Primula denticulata flower

I would hope this possibly eclectic collection of plants will develop into a mixture of common garden plants which you are likely to common across in the majority of gardens and interesting ones I have grown or just come across and I feel should be more widely grown. While this is very much a personal collection I would hope there is something of help and /or interest to many other people and would be interested to here your views on the inclusions and omissions.

While it may not be as comprehensive as others I would hope to try and make it as accessible as possible to non gardeners. The fact I have chosen to use the scientific names may be contrary to this but it is made for the simple reason that common names for the same plant vary widely just from one region to another and can unfortunately end up coursing confusion. That said the attempts and arguments of scientist trying to decide what the “correct” name of a plant is can end up creating a fair bit of confusion anyway!

To try and make this list as friendly as possible I will as far as possible try and provide more than one picture of the plants, any common names I can find, an indication of how likely you are to come across it and a description in as plain as English as possible. To keep the list as accessable as I can I will base the names on the RHS horticultural database, this may well mean nothing to you now but hopely as we go on it will, and in the mean time it will make life easier.

Acer palmatum var. dissectum

Acer palmatum var. dissectum

Acer palmatum var. dissectum

Acer palmatum var. dissectumis a much used garden plant where something striking but delicate is wanted. Much loved in “Japanese” style gardens where it mixes well with gravel and boulders, a position which allows it to be ground in isolation so as to show off its dome of draping branches.  They are slow growing bushes slowly forming a small shrub after many years.

Acer palmatum var. dissectum foliage

Acer palmatum var. dissectum foliage

Not fussy plants they will grow in most decent garden soil though they do best in moist but free draining soils. The finely divided, thin leaves are prone to damage by wind and sun so they are best in a sheltered part of the garden with light shade, but not heavy or dry shade.

Known as the Cut Leaf Japanese Maple due to A. palmatum being known as the Japanese Maple as it comes from Japan, central China and Korea and its leaves being finely divided. The naming of Acer dissectum is confused, a situation caused at least in part by confusion between botanical names and those of cultivated plants. It is often named as Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ but that would only be if the plant did not exist naturally in the wild, as that form of name is only used for a cultivar. Things are further complicated by the many cultivars of Acer palmatum var. dissectum which have been raised and are available, Acer palmatum var. dissectum‘Garnet’ being a particularly nice example with red tinged foliage (this being an example of a cultivar of a variety).

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Garnet'

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Garnett' foliage

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnett’ foliage

Actinidia kolomikta

Actinidia kolomikta foliage

Actinidia kolomikta foliage

This beautiful wall shrub deserves to be far more widely grown yet currently only about 53 suppliers are listed in the RHS plant finder. This is surprising as few other wall grown plants provide such an attractive display for so long. The foliage opens green but quickly develops a white and pink variegation as if they had been dipped in pots of white and pink paint. This variegation only develops in the presence of plenty of sunlight and along with the shrubs scrambling habit means it is always seen grown against a south facing wall, although I can imagine it would also be very attractive scrambling over a south facing bank.

Actinidia kolomikta growing against a wall

Actinidia kolomikta growing against a wall

It’s white, slightly fragrant, summer flowers are over shadowed by the foliage and as it is both dioecious and it is only the male plant which appears to be in cultivation you are unlikely to see the fruits which are said to be edible. The closely related A. deliciosa (A.Chev.) C.F.Liang & A.R.Ferguson which is better known as the kiwi Fruit and several of the 100+ species of Actinidia Lindl. are cultivated commercially for their fruit.

Actinidia kolomikta (Rupr. & Maxim.) Maxim. is easy to grow not being particularly fussy as to soil type and vigorous, reaching up to 4.5 to 6 metres up a wall. They are reasonable easy to propagate by cuttings or layering and are perfectly hardy.

Actinidia kolomikta grown as a shrub

Actinidia kolomikta grown as a shrub

First described by Carl Johann Maximowicz and Franz Josef Ruprecht two botanist working in Saint Petersburg in the 19th century; they initially placed the plant in the genus Prunus but subsequently both revised their decision and Maximowicz placed it in the genus Actinidia created by the British botanist John Lindley which he named after the Greek for ray because of the styles in the flowers. The plant is native to the region of Amur in Russia where it is known as kolomikta and Maximowicz described the plant growing wild in his 1859 book Primitiae Florae Amurensis (Beginnings of an Amor Flora). Amur Oblast is still a largely remote region with temperatures that can range from above 30°C in summer to below -40°C in winter.

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Aesculus hippocastanum

Aesculus hippocastanum flower

Aesculus hippocastanum flower

The Horse Chestnut tree immediately brings to mind the quintessential English village green with its broad spreading canopy, masses of white summer flowers and autumn games of conkers. In reality this is a plant which contradicts itself at every turn. Originally coming from the Balkans Peninsula (the bit that hangs down to the right of Italy with Greece hanging on the bottom) it was unknown outside of the region until the 16th century. The first written reference to it was in a 1557 letter from Istanbul by the wonderfully named Willem Quackelbeen. A description of the plants discovery and rediscovery by Professor H. Walter Lack can be found here . Even when first introduced it was believed to be from Asia and the first botanist to claim to have found the plant growing wild in the Balkans was disbelieved. In France its common name is still Marronier d’Inde which literally translates as Chestnut of India. The English Horse Chestnut comes from the belief that it could be used to treat horses, though it is actually poisonous to them, and that it was a close relative of the edible Sweet Chestnut, though all parts of the plant are poison to humans. In fact A. hippocastanum L. is only distantly related to the Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) with taxonomists placing them in separate orders.

Aesculus hippocastanum

Aesculus hippocastanum

So as well as not been a chestnut A. hippocastanum L. does not produce nuts, the conkers loved by generations of school-children are seeds and the spiky case they are found in, the actual fruit, is a “valvate capsule”! The scientific name is little better Linnaeus chose Aesculus as the genus name but it is the Latin name for a kind of Oak which bears edible fruits and the specific name hippocastanum comes from the Greek name for the plant hippocastanon with Greek for horse ίππος is pronounced “hippos.

The rapid A. hippocastanum L. spread across western Europe following its introduction and its continued popularity are testament to its value as an ornamental tree as it is of very little commercial value; it is poisonous and the wood is little used. This is soft, not very durable and difficult to give a good finish to. In the wild it is a short lived component of mixed hardwood woodland and only in cultivation is it allowed to grow to an impressive sizes of over 30m forming a wide dense canopy of leaves.

Aesculus hippocastanum young flowers and foliage

Aesculus hippocastanum young flowers and foliage

The tree is easily grown in normal garden soils but it does need a lot of space. Since 2000 the disease bleeding canker has become a wide spread problem but it appears to progress slowly and given time trees do appear to recover from it. The main problem with the disease is that it can weaken all or part of the tree and so cause a danger in that way.

Aesculus hippocastanum fruit

Aesculus hippocastanum fruit

A number of cultivars are available including Aesculus hippocastanum ‘Baumannii’ which is sterile so preventing the problem of conkers. There is also a red hybrid Aesculus x carnea which you see planted but it rarely lives up to expectation and the improved cultivar  Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’ should be chosen if a red chestnut is wanted.

Alchemilla Mollis

Alchemills Mollis in flower

Alchemills Mollis

This is a very common garden plant, known as Lady’s Mantle, grown in many gardens for its attractive foliage and ability to provide a weed covering mat. It is easily grown in sun or light shade, only limited by heavy shade, in any normal garden soil; seeding itself freely about he garden give any opportunity. The lime green flowers could easily be over looked buts its charming habit of catching drops of dew or rain water in the folds of its leaves.

Alchemilla Mollis with water droplets on the leaves

Alchemilla Mollis with water droplets on the leaves

The plants grow to about 450 mm high and should be planted about 600 mm apart. As a hardy perennial the foliage dies down in autumn and cutting back the dead leaves in winter is all the care this plant requires. If it has not spread itself about the garden by self seeding, a tendency which can be controlled by removing the flowers once they start to die back, it can be propagated by division. The time of this division is not important with this easy plant.

Close up of Alchemilla mollis flowers

Close up of Alchemilla mollis flowers

The plant is quite distinctive in appearance and closes to it are probably the closely related Alchemilla erythropoda and A. alpina both of which are notably smaller. Alchemilla mollis is found naturalized in the wild in this country along with several other members of members of the genus some native, some naturalized. The genus Alchemilla is in the rose family and the pollen of many European member of the genus fails to fertilize the plants with the seed forming asexually.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

If you are looking for a tree for a small garden this selection of the Himalayan birch would be a good choice. B. jacquemontii differs from the B. utilis in its outstanding white bark. Never making a large tree the light foliage doesn’t cast troublesome dense shade.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii bark

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii bark

The white peeling bark makes a striking feature either in a border or set amongst grass; particularly in groups. In either case the light shade it casts isn’t too restrictive on the range of plants that can grow underneath it. Its light canopy also makes it a good compromise when wanting to block the view of a neighbouring window without causing too much shade. Correctly named Betula utilis var. jacquemontii Spach as it was originally described by Édouard Spach (1801-1879)

A variety of Betula utilis hence the var. after the species name. A varieties is a range of plants which are more uniform than a species but not as narrow as a forma (or form). Betula utilis is found growing wild in the Himalayas and was given its scientific name by the Scottish botanist David Don in 1825 when he published a description of it. It was though not introduced to the west until 1849 by Sir Joseph Hooker.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii foliage

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii foliage

Its peeling bark was traditionally used in the Himalayas to write on and in David Wheelers ‘Hortus Revisted: A Twenty-First Birthday Anthology’   Tony Shilling describes how among other things the bark is used to write on and is believed to have magical powers. The word utilis is botanical latin for useful or beneficial and the Latin word utilis gives us the word utility.

 

A more vigorous alternative would by Betula ermanii ‘Grayswood Hill’, it differs from B. jacquemontii by its pink tinged bark and very rough shoots.

Buddleja davidii

Buddleja davidii 'Burgundy'

Buddleja davidii ‘Burgundy’

Buddleja davidii Franch.is a popular garden shrub which has escaped cultivation to become established as a naturalised plant in the wild, where it can often be found on waste ground around towns and cities. It will grow happily in most garden soils and can even be seen growing out of cracks in masonry on buildings. It does prefer a sunny position as none of the buddlejas do well in shade. It grows well in even poor soil sending up long arching branches which are topped by the flowers in ranged in a cyme in late summer. Being a late flowering shrub it responds to early spring pruning and when pruned hard in March it produces far more flowers. These flowers give it its common name of butterfly bush as there strong scent is irresistible to butterflies.

Buddleja x weyeriana 'Honeycomb'

Buddleja x weyeriana ‘Honeycomb’

Its ease of cultivation and natural variability has lead to a host of named varieties being selected and introduced varying from white through to purples and very dark blues. The RHS plant finder currently lists 121 different ones, including some which are forms of Buddleja x weyeriana – a hybrid between B. davidii and B. globosa.

The genus Buddleja L. was named by Carl Linnaeus in ‘Species Plantarum’, naming it after the Reverend Adam Buddle but of reasons unknown he spelt it with a “j” when strictly speaking it should be spelt with an “i”. This has lead to considerable confusion over the

Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin'

Buddleja davidii ‘Harlequin’

years but as he repeatedly spelt it this way that is how it should be spelt. The only Buddleja known to Linnaeus was B. Americana L.which William Houstoun had sent back to Europe from the Americas and even then the spelling was causing confusion as in one of his illustrations he spelt it incorrectly both times even though he attributes the naming to Linnaeus. The species B. davidii itself was first sent back to Europe from China by the French Catholic missionary Armand David having found it in  August of 1869 and  Adrien René Franchet working in the herbarium of the natural history museum in Paris published a description of it in 1887 naming it in after the discoverer.

Buddleja davadii 'White Profusion'

Buddleja davadii ‘White Profusion’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus

Hillers Manual of Trees and Shrubs

Excursion flora of the British Isles by Clapham et al

Nouvelles Archives Du Muséum D’Histoire Naturelle series 2

Reliquiae Houstounianae sive Plantarum in America meridionale … Collectarum Icones by William Hostoun

The International Plant Names Index (2012). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org [accessed 12th December  2012]

Tropicos, botanical information system at the Missouri Botanical Garden – www.tropicos.org [accessed 12th December  2012]

The Royal Horticultural Society Horticultural Database’, available at www.rhs.org.uk [accessed 12th December  2012]

Castanea sativa

Castanea sativa

Castanea sativa

The Sweet (or Spanish) Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) is probably most know for its edible nuts, traditionally eaten around Christmas time, but in fact it makes a very fine large tree. Clothed in thick glossy leaves, tolerant of a wide range of soil types and relatively free of disease it has been extensively planted through the British Isles. Its quick growth and large size limits its use in all but the largest gardens when grown as a tree, but its success as a coppiced tree would allow the more ornamental forms to be more wildly grown. At present these are not widely grown but Castanea saliva ‘Albomarginata’ is a very attractive form with creamy white edged leaves and C. ‘ Aspleniifolia’ is a vary rare form with the serrated edges of the leaves drawn out into fine filaments.

Castanea sativa 'Albomarginata' foliage

Castanea sativa ‘Albomarginata’ foliage

It is believed that the tree was introduced by the Romans who ate the nuts but in practice the tree fails to provide a crop of edible nuts in all but the warmest parts of the UK. Globally though about 500,000 tonnes of chestnuts are produced annually, about half in the Far East. In France the best nuts are sold as marron and in Italy marron may refer to a cultivar of C. sativa which yields fewer high quality nuts. Though Castanea is only represented by C. sativa in cultivation in the UK the genus is quiet large and widely distributed with several hybrids and cultivars being actively studied because of its economic importance. Of lesser importance is the timber of Castanea due to its tendency to warp and split but its durability in contact with water has long been known and has made it a preferred wood for stakes.

Castanea sativa foliage and youing fruits

Castanea sativa foliage and youing fruits

Its scientific name dates from the 8th edition of Philip Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary published in 1768 when he updated it to bring it into line with the Linnaeus system of plant names. He did though take the sweet chestnut back out of the beech genus, that Linnaeus had merged it into, arguing that the male catkins of Castanea are long and those of beech are globular. Castanea is Latin for chestnut while sativa comes from the Latin for cultivated. It is claimed that castanea itself comes from the Greek κάστανα meaning chestnut and a large number of Greek words where borrowed by Latin.

Castanea sativa bark

Castanea sativa bark

References:

Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus

Hillers Manual of Trees and Shrubs

Excursion flora of the British Isles by Clapham et al

Inventory of Chestnut Research, Germplasm And References, FAO http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/006/AD235E/AD235E00.HTM [accessed 30th January 2013]

http://apps.kew.org/trees/?page_id=85 [accessed 30th January 2013]

The Royal Horticultural Society Horticultural Database’, available at www.rhs.org.uk [accessed 30th January 2013]

Botanical Latin by William T. Stearn

Tropicos, botanical information system at the Missouri Botanical Garden – www.tropicos.org [accessed 30th January 2013]

Clematis tangutica

Clematis tangutica flowers.

Clematis tangutica flowers.

This charming clematis spices is quite different from the large flowered cultivars usually grown in gardens. The small pixie hat flowers make up for their small size by their numbers which appear from June through into autumn when they can be seen with typical feathery clematis seed heads.  While not as showy as the large flowered cultivars Clematis tangutica (Maxim.)Korch. is a lot less demanding than these tend to be. Like all clematis any reasonable garden soil and aspect is suitable and the small flowers and dense foliage make it more successful in exposed locations where the large flowered cultivars would be pull apart by the wind.

Clematis tangutica

Clematis tangutica

Its vigorous, dense foliage makes it an excellent choice of covering walls and fences. It will reach 4.5 m to 5 m but is not as vigorous as Clematis Montana which tends to rapidly smooth whatever it is intended to grow over. Left to their own devices it will grow quiet happily un-pruned but it can appear untidy. Alternatively they can be cut back as hard as needed in winter though this will delay the start of flowering the following year.

The inside of a Clematis tangutica flower.

The inside of a Clematis tangutica flower.

C. tangutica is very similar to C. orientalis L., the clematis grower Christopher Lloyd admitted he at times struggled to tell the two apart. The main distinguishing feature is that C. orientais has narrower leaves. Originally C.tangutica was classified in 1889 as a variety of C. orientais  by Carl Maximowicz a Russian botanist who travelled widely in the orient. Subsequently Sergei Korshinsky another Russian botanist placed it in a species of its own in 1898. It first reached the UK from St. Petersburg in 1898, but has since been reintroduced from its native habitat in Mongolia and North West China.

Reference:

Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus

Hillers Manual of Trees and Shrubs

http://www.tropicos.org/Name/27101612

Clematis by Christopher Lloyd

The Well-Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd

Cornus controversa

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

Best known in gardens in the form of Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ this plant has had a convoluted history. The species C. controversa Heml. was first “discovered” in cultivation. In January of 1909 an article was published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine which discussed the naming of Cornus macrophylla and the authors noted that there appeared to be confusion regarding the name. Though introduced back in 1827 it was not widely grown but it was known to be a tall and bushy plant when observed in the wild and this varied little over it wide natural range.  William Botting Hemley who had retired as Keeper of the Herbarium and Library at Kew the year before had studied this and noted that the examples in cultivation were a mixture of two species: one with opposite leaves and the other alternate.

Cornus controversa 'Variegata' foliage

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ foliage

The simple fact was that the naming had got into a mess but when the original specimen that Wallich had named C. macrophylla was checked it had opposite leaves and the original description in Flora indica of 1820 described the leaves as “sub-opposite”. Next Meyer in 1845 had also described the plant in a Saint Petersburg publication but naming it C. brachypoda. All this resulted in America and continental Europe using Meyer’s name of C. brachypoda for the form of the plant with opposite leaves and C. macrophylla for the alternate leafed form while in Britain both forms were known as C. macrophylla. In an attempt to clear things up the German botanist Bernhard Koehne tried to split the species in the belief that the Himalayan form was a distinct species which he called C. corynostylis but got confused between the opposite and alternate leaf arrangements. To clear up this confusion William Hemley proposed that if the plant had its leaves arranged opposite one another on the branches it should be called C. macrophylla Wall. as has been Nathaniel Wallich’s intention and the alternate leafed form should be a separate species Cornus controversa Hemsl. meaning cornus controversial, a most appropriate name. And that is as it has remained; apart from an attempt to place several of the cornus species, this one included, in the genus Swida in the 1960’s.

Cornus controversa 'Variegata' foliage close up

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ foliage close up

That would be the end of it with C. controversa Hemsl. providing us with a very garden worthy small tree with tiered branches and masses of cream flowers in May, but towards the end of the 19th century a variegated from was found and shortly before 1890 Veitch Nurseries introduced it as Cornus brachypoda ‘Variegata’. Now known as Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ this is a plant which stands out to gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Smaller growing than the original but retaining the tier arrangement of branches, the leaves are longer and narrower and tend to be asymmetrical in shape with an irregular creamy-white margin. Known by the common name The Wedding Cake Tree its hardy in the UK and was awarded an AMG by the RHS in 1993.

Its size and shape means it is best suited to a larger garden where it has room to grow and show off its tiered habit and would look particularly effective in a large border with an under planting of spring bulbs. The flowers are followed by berries and on some soils attractive autumn foliage. The plant is often produced by grafting and so care should be taken to watch out for suckers from the more vigorous rootstock which need to be removed as soon as seen.

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Crataegus monogyna

Crataegus monogyna

Crataegus monogyna – Hawthorn hedging

The common hedgerow plant Hawthorn is a familiar sight all over the UK and gets it name from it’s fruit which have the common name Haws and is sharp thorns. Also known as May or Mayflower due to its flowering time, it also goes by the common Quickthorn and Maythorn. Correctly known as Crataegus monogyna Jacq. It was placed in the genus Crataegus, created by Linneus, by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727–1817) and first published in his 1775 flora of Austria.

Crataegus monogyna flowers

Crataegus monogyna flower

Its fragrant white flowers are one of the heralds of spring; their being borne with the leaves makes it easy to distinguish at a distance from Blackthorn, Prunus spinosus, as that flowers earlier and before its leaves have opened. Its reliable stocky growth and mass of intertwining braches covered in sharp thorns has made it the commonest hedging plant in the countryside. Historically it was laid to form hedges where its upright branches were cut nearly through, bent over and interwoven but these labour intensive skills are now little seen and it is cut with a variety of mechanical methods, all of which it happily tolerates. It is in fact very tolerant of being cut, and if can be cut flush with the ground it will still re-grow.

Crataegus monogyna leaves

Crataegus monogyna leaves

Its widespread occurrence can lead to related plants being misnamed C. monogyna and in fact globally Crataegus L. is a very large genus containing its being estimated something like 200 species. In practice the most likely plant to be confused with C. monogyna is Crataegus laevigata (Poiret) DC., known as the Midland Hawthorn or Two-styled Hawthorn, and the red flowered form Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is widely planted. Its main difference is that the leaves are not as deeply lobed as C. Monogyna but if you careful examine the flowers you will also see that C. monogyna generally has only one female style where as C. laevigata generally has two; hence the repective names monogyna and two-styled. In most garden settings it’s probably safe to assume if it’s a white flowered hawthorn its C. monogyna and if red then Crataegus laevigata‘Paul’s Scarlet’

Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's-Scarlet' flowers

Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s-Scarlet’ flowers

 

 

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