Abriachan Week Two

It was a crisp, clear and sunny November morning – the temperature overnight did not fall below freezing but it wasn’t far off. Some of the plants in the sales area are showing signs of being a bit cold now.
We continued the tour of the garden, exploring some new paths and some consolidation on paths that we walked last week. This included a walk up the stream on the northern boundary, beyond the deer fence (where antler damage to some young trees was all too apparent). We passed the pondlet that Donald dug out some years ago, only to have it filled and the stream rediverted by the big landslides that hit the Abriachan hill shortly thereafter. Digging it out again is a project for this winter. It’s full of bulrushes at the moment but waterlilies should flourish. Pondlet
Building on the enthusiasm and excitement of experiencing so much on my first visit, I was able to be a bit more focused and specific about what I was learning. I’m also trying to get into the discipline of noting botanical names as well as common names for plants and flowers.
A key focus is late autumn colour in the garden – for example Chilean holly (Desfontainia spinosa). Things are continuing to flower quite late this year, after the relatively hard winder last year they were slower to get going and there was a generally later flowering. Ornithological note – most of the rowan berries that were dripping off the trees last week, bending the branches with their weight, have gone now that flocks of fieldfares and redwings have finally arrived this week on their journey back from northern breeding grounds.

More notes about trees and shrubs:
Alders (Alnus) are good in damp conditions.
There was a craze for black bamboo about ten years ago.
Gunnera tinctoria is smaller than the giant Gunnera magellanica.
Quince (Cydonia oblonga) seems to be evergreen.Cydonia oblongaBirch stump
Betula generally only live for 60-70 years, then die naturally (there’s a stump that is teeming with other forms of life including wrens’ nests, and next year’s wood stock).
Spiraea is a plant to beware of as it just takes over everything.
Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is so-called because this was the tree from which Judas hanged himself.
Lantern tree has red flowers.
Mahonia will flower from now till the end of the year and is related to Berberis (from the family Berberidaceae)
Berberis ottowensis is best left to do its thing and find its own shape, if it’s necessary to prune, do this right to the ground.
Cercis siliquastrumMahonia
Osmanthus delibae has white scented flowers in the Spring.
The tree with amazing yellow-white flowers I couldn’t remember the name of last time is Eucryphia x nymansensis ‘Nymansay’ (white flowers). There is also a Eucryphia milliganii (from Tasmania)Euchryphia 'Nymansay'

Fence and wall cover is an important feature of a nursery garden. Ivy (Hedera spp.) is great for wildlife because it flowers and sets berries late in the season when nothing else is available, and also provides great cover for birds. It needs its own fence or trellis because it digs into walls and strangles trees.
[Another evergreen with catkins – find out more!]
Pyracantha has good berries and wall cover.
Hedera helix 'Goldheart'
Pyracantha
Golden hop (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) is a perennial climber with good quick growth. It needs full sunlight to be truly golden, and doesn’t like wind.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) is always good value.
Hydrangea paniculata is climbing hydrangea, good in shade, really wants to be left to grow as a bush, as it grows prolifically and clipping reduces flowers.
In the nursery, ferns are less popular at the moment than they were some years ago.
Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s tongue fern) has spores on the underside of the leaves.
Morina longifolia afghanista is an evergreen perennial.
Asplenium scolopendrium

Today I did my first proper (if short and supervised) stint in the nursery. I planted up a load of Dierama (summer-flowering corms) which Donald had divided from a clump in a pot. We wanted one set of corms kept for stock (I repotted them in the same large pot they came in) and the rest I potted into 9 cm square black pots. Each one had to have a stick and the tray was also labelled. I also potted up a tray of anemones from 7 cm round pots to 9cm black square pots. The repotted plants were then listed on a pad of paper for stock control, and taken up to one of the polytunnels. There is a system for what goes where in the tunnels but I think it’s in Donald’s head. The labelling and stock control processes are necessary but fraught with the usual potential for error when humans are involved. Labelling the anemones was interesting – there was a discrepancy in the spelling between a stick in a pot and the label on the original tray, and some ambiguity over the name of the cultivar itself because of handwriting vagaries. I labelled the plants Anemone Annabelle Rose – research when I got home revealed them to have actually been Anemone multifida ‘Annabella Deep Rose’. Need the RHS Plant Finder to hand in the nursery. Interestingly the RHS Plant Finder lists one UK supplier of said anemone – Abriachan Nurseries. Picture to follow in the spring.

The potting medium was one part John Innes and one part multipurpose compost (peat-based). Donald would like to go peat-free but has not yet found a suitable peat-free compost. He supports the principles of organic gardening but in his experience this compromises the quality of the plants. His preferred supplier is Levington’s – the materials are sterilised and all prepared and packed in the same place so there is no problem with consistency, and the plants he grows seem to like it. Abriachan really brings home the importance of buying from a local nursery – if plants have not germinated here, they have been brought on here, so they will tolerate the conditions.Morina longofolia afghanista

Donald has taken some softwood cuttings this week – various shrubs including lavender. He uses a double-pot (pot in a pot) method found in a Victorian book. I’d like to get some experience in doing this.Tree

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