Plant of the Month: May 2022

Tulipa Sprengeri

by Sue Gray

Tulipa sprengeri

Tulipa sprengeri, or Sprenger’s tulip, is a wild tulip from Turkey and is the latest to flower, usually in late May and June.  Introduced to Europe by the German gardener Mühlendorff in 1892, it is named after Carl Sprenger, who published a description of the plant, although the first scientific description was produced by J. Gilbert Baker in 1894 in The Gardener’s Chronicle.  So many were lifted and spread throughout Europe that it was thought to be extinct in the wild but, as it is grown in many botanic gardens, the Atatürk Arboretum in Istanbul has initiated a reintroduction project in co-operation with Kew Gardens.

They are elegant plants around 30cms in height with bright red flowers, the outer petals being flushed with yellow.  Although they are said to require well drained soil they do well in my garden in a reasonably moist area – see image.  I cannot remember how long it is since I first planted a very small quantity of bulbs, but they have self-seeded prolifically.  Each year I attempt to lift some and pot them up, but it is not easy to do as the bulbs go very deep and often I am just left holding a flower stem that has detached itself from the bulb.

Image courtesy of Sue Gray


A Very Fairview

… and a lot of hard work

by Judi Barton

The Group was fortunate to visit the garden of Helen and Michael Myers on a bright sunny but bracing April day. Fairview’s garden has been developed over 45 years and it is an amazing collection of spring beauties.

A woodland bank on the driveway was stunning, the hellebores and epimediums really set off by the peeling bark of the Lonicera x purpusii.

Michael told us that he moved into the house with his parents when he was 11 and that was the start of a garden journey, probably quite unlike any other.

He works in horticultural education at Craven College and Ripon Walled Garden now, and over the years some of the West Yorks HPS members have benefitted from his tutoring through the RHS exams and through Plant Heritage courses too. He lectures gardening enthusiasts and our group has enjoyed 3 or 4 different talks from him – his presence always means a crowded meeting room!

Michael very clearly and generously disperses knowledge to anyone who asks him a question – I am sure he was glad to see the back of us all on Saturday, so he could rest his voice!

A pulmonaria that had us scratching our heads – it is Pulmonaria mollissima, a species pulmonaria collected in Poland. It has very soft hairy foliage, not at all bristly, and the flowers are a beautiful shade of dark blue with a touch of purply-blue. In the background is a very dainty yellow hellebore.

Helen and Michael have travelled extensively through Europe on botanising treks and there are a number of interesting and unique plants in their garden that have come home with them. They are very successful at, and have a passion for, sowing from seed. Their passion encompasses many genera – galanthus, corydalis, cardamine, hellebores, hepaticas, pleione, spring bulbs of many types – and examples are all grown to thrill at Fairview.

An abundance of Erythronium revolutum.

Probably the most formal area of the garden, at the bottom of the slope, a chance to build a garden based on straight lines. The carved rock sculpture is a unique focal point. (Left to right) our Treasurer, Maggie Sugden, Valerie Lewis, and Michael Myers.

The garden is on a challenging site – a steep hillside snuggled on its longest boundary by huge old trees. This next door tree- and rock-scape is quite ‘Lord of the Rings’, very shady and clothed in moss. An additional ‘field’ was taken on some years ago, and in that lowest area a lovely wildlife pond and a formal sunny area have been developed. There are terraces up to the house, all developed with different styles and plantings. Each has a seating area, creating a friendly feeling across the garden.

View from the terrace above the pond with the most formal part of the garden to the far right.

This mass of Chrysosplenium macrophyllum was in full flower throttle creeping onto the pond boardwalk.

Having grown this before, member and wildflower enthusiast Anne Fritchley was thrilled to see this parasite, Lathraea clandestina, doing so well. Not only was this purple toothwort growing at the base of the willow trunk it has spread around an area of about 2m x 2m. No leaves ever arise and it is only evident above ground when the brilliant purple ‘flowers’ appear. The photo at left also shows Caltha palustris ‘Alba’, the white marsh marigold.
Lathraea clandestina

I heard many people exclaim over this patch of Hacquetia epipactis ‘Thor’

What a picture – those mossy pots form a great back drop to the pink-flowered cardamines, forms of Cardamine heptaphylla and trilliums. The trilliums throughout the garden are forms of Trillium chloropetalum and Trillium kurabayashii

As you walk back up towards the house, the terraces make their own personalities known.

Pottery objects enhance this ‘landing turn’ of the steps

A pleasingly geometric path leads to a bench that I suspect rarely gets used by either of the Myers

At the top of the plot are the greenhouses and polytunnels, sand plunge beds, troughs and pots galore.

Jenny Williamson and Michael Myers discuss primulas and hepaticas. Just beyond them, in the heated section, are pots of pleiones and succulents

A collection of named corydalis in rainbow colours

This Helleborus foetidus, also at the top of the plot, was grown from seed collected in the Maritime Alps. With very finely cut leaves and big flowers, en masse this clump makes an impact. Although the individual plants are fairly short lived they seed about year on year

Not content with the garden proper, Michael and Helen have also beautified the roadside verges, which were looking marvellous with an absolute carpet of hellebores in one section while further along bulbs were the stars of the show.

A big thank you to the Myers for having our group visit Fairview. It was such a lovely morning and the garden was buzzing with enthusiastic gardeners and bees.

I thoroughly recommend checking out Michael’s posts on social media: on Instagram it’s ‘snowdropman’; on Facebook it’s ‘Michael Myers’. It’s well worth following him to boost your own knowledge from his seasonal posts.

A Visit to Harewood House Gardens

by Judi Barton

Images courtesy of Judi Barton

We live very close to Harewood and when our children were much younger we visited regularly, mainly for the very exciting playground. It is possibly 10 years since we last visited, so I was interested to see how it had changed and I thought WY HPS might like to share some of our visit.

Rogue daffodils

These two ‘rogue’ daffodils caught my eye as guardians of the miniatures covering the bankside next to the hill path from house down to the lake and cascade. There were pollen beetles inside some of the coronas.

The Himalayan Garden was evidently having a spring-clean with redevelopment of the bog garden being underway. Not sure if this was due to its age or if the recent storms had inflicted damage. There were signs of tree damage across the grounds.

With the sun out the drumstick primulas were doing a roaring trade in bees and butterflies.

Osmunda regalis

A forest of crispy brown Osmunda regalis stems looked very stately. Adjacent to this section of the bog garden was the most floriferous pink camellia, looking at peak perfection against the blue sky.

Sitting on one of the bog garden seats, we were intrigued by the spidery red ‘flowers’ of a tree that was just coming into leaf. Can anyone identify it for me? From a distance it was a haze of orangey-red.

What is this?

Continuing up the hill from here we glimpsed the Nepalese stupa festooned in prayer flags.

Nepalese stupa festooned in prayer flags

Nearby was a magnolia with branches sculpted by the wind and light into a waveform pattern and a bit further along the woodland path we spied a very beautifully marked and delicately coloured rhododendron flower.

The walled garden was just being brought back to life with a young gardener sowing seeds directly into the newly weeded and mulched beds. Interesting to see they are trialling hemp fabric as a soil warmer and weed suppressant.

The lakeside was carpeted in Petasites, not easy to see in the photo but look carefully in the foreground for the brownish flower stalks.

Petasites at the Lakeside

Walking back from the walled garden we noticed a rich red carpet of rhododendron petals that were lit up by sunlight. The bark of these rhododendrons has interesting colours and patterns, which contrasts with their strangely gaunt growth habit.

Back up to the House, the parterre garden was immaculate and must have been tended throughout the pandemic. I was stopped in my tracks when I came to the display of topiary in a sea of Muscari and golden grass, maybe Ophiopogon japonicus? Against the dazzlingly blue sky it was breathtaking, and I thought an inspired combination using Muscari, a bulb that some consider a thug, with the shining golden grass.

Muscari and golden grass, maybe Ophiopogon japonicus?

The sphinx sisters were still guarding each corner of the house, each living under a variegated holly as prickly as their claws are sharp. I always admire the carving of their plaits but avoid their spooky staring eyes. The holly was interesting in its leaf colour – there are a lot of plain yellow leaves amongst the green/golden.

A new woodland development project up near the Church, the Sylvascope Treehouse, was really interesting and will be worth re-visiting as the seasons cycle through. Surrounding the church are some really lovely old trees. Sadly some of them were fallen, presumably after February’s three devastating storms. Those storms, following on from two years of pandemic, area compounding disaster for our large historic gardens. No ‘instant gardening’ can help recovery in these settings – replacing giant trees and re-starting gardening programmes on presumably diminished budgets, will take much time.

The Sylvascope Treehouse

Happily Harewood appears to be moving forward in a positive vein. The Sylvascope Treehouse project, part of the Harewood 2022 Biennial, is at the centre of a project to prove the importance of woodland management. It is a really positive new element of the Harewood estate, and a happy way to end our pleasant afternoon visit.

Plant of the Month: April 2022

Glaucidium palmatum Siebold & Zucc.  – Japanese wood poppy

by Peter Williams


Of the numerous truly beautiful Japanese native plants, Glaucidium palmatum is considered by many shade and woodland gardeners to be the ‘fairest of them all’.

Fig.1 – Glaucidium palmatum flowering in April

Despite its common name, the Japanese wood poppy is not in the poppy family and its true lineage has been the subject of controversy for decades. It has been ‘in and out’ of the Ranunculaceae, and when ‘out’ it has been considered to be a member of the Papaveraceae, the Paeoniaceae, the Podophyllaceae or the sole representative of its own family, the Glaucidiaceae. Modern genetic analysis has ended the controversy and confirmed that it is a primitive member of the Ranunculaceae and the genus Glaucidium has just one species – palmatum.

Glaucidium palmatum is endemic to central and northern Japan and is found mainly in mountainous regions of Hokkaido and Honshu where it grows in montane and sub-alpine forests. It is considered to be a vulnerable species in Japan because of historic plant collecting and habitat disturbance and is listed in the Hokkaido Red Book of endangered organisms.

Fig.2 – G. palmatum growing on Mount Higashidate, Honshu


Fig.3 – A pair of shoots emerging in late March with leaves protected by a sheath

G. palmatum is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial that breaks winter dormancy in late March when fat buds appear at the soil surface


The shoots rapidly expand to give pairs of pale-green, maple-like leaves that in mature specimens are wrapped protectively around large, single, pale lilac flower buds that open in April and May. Like many members of the Ranunculaceae, the coloured petaloid structures are sepals and petals are totally absent.

Fig.4 – Newly opened flowers

A white form, var. leucanthemum, was first described in 1910 and is available in commerce (and is even more expensive that the standard lilac form!). It was initially grown as an alpine glasshouses subject although it is just as hardy as the lilac form and fares just as well outdoors.

Glaucidium can be a tricky plant to grow and requires at least partial shade and cool or cold growing conditions to simulate its natural montane habitat. The advice from the Japanese grower Matsuzaki published in The Gardener’s Chronicle in 1925 suggested it should be planted in soil “with plenty of humus” in a half-shaded position.

My initial plants came from a Japanese nursery (Yuzawa Engei on Hokkaido) and I grow them in a north-facing bed that receives just a little afternoon sunshine. It seems to be important to ensure that the plants are not shaded by adjacent plants. In this respect Glaucidium seems to have very similar light/shade requirements to its close relative Anemonopsis japonica and another Japanese woodland beauty, Pteridophyllum racemosum. I grow all three species in close proximity in an infertile, sandy acid soil that is largely free of slugs – a pest that is often suggested to be ‘very partial’ to this trio of lovely woodlanders.


Fig.5 Left, Anemonopsis japonica Right, Pteridophyllum racemosum


Fig.6 – Seed follicles and harvested seed

The flowers of G. palmatum are probably self-fertile but I cannot be sure because I planted three specimens in one location and they may be cross pollinating. Seed are freely produced in a very distinctive bilobed fruit that becomes woody before seed release. The seed themselves look quite like lily seed and require a cold winter period to break dormancy. Seed sown in autumn will usually germinate in spring and flowering sized plants produced in about three years.


Fig.7 A group of developing shoots in late March 2022

Having been fortunate enough to have grown these wonderful plants for a few years, early spring is always an anxious time because I so much want them to have successfully overwintered. I looked for evidence of life yesterday (28th March 2022) and was pleased to see that all was well as plump buds were emerging through the leaf litter for all members of my little colony of Japanese wood poppies.


Images courtesy of Peter Williams other than Fig 2:

Image: downloaded 28/03/2022