Wednesday, 5th August 2015


New for August, brand new toffee smell!

No joke, we really do have a tree that smells like toffee, or more accurately, burnt sugar. More on that later in the blog!

3 months since my last post and I've been gently reminded to try and stay on top of it! Which I'll try my darndest. In all seriousness, we've been pretty busy these last three months, and I don't have many photos or hilarious anecdotes to share from June and July. Interestingly the last few blogs had a showcase of some of the Rhododendrons that we have in the Arboretum and this month we have one of the later flowering varieties...
Most people are familiar with the Dwarf varieties, often refered to as the Azaleas (its more complicated than that mind) but very few have heard of tree varieties of Rhodos. Rhododendron auriculatum is a Chinese tree form Rhododendron with very late white, fragrant flowers. This is probably one our older imports as its not a common Rhodo in use today, still its a great example of how late they can flower.
A few other notable plants that are looking great right now are these. Catalpa speciosa one of the Indian bean varieties we have in the Arboretum. Huge pale green leaves with elegant flowers on spikes. They can be quite fragrant and are followed by long cigar shaped bean pods, owing to its common name, the cigar tree or just Indian bean tree. More accurately thats Native American bean tree, Catalpa a mistranslation from the trees American name "Catawba".
Catalpa Speciosa
The herbaceous borders, while past their best now (see lack of blogging activity in June and July for why we don't have a visual record!) still have a few gems in them. Despite their infamy for spreading through gardens and taking over, there is no doubt that the Crocosmia is looking great right now. With its fiery red foliage and iris like leaves, they really make an impact. 
The Hydrangeas are still looking great and the best show is right outside the main gate. We've been propagating these like mad, taking in the region of 150 cuttings in order to expand their colour throughout the Arboretum over the next few years. Alot of gardeners think they are a "granny plant" in the sense that your grandma probably had them in her garden. Thats put alot of the previous generation off them. Personally I think they are due for a revival and I'm trying to stay ahead of the curve and get a few more about the place. Watch this space for the coming years where we'll try and do more with them as they are a great summer colour. Granny had them in her garden for a reason!
Hydrangea 1

Trees have seasons. Everyone knows this! But Tree's look good all year round, its just SOME trees are better in autumn than in spring, or Summer and winter or viser versa. That being the case its often difficult for me to talk about trees when they're not doing their best dance of the seasons. Still I'd like to try and talk about a tree each blog, even if its not doing what its best at.
Cercidiphyllum japonicum for example is a good'un for autumn. That's not to say its not attractive now, but in autumn it gets brilliant shades of yellow and orange as the foliage turns and it even gives off a burnt sugar smell (hence the toffee tree at the start of the post). A Native of Japan, its common name is the Katsura Tree or indeed, the Caramel tree. Personally I have never been able to detect it when the leaves start to fall, I have to grab a handful of leaves and scrunch them up, then I can really get a good smell of the caramel. The leaves are a delicate kidney bean or heart shape and the trees themselves don't get much larger than a medium sized acer or cherry tree which makes them perfect for a small to medium sized garden.
I'll see you all next blog!


It's not often that I come across plants that I have absolutely no idea what they are. So for it to happen twice in one week. Usually the real challenge is finding out the variety/cultivar/sub-species of plant I am looking at, so to find two plants (ok one did turn out to be a bit of an obvious one) that I had not clue about was a real kicker!



It was starting to feel like the height of summer, which is confusing for the poor plants. Not to mention the fact that the nights have been as cold as they should be for a mid April week, which means that all our frost tender plants just cannot go out yet. Even though they are cooking in the greenhouses!



As busy as I get, I hope I always have time to rescue amphibians from the Italian garden ponds. So far I'm up to 1 frog, a warty toad and 3 Smooth/Common newts. All rescued and placed in a very comfortable and stylish hat for transportation down to one of our wildlife ponds.