ZOOM Meeting 9 February 2021

Timothy Walker ‘Plants Borders & Gardens’

Timothy is an ‘old friend’ of the Society and has talked on many occasions and many subjects. He is a well known British Botanist and previous Director and horticultural Praefectus of the Oxford Botanical Gardens.

Timothy packed a large amount into his lavishly illustrated talk, so I am afraid this synopsis will not be as colourful as his live Zoom presentation.

He started his talk by looking at some plants from all over the world that deserve to be more widely grown in our gardens. This was followed by a look of some ways of putting plants together to create borders and finished with what makes plants and borders into a garden in a pleasing way, using colour, lines and shapes to create pleasing gardens, large or small.

Timothy went around the world (literally) gathering specimens and seeds from various countries, that might work in the UK. Some need dmp areas, some shady, some full sun and obviously some are hardy and some will grow in milder areas such as Devon and Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.

He started in the USA. Here he mentioned Lupus, Frauklinia altamaha,Echenaeceas, Rhodenndron maxi, Penstemon, Eschscholtzia (Californian poppy) Garrya Elliptic and Veratrum viride which like the damp and have hosta leaves but can grow to 6ft !

Next came Chile with Drimys winteri which are so old fossils of them have been found in the area.

Lobelia tupa is a plant Timothy used to say needs lifting in the winter but now says to mulchand leave in the ground they can grow 3-6ft.

Nasturshams from the Andes. To Easter Island with Sophya (which needs a south facing wall)

Chatham Island with a variety of forget-me-not, Myosotidium hortensia and New Zealand with Cianthus puniceus (lobster claw) which in the wild needs to be polinated by birds and unusual that it needs hot and wet conditions…obviously not usuaal conditions for the UK !

Phillipines next on this tour with Jade vine (polinated by bats) Strongylodon macrobotys.

Japan known for it’s chrysanthamums and a mention of Yezoense which was named after one of the Japanese islands…they later changed the name of the Island! But no provision to change the name of the plant! This low grower looks wonderful grown over rocks, slabs and concrete and likes sharp drainage.

At this point Timothy mentioned that GREEN is a colour too, where more people think of the Autumnal colours of Vermont he said every garden needs a variety of green as a background and frame for vibrant plant colour.

Korea with Abeliophyiium distichum and scented Mukdeniarosil which is decideous before heading to China on which Timothy said he could devote a whole evening of plants that have originated .

A palm- Trachycarpus fortunei of which Timothy has one or two at home is a magnificent specimen unlike (in his opinion) Decaisnea fargesii- also called dead mans fingers as the pods look like bruised puffy cold and clammy fingers!

Lots of clematis originate in China and a UK favourite is C Armandii…with its lovely white blooms. Aconitum episcopale likes dappled shade and Sarcoccoa is a beautifully scented lant for outside but the fragrance becomes a ‘too strong smell’ if cut and brought indoors. He said it reminds him of his teenage son’s bedroom so best left outside!

Davida involucrata or Hankerchief plant is also used a lot in Chinese and oriental planning schemes where the rule is fairly set into 4 elements…Water, Pavillion, Plants and Rocks.

From China we headed to Turkey where Iris Iberica subspecies Elegantissima was shown. Hard to grow but must be kept completel virus free. Fritillaria Michailovski and Delphinium Requenii, Euphorbia characais and Iris Unguicularis to place against a sunny wall…but still needs watering well were also from this part of the world.

Next to Killimanjaro with tree heathers (Erica Arborea) then to South Africa with Melianthus Major which likes a sheltered and dry spot away from likelyhood of frost. Xysmalobium Stockenstromense Strophanthus (periwinkle family) and Sutherlandia Frutescens.

Orange flowers are popular in the Cape area and Tinnie nature reserve has carpets of Elegia Capensis (not very hardy in most of UK). Aloe Dichotoma is another popular plant in South Africa.

Moving on to Morocco we saw pictures of Euphorbia Nereeidim which grow to 10 ft.

Tenerife brought us Euphorbias-Mellifera which is scented and just hardy for UK climate and Antropurpereum which is hardier. Lamarkii, Canariense like frost free conditions to thrive.However Cistus Momspes salvifolius likes soggy conditions.

One drawback of taking wild plants to grow in our gardens is that they can take over so we need to be careful.

Cape St Vincent with Lithodorus, Lavendula stroechas then to the Algarve bringing Narcissus papyraceus and Ruscus aculeatus flowers from what appear to be leaves but are in fact flat stems.

Closer to home in Northern Ireland and Britain. Horsetail (hard to get rid of) Fushias , Bluebells which love dappled shaade, Primroses, Digitalis (foxgloves) Fritillaries, Paris Quadrifolia which likes shade and verbascum Thrapsus loved by Mullin moth caterpillars.

Well that was a whirlwind tour and obviously with pictures much more interesting than my but I didn’t want to skip over the plants too much. A challenge with the spellings so apologies if some might be wrong!

Afterwards Timothy showed borders in particular gardens and how some of the plants mentioned can be used. He highlighted many lovely venues in the UK where these can be seen in all their glory many of which Society have visited in the past and some planned for the future where we can.

Coton Manor in Northants was one such venue as was Rousham House and Gardens and obviously Rose Cottage where the current Director of the Oxford Botanical gardens live.

Timothy ended his very full talk with the statement.

‘A garden is a place where plants and people meet..so sit in them and enjoy them,whatever size they may be’

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