by the wintry weather, “momentary joy”, the emergence of snowdrops and winter aconites brings hope of the arrival of spring. Rather than offering just one plant of the month, I thought it appropriate to highlight two  bulbous plants which will certainly delight the discerning gardener and beginner, alike.

My first choice is the very special snowdrop cultivar, Galanthus plicatus ‘Sophie North’. This outstanding plant was brought to the fore by Dr. Evelyn Stevens who gardens in Sherriffmuir by Dunblane. She has a quite remarkable garden with a national collection of Meconopsis, as well as a natural plantation of snowdrops in a woodland setting. I first brought a specimen of this snowdrop down to an RHS show in Westminster in 1996 from Evelyn and it immediately caught the attention of the snowdrop experts. At this time it was named Galanthus plicatus ssp. byzantinus, one of the most beautiful forms of this very distinct species originating in its native Turkey. This cultivar, which arose in Evelyn’s garden, was subsequently named in memory of one of the children killed in the Dunblane Primary School tragedy.
G. ‘Sophie North’ is a sturdy snowdrop of short stature with distinctly broad, glaucous leaves. What is so notable about the foliage is the inrolled margin of the leaf and combined with its large dumpy flowers, makes this an outstanding and choice snowdrop. Such are the crazy prices paid for the rarest snowdrop cultivars, that it is reassuring to be able to recommend one that is sensibly priced and, in my experience, a good grower and of good constitution.

My second choice is a plant that will associate admirably with the foregoing snowdrop. The winter aconite Eranthis hyemalis is native to France, Italy and the Balkan region where it can be found in deciduous woods and rocky terrain. The characteristic, yellow buttercup-like flowers are set against a frilly, bright green ruff of leaves. Winter aconites have been grown in British gardens for over 400 years and many of us will have our favourite places where they can be seen in vast sheets, seeding freely beneath deciduous trees and shrubs, often naturalised in short grass. I must point out that this little bulbous plant, for all its charming beauty, is one of the most poisonous plants we grow in our gardens.
During the past century there have been some attempts to raise hybrids between this species and its Turkish cousin, Eranthis cilicica. In 1923 a hybrid was raised by Mr. J.M.C. Hoog in Haarlem, The Netherlands and named E. x tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’. As the botanists and taxonomists keep busy, a new name was borne and I believe the latest name for this pretty cultivar is, E. Hyemalis Cilicica Group ‘Guinea Gold’. What makes this cultivar stand out is the fact that it is completely sterile and therefore puts all its energy into forming a generous compact clump. Added to this quality is the distinct bronze-tinged foliage and larger flowers. When you purchase your plants either as dormant, dry little corms or growing plantlets, plant them out in a cool position with added leafmould or well-rotted garden compost and label clearly. Allow the plants to establish for a number of years before lifting it after flowering and carefully slicing the little gnarled corm in to a few pieces. I have it planted amongst snowdrops and Corydalis solida forms where the flowering association is a delight during the months of February and early March.
Plant availability:
Both my recommendations for February can be sourced from the following nurseries:

Edrom Nurseries, 018907 71386
Christies Alpine Plant Nursery, 01575 572977
Kevock Garden Plants, 0131 454 0660

My Classical Music, March

Mozart Symphony No 28 in C major, K.200

This month it is my intention to draw your attention to a piece of music one hears all too infrequently and, in my opinion, is deserving of wider recognition. For those, like myself, who enjoy the lighter end of the broad “classical” range of music, this piece is real fun, full of frivolous laughter reminding me of Mozart’s ” Magic Flute”.

Mozart composed the symphony in either 1773 0r 1774 in Salzburg. I am amazed that the young Wolfgang would have been either 17 or 18 and could compose such an enjoyable, yet momentous symphony with such a lack of experience. He was a genius, for sure. The sound of horns is prominent in the second movement and then in the third Menuetto movement there is a solo horn briefly echoing part of the minuet’s opening phrase. The final movement is full of “furious comical unison”. Superb.

I hope readers of this recommendation will gain as much pleasure from this piece as I have done.

  • Sources: Telarc Mozart Symphonies 25, 28 and 29 Prague Chamber Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras available from Amazon UK
  • DG Mozart Symphonies 28 and 33 Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra, James Levine, available from Arkiv Music

My wine choice, March

Alsace – Turkheim Pinot Blanc

It is hard not to make immediate comparisons with German wines when sitting down and enjoying any of the celebrated wines of this celebrated region in France.  Yet, Alsace has never been German, except in periods of military occupation. Its soul is entirely French.  The tone for these fine wines is set by the climate, soil and the choice of grape varieties.  The first time my wife and I travelled to this area we were captivated by the magnificent landscape with rolling hills, wooded towards the hilltops whilst the lower slopes are planted with orderly rows of vines.  The pretty villages are often walled and preserve a rich history along with a picture postcard Gothic architecture that will take up plenty of memory card. Overhanging gables, flower-filled troughs and courtyards along with cobbled streets adds to the beauty of this experience.

And, by the way, the cuisine is wonderful too.

The range of wines offered, are produced mainly from white grape varieties and Pinot Blanc is widely grown throughout the region.  The Queen of the grape varieties here is the Riesling and when aged is outstanding, with the added prize if it has been grown on a Grand Cru vineyard.  A firm favourite is the Gewurztraminer, a grape which owes its origin to the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy in the village of Tramin (Termeno).  When I first tasted this wine, here in the Alsace I was completely beguiled by the fruity flavour and well remember offering our teenage daughter a taste and asked what it reminded her of. Her immediate reaction was “Lychees, Dad”.  She was of course spot on.

My recommendation is a Turkheim Pinot Blanc.  I have enjoyed this variety as a wine to savour as an aperitif or drunk along with fish or cheese.  It is dry, pale, elegant and crisp and mercifully (this recommendation) is un- oaked so you can taste the grape.  Across the Rhine, the nearest of the German wine regions is in Baden and my word its wine growers also produce a splendid Pinot Blanc, named Weissburgunder in these parts, same grape different soil and climate but still a great choice.

Obtain this wine from Great Grog Company Ltd., Edinburgh.  www.greatgrog.co.uk
Tel no: 0131 555 3400

Helleborus x belcheri ‘Pink Ice’ (H. nigercors x H. thibetanus)

“A thrilling interspecific cross bred at Ashwood. Beautiful clusters of frosted pink flowers, paler within, delicately frilled and veined. The foliage is akin to that of one of its parents, H. niger. This lovely hybrid requires a sunny position in a fertile, well-drained soil. A ‘must-have’ plant for the hellebore enthusiast and keen plants person. Orders are welcome but please be patient as Ashwood Nurseries only have a limited stock available”.

Contact: Ashwood Nurseries, Ashwood Lower Lane, Ashwood, Kingswinford, DY6 OAE

mailorder@ashwoodnurseries.com

Tel: 01384 401996

Helleborus x belcheri ‘Pink Ice’ (H. nigercors x H. thibetanus)

“A thrilling interspecific cross bred at Ashwood. Beautiful clusters of frosted pink flowers, paler within, delicately frilled and veined. The foliage is akin to that of one of its parents, H. niger. This lovely hybrid requires a sunny position in a fertile, well-drained soil. A ‘must-have’ plant for the hellebore enthusiast and keen plants person. Orders are welcome but please be patient as Ashwood Nurseries only have a limited stock available”.

Contact: Ashwood Nurseries, Ashwood Lower Lane, Ashwood, Kingswinford, DY6 OAE

mailorder@ashwoodnurseries.com

Tel: 01384 401996