Plantsman and Lecturer, Michael has a particular interest in alpine and woodland plants which he grows in his garden at Summerbridge. Michael has three National Plant collections at his garden in Summerbridge – Anemone nemorosa, Hepatica & Primula marginata – and has open days throughout the year. He is also a self-confessed galanthophile. He last spoke to the West Yorkshire group in January 2016 on Hepaticas and Aconites.
His talk on Woodland Plants was eagerly awaited and he did not disappoint. He started his talk by giving a very comprehensive overview of snowdrops. Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ AGM, and G. plicatus ‘Three Ships’ AGM, both flower by Christmas. G.’S. Arnott’ AGM is scented when warm. G. ‘Fieldgate Superb’ has a large flower, G. ‘Curly’ has unusual markings and is very scented. G. plicatus ‘Diggory’ AGM, has interesting puckered outer petals . G. ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ AGM (found in Northumberland), and G. plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ AGM, have yellow markings. Michael found G. plicatus‘ E.A. Bowles’ AGM whist visiting Myddelton House in Enfield. G. ‘Mrs Thompson’ was found near York and has two separate flowers per stem. What was all too evident from Michael is that some galanthophiles are prepared to pay extortionate prices for the rarer bulbs.
Michael then continued to describe the Leucojums, or spring snowflake, which re European natives. L. vernum var. carpathicum has yellow tips. L. vernum var. carpathicum ‘Gertrude Wister’ has semi-double flowers and is found in the USA.
Aconites such as Eranthus hyemalis, AGM, needs good drainage to naturalise. E. hyemalis ‘Orange Glow’ has dark flowers, and E. hyemalis‘Schwefelglanz’ needs light. Cyclamen coum AGM, propagate by seed and naturalise well. Anne Wright has a beautiful display at her nursery in Tockwith.
Corydalis solida subsp. solida ‘George Baker’ has flowers of different colours and should not be disturbed as the plants come up in spring. Michael also mentioned Cardamines and Heloniopsis, which are related to lilies. He then described a rather stunning plant, Ypsilandra thibetica, which has striking scented pale lilac/white flowers in March.
Michael has a national collection of Hepaticas. H. nobilis AGM, grows slowly but is happy amongst the leaf litter. H. x media ‘Ballardii’ was a spontaneous hybrid between H. transsilvanica and H. nobilis and occurred in the garden of the famous aster breeder Ernest Ballard at Colwall, near Malvern in 1938. There are a number of interspecies hybrids. Hepaticas should be raised from fresh seed and the flowers are best displayed by removing the leaves from the plant (like Hellebores).
Helleborus foetidus is a native species which likes dry shade. There are many H. x hybridus. However, cultivars (i.e. named varieties) of H. x hybridus are not botanically possible as they are all seed-grown plants each one is highly variable. There are also a number of interspecies hybrids. Newer forms have upward facing flowers, and hellebores are best grown on a slope to see the centre of the flowers.
Michael then went on to describe a number of Ficarias, or celandines. F. verna ‘Salmon’s White’ has cream flowers, with dark green leaves that have silver and black markings. Ficaria verna Aurantiaca Group have orange flowers.
Michael also has a national collection of Anemone nemorosa. A. nemorosa ‘Blue Eyes’ is a rarely offered cultivar with fully double blue eyed flowers. A. × lipsiensis is a hybrid between the white-flowered A. nemorosa (a native) and a vigorous southern European species with buttercup yellow flowers, A. ranunculoides.
No talk on shade and woodland plants would be complete without mention of Trilliums. T. rivale AGM, is not completely hardy. It has a purple heart and seeds freely. Charles Jencks, a landscape gardener, used T. grandiflorum AGM, in his cosmic garden. T. chloropetalum var. giganteum is very garden worthy, T. erectum f. albiflorum is a trifoliate plant with large deep green leaves and three-petalled white flowers in spring.
To end his talk Michael mentioned Erythroniums. E. revolutum produces prolific seeds, and does well in a peat bed but takes 4 – 5 years to bulk up. E. ‘Pagoda’ AGM, has striking yellow flowers and is a good garden plant.
Lilium lankongense is highly scented; it is difficult to grow from seed as it needs two stage dormancy. It can be seen at RHS Harlow Carr. Tulipa sprengeri (15) AGM, is late flowering in semi-shade, and T. sylvestris (15) is the wild native tulip which grows well in grass and in light shade under trees and it has a delicious scent.
I have only named a few of the plants mentioned by Michael in his talk. I for one have been inspired to develop the woodland area in my garden.
Brian Hackett gave the vote of thanks.
Page image: Galanthus plicatus ‘Diggory’ AGM (Image courtesy of HPS image library)