There was a sense of South American exuberance about the Garden in August. We travel East for September in order to bring you a month full of exotic promise.
Vita Sackville West once wrote:
I cannot bear to see another summer go, and I recoil from what the first hint of autumn means.
…but although this may be a sobering thought, don’t give up on summer yet and don’t be fooled by some of the leaves which are already beginning to drip from the trees. September, one of our most beautiful months, is truly jewel laden and Uppark will have a plethora of its’ own late summer gems on display.
In the spirit of previous “learn with David” pieces, I’ve dug up what I hope will be some interesting snippets to augment our September newsletter so off we go….
Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa group’
A native of China and Tibet, Hydrangea aspera is the first of our September Eastern promise plants. This late summer flowering deciduous shrub can be found in the island beds close to the entrance to the tea garden. The proximity of Cotinus coggyria ‘Grace’ deep red leaves serves as a foil to the rich pink and purple flowers of Hydrangea aspera. Incidentally, ‘aspera’ comes from the Latin for ‘rough textured’ and this nomenclature refers to the downy lower surface of Hydrangea aspera’s leaves.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu’
Another Eastern import, Kyushu is Japan’s third largest island, home to the nations most active volcano (Mount Aso) and many hot springs (quick geography lesson for you there!). ‘paniculata’ refers to the fact that Kyushu is ‘panicled’ insofar as it’s made up of a multi-branched ‘inflorescence’, or cluster, of flowers arranged on a stem. Plant names – it’s amazing how the search for one word leads to another, then another, then another. Suffice to say, creamy white is the predominant colour of the late summer flowers of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu‘.
A native of China and Japan, Clerodendrum trichotomum has some brilliant common names, amongst which my favourites are ‘harlequin glorybower’, ‘glorytree’ and ‘peanut butter tree’ (apparently its crushed leaves can produce a peanut like odour). We get two bites of the cherry with Clerodendrum trichotomum since its’ white, star shaped flowers are followed by bright blue berries in October. This is where trichotomum comes from; the blue pigment of these strikingly coloured berries contains trichotomine.
Anemone hupehensis var. japonica.
Also well known commonly as Chinese or Japanese anemone and probably less obviously as ‘thimbleweed’ or ‘windflower’ (what lovely descriptions!), Anemone hupehensis japonica was first named in the 1784 ‘Flora Japonica’ by Carl Thunberg. The influence of the Dutch and British East India Companies on the introduction of plants into Europe from the East is apparent everywhere and the story of Anemone hupehensis japonica illustrates this brilliantly. Thunberg was a doctor in the Dutch East India Company but was actually a Swede who, having learned the language was able to pass himself off as Dutch. This was critical to his access to all things Japanese as at that time, Japan was only open to Protestant Dutch Missionaries. A certain Robert Fortune was responsible for introducing Anemone hupehensis japonica to the UK from China in 1844. This is interesting enough in its’ own right but Fortune’s probable greater claim to fame was his responsibility for the transportation of tea plants from China to India in 1848 on behalf of the British East India Company. Think of the repercussions of that! (although the original plants were found to be very difficult to keep healthy). Fortune’s escapades in the East required dissembling similar to that of Thunberg insofar as since the purchase of tea plants by westerners was forbidden by the Chinese government of the day, it was necessary to disguise oneself as a Chinese merchant in order to get one’s hands on such valuable plants. Ingenious C18th and C19th determination of the highest calibre and this pair of stories provide a very colourful background to this equally colourful plant.
Aster novae-angliae ‘September Ruby’
Also known variously as ‘Fall Aster’, ‘New England Aster’, ‘Michaelmas Daisy’ and ‘Septemberrubin’ we move from the mystic East towards Eastern North America for our next highlight. Asters have traditionally been used to provide vibrant splashes of late summer colour (even I know that!) and the deep ruby-red blooms of Aster novae-angliae ‘September Ruby’, which are also great for cutting, are no exception.
Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’
Found in front of the Orangery Café and in the dairy bank border, we return to East Asia to highlight Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’. This blue flowered hybrid has now largely replaced the original Caryopteris species in many gardens and I was delighted to discover that Caryopteris x clandonensis is an accidental creation from the garden of Arthur Simmonds at Clandon (hence clandonensis). It’s lovely to have found such a happy link between the two National Trust places. Other cultivars include the very evocatively named ‘Blue Mist’, ‘Longwood Blue’, ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Summer Sorbet’….the poetry of plant nomenclature never ceases to inspire me.
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’
This is a plant I do not forget as I once tried, and failed, to enunciate ‘atriplicifolia’ at the end of a reasonably sized garden tour once we’d arrived at the scented garden. I think I gained the sympathy of the group for trying (‘nice but dim’ probably worked) but I now tend to stick to just Perovskia or Blue Spire. A native of South West and Central Asia and also known as Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia is, apparently, neither Russian nor in the same genus as sage (although its’ fragrance is similar). The name ‘Perovskia’ is in memory of V.A Perovski, a Russian General who introduced the plant to Western gardeners in the mid C19th whilst leading Imperial Russian troops on campaign in Afghanistan (since Perovski had earlier been captured by French troops during the retreat to Moscow from the Napoleonic 1812 Battle of Borodino and remained in captivity until the fall of Paris in 1814, he evidently had a lively formative career!). The crushed flowers of ‘Blue Spire’ provide a blue colourant useful for culinary purposes and in the textile and cosmetics industries. Find Perovskia atriplicifolia in the scented garden and dairy bank borders – once autumn has slid into winter, its’ silvery stems will provide some very welcome colour.
Native to Western China and Tibet, Ceratostigma is also commonly known as Leadwort or Plumbago. The epithet ‘willmottianum” was given by Ernest Wilson, another traveller to China and the Middle East, in honour of his initially wealthy, but later debt laden and increasingly eccentric sponsor, Ellen Willmott who is said to have cultivated over 100,000 different species of plant. In addition, the colourful Willmott appears to have been a gardener of uncompromising standards, sacking gardeners for leaving weeds in situ and justifying her policy of employing only male gardeners by stating that
women would be a disaster in the border….’.
Ellen Willmott’s words not mine, I say nothing and keep the peace!
Much better known as Chinese privet, not surprisingly this small evergreen tree (or large shrub depending on your point of view) is another native of Southern China. Also known as ‘broad leaf privet’ and ‘wax-leaf privet’, an alternative common name, ‘glossy privet’, elucidates the Latin lucidum that relates to ‘bright’ and/or ‘shiny’ in reference to its glossy leaves. Another plant that keeps on giving (its white summer flowers are followed by black or deep purple berries) Ligustrum lucidum has a slightly alarming number of uses in traditional Chinese medicine including the nourishment of the liver and kidney together with treatments for tinnitus, vertigo, premature greying and weakness of the lower back and knees. That’s quite a list and you learnt it here with David!
Although I hesitate to say it I am, indeed, coming to the end of my second summer in the garden at Uppark. It’s been inspirational, I know more than I did last year, I have a better understanding of how the property operates as whole and I have loved sharing my enthusiasm for the garden within the pages of this blog and, especially, face to face with our visitors – hope to see you soon!