Tag Archive: cornus


WP_20150122_12_03_53_ProMy latest session as a volunteer gardener with the National Trust at Blickling Hall involved working in another area of the gardens- the Winter Garden, which I think was planted up a few years ago as an area to feature colourful stems, fragrance and flowers at this quiet time of the year in the garden.

Work in the Walled Garden has been continuing, however, and with a few frosty nights it has been possible to move and spread the rest of the farmyard manure over the beds. As you can see below, this has helped to give definition to these planting areas…

Muck spreading in the Walled Garden- get to work worms! Picture: Michael Owers

Muck spreading in the Walled Garden- get to work worms! Picture: Michael Owers

For gardener Rebecca, me and the other ‘Thursday volunteers’, this week involved raking off a thick quilt of Sweet Chestnut and other leaves, tidying up spent stems and foliage and sprucing up the Hellebores…. as well as uncovering the first snowdrops. When I say ‘quilt’ I’m not joking – I just hope the plants underneath haven’t been as shocked as I have been, recently, emerging from under my own quilt in the frosty mornings!

So, for me the day that was spent almost entirely raking and loading leaves into trailers to be carried away for turning into leaf mould. Definitely one that required a ‘Radox Bath’ on my return home!

Even though it was repetitive work, it was also very satisfying, showing off this lovely garden with its over-arching trees and understory of shrubs and winter perennials- and hopefully giving some of the plants a good chance to ‘pick up’ as the seasons move on.

Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

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It’s the time of year when colourful stems come into their own. I especially love Dogwoods (Cornus). For some ideas about winter interest in your garden take a look at ‘7 Plants for Winter Wonder’

Old School Gardener

cornus alba sibirica and green yellow stems of C. flavirameaCornus is a genus of about 30- 60 species of woody trees and shrubs, commonly known as dogwoods. Most are deciduous, but a few are more like herbaceous perennials (subshrubs) and some are evergreen. Cornus is the latin word for ‘horn’ referring to the hardness of the wood.

The name “dog-tree” was recorded in 1548, and this had changed to “dogwood” by 1614. After this the plants soon became known as the Hound’s Tree, while the fruits came to be known as dogberries or houndberries (the latter is also the name given to the fruits of the black nightshade- alluding to Hecate’s hounds).

The plants may have become known as ‘dogwoods’ from the Old English word dagwood, which refers to the ways it’s slender stems of very hard wood were used to make “dags” (daggers, skewers, and arrows).

Another, earlier name of the dogwood in English is the whipple-tree. Chaucer refers to the “whippletree” in The Canterbury Tales (‘The Knight’s Tale- verse 2065). A whippletree is also a part of a horse – drawn cart; the link between the drawpole of the cart and the harnesses of the horses lined up behind one another, and commonly carved from the Whippletree or Dogwood.

Some of the Cornus species names are:

C. alba = white

C. canadensis = of Canada

C. candidissima = very white- the flowers

C. capitata = headed- the grouping of flowers

C. florida = flowering richly

C. fragifera = strawberry-like – the fruits

C. glabrata = glabrous

C. kousa = a japanese name

C. mas = male (mascula of Linnaeus)

C. nuttallii = after Nuttall

C. sanguinea = blood-red- the twigs

Cornus are either grown for their flowers, interesting leaves (some both of interest during summer and autumn) or for their colourful winter stems. These are just coming into their own in winter gardens around Britain – including Old School Garden. I have several groups of C. alba ‘Sibirica’, C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and C. sericea ‘Flaviramea’ (some grown easily from hardwood cuttings). I ‘stool’ these (i.e. cut the stems to the base) each spring to encourage new growth, which once the leaves have fallen (these are also very colourful in the autumn), reveals bright red, orange and yellow- green stems, which really glow in the winter sunshine..

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

Seven Plants for Winter Wonder -article on Old School Garden

Cornus- RHS advice

Cornus- an essential winter shrub- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

The sun looked as though it might break through the low cloud, so we (that’s my wife Deborah and me), put the top down on the car and hoped (we’ve come not to expect any particular weather here in Norfolk, UK). Alas, the temperature hovered around 7 C all day, but it didn’t spoil our outing to Cambridgeshire and north Essex. Just over an hour’s drive away lies Anglesey Abbey, former home of Lord Fairhaven and now a National Trust – run house and garden.

I’ve featured the garden already on this blog under a ‘Picpost’ but didn’t really do it justice. So you can see a few more pics of it in the gallery below. We had a pleasant stroll along the Winter Garden walk with its fiery colours and varied textures, though it was noticeable how many evergreens showed evidence of ‘leaf scorch’ by the recent cold easterly winds – the Garrya elliptica was looking especially sorry for itself. At the end of this walk sits the old Lode Water Mill, where flour is still ground and sold to visitors – fortunately we arrived and ascended the steep wooden staircases just before a coach load of german youngsters (several of the boys must have been 6’6″ plus).

Winding our way along the old mill stream we found the House (as the name suggests some of the older parts were once an Abbey) and donning our paper over – shoes to protect floors and carpets, we meandered around this house full of eclectic decor and collections of this and that – including many things ‘rescued’ from other ancestral homes by Lord Fairhaven during the early 20th century. He certainly had a love of Windsor Castle as there is one and a bit large gallery rooms full of different paintings of the place from a number of centurires and angles. I was particularly impressed with the display of some of Lord Fairhaven’s clothes and especially his shoes which looked as new (and some would probably be back in fashion today). He had so many pairs, for different occasions, that they were hardly ever worn – so much for the idea that it’s just women who hoard footwear!

To be honest, this probably wasn’t the best time to visit Anglesey Abbey for the gardens – the display of Snowdrops is famous but was well over, and the late spring has resulted in only a few bulbs being out, most notably the wonderful purply- blue of Scylla in the woodland end of the Winter Walk as well as some Daffodils. The Dahlia beds of course were looking bare and the Roses will not be out for a good couple of months yet (assuming they catch up). Still, there is a lot of interest here, including the more formal landscape garden with its evergreen hedges and statuary and some lovely areas of woodland. We concluded part one of our day with a wholesome lunch of jacket potatoes and salad in the well-appointed restaurant on site. The sun had not broken through, but we didn’t mind – Saffron Walden and the promise of afternoon tea (and Saffron cakes?) beckoned…. return to read part 2 of our special day tomorrow!

Old School Gardener

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IMG_5170As I sit and look out of my window this cold January day, the snow has started to fall once more- looks like the heaviest fall will be later today. So the firewood has been stacked and fortunately the week’s shopping was done yesterday…

At this time of year you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much of interest in the garden. We tend to focus on the other seasons when we think about (or impulse-buy) plants. The weather itself isn’t exactly encouraging us to visit the nursery or garden centre. And anyway, they seem to be rather  forlorn places at this time of year, especially the bigger ones that have ‘diversified’ into Christmas tat- the shelves are either emptying to make way for spring gardening stock or they’re full of half price Christmas cards and tinsel…

Well, we should perhaps think about how our garden looks in every part of the year, especially the important views into it from the house, road etc. In the winter, it’s these views that count, as it’ s less likely you’ll want to venture into the wet or cold garden itself.

The choices are significant – yes you can have:

  • beautiful flowers
  • powerful fragrance
  • colourful fruit
  • vibrant stems
  • interesting bark
  • strong  form
  • fascinating  foliage

Here are seven examples of the sorts of plants that can be a winter wonder in your garden.

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

1. Dogwoods (Cornus species)- vibrant stem colours make this a winner especially where you can group several plants together and maybe combine them for subtle effects (try C. alba ‘Sibirica’ (red) surrounded with C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’– amber- orangey red). Prune the stems back to the base of the plants in spring or leave one or two stems to grow taller and then pollard it for extra height (prune ‘Midwinter Fire’ less)- you will also get some lovely autumn leaf colour.

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

2. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis in many different varieties)- beautiful spidery-like flowers are magical in woodland edges. Grow as specimens or focal points under trees or in open ground – will grow about 2 metres high and wide over time.

Crab apple 'Red Sentinel'- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

Crab apple ‘Red Sentinel’- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

3. Crab apple (Malus species and cultivars – but not the ‘orchard’ apple Malus x domestica)- some of these smallish trees are suitable for smaller gardens with their columnar growth – e.g. M. tschnoskii (which can grow to 12 metres high but only 7 metres across). The main reason for growing them, in my view, is their fruit. Plum – sized apples which seem to be just the right size to not interest birds, so you’ll hopefully be left with a great show throughout winter. I particularly like M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ (can grow to 7 metres high and wide). And Crab apples give great spring flowers and autumn colour too.

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

4. Oregon Grape (Mahonia species and some cultivars)- this is a winner on several counts, but mainly through its winter flowers and foliage. It’s evergreen  leaves (some spiky) will burnish orangey-red if exposed to the sun. My favourite is the hybrid M. x media ‘Charity’ which is an erect evergreen shrub with sharply toothed leaves and dense yellow flowers that cascade from the stems. One ideally for part shade, so a woodland edge is perfect.

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

5. Viburnum x  bodnantense ‘Dawn’ there are many different Viburnums, and they make a wonderful addition to the garden for their flowers, fragrance and foliage at different times of the year. This one is a hybrid and is chiefly grown for its wonderful scented flowers which grace the medium-sized deciduous shrub through winter on bare stems.

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong  topiary shapes

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong topiary shapes

6. Box (Buxus sempervirens or if you want a slower growing, more compact form go for the variety ‘Suffruticosa’)- one of the great plants for shaping into strong forms that help to carry your garden’s structure through the winter months. Also, don’t forget that some perennials will add form and structure to your garden through their dead stems and shapes. For Box start growing small and gradually develop your desired form, or buy (at some expense) some of the ‘ready- to – rock’  topiary at nurseries and garden centres. There are some wonderful examples of historic topiary in Britain such as Levens Hall, Cumbria.

320px-Paperbark_Maple_Acer_griseum_Bark_3008px

Paper-bark Maple- bark peels into subtle tones

7. Paper bark Maple  (Acer griseum)- a fantastic, slow growing tree which can reach 10 metres high and broad. Like most Acers it gives great autumn leaf colour, but it’s main attraction is the peeling bark which looks especially magical with low winter sun shining through it.

Further information;

Guardian online

Winter containers

Winter vegetables

Quizzicals:

answers to the last two-

  • Our monarch continues to work hard – Busy Lizzie
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems – Bladderwort

A couple of gardening ditties:

‘Whose sorrel now?’

‘Don’t leaf me this way’

(thanks again to buddie Les for these)

Old School Gardener

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