18 January 2015

Find that plant; spot that schnauzer

On the night that Storm Rachel was finally winding down, a bevy (though what is the best collective noun for gardeners? a clump?  a shovelful? a spade?) of gardeners assembled in the lecture theatre in the Bots to hear Martin Walsh talk about 'Himalyan and Chinese Plants for the Irish Garden'. The talk was jointly organised by the Dublin AGS and the IGPS and, in spite of the weather, lots of us went along to soak up an equal mix of erudition and enthusiasm from Martin, a designer, plant-hunter and plant-expert. What a treat. I'm always delighted to hear an expert who knows and loves their topic talk so well about it: yes, it throws up the umplumbed depths of my own ignorance (*sighs*), but isn't it great that someone not only knows so much, but is willing to share it? As an aside, this is one of the things I love about the quiet operation of so many small and not so small interest groups and societies--the willingness of people to share enthusiasm, knowledge and skills. Brilliant!

During his talk we were treated not just to Martin's experience and expertise, but also to his photos--taken in the Himalaya, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Yunnan Province (SW China)--which were breathtaking.

The Himalaya: thanks to the Encyclopedia of Earth for the image. 
Martin has been plant-hunting in all these regions (which makes my trips up to Mount Venus nursery seem a bit, well, tame...) and enjoys putting what he learns about the plants in their native habitats into use in his own garden and those he makes for others. 

On Thursday evening Martin said that his task was to persuade us of the value of using plants from the Himalya and China in Irish gardens. This was probably an easy enough task, given his audience on the night, but I know that for me the huge value was to hear about which plants in particular do well, which are easy to grow, and which might be more difficult. That last category wouldn't be for me but there were plenty of expert growers in the Bots that night who'd relish the challenge of taking on some of the trickier plants.

And oh those plants!

I'll be writing up the talk in more detail for the Dublin AGS but I'll just mention a few plants here that particularly caught my attention. 

Martin loves woodlands and so woodland plants got a special mention; three that stood out for me were Paris polyphylla, Arisaema consanguineum and Maianthemum oleraceum var. acuminatum. (That last used to be Smilacina). 

Paris polyphylla; thanks to garden.ie for the photo

Arisaema consanguineaum; thanks to Scottish Rock for the photo
 no thumbnail available
Maianthemum oleraceum; thanks to Curtis's Botanical Magazine, via plantillustrations.org for the image
(had to get a botanical illustration in here somehow!) 
Some days I think I just want to turn my garden into a woodland. But this would be a little difficult to do with a small suburban back garden, with neighbours who seem to hold only fear and dread for trees though also, in fairness, neighbours who don't deserve to have their already north-facing back gardens further shaded by the woodlandy passion of yer woman in the house with the white trees out the front (Betula utilis var. jaquemontii, for the record). But I can dream.

One of the difficulties with woodland in our climate is that there's not a lot that goes on after the glories of spring. But Martin pointed out that there are plenty of plants that can keep the interest going for a good bit longer, for example that gorgeous P. polyphylla doesn't emerge until about June, but then continues into October. Must try to find it...

There were lots of other plants described by Martin on the night, perhaps I'll do another post about them (Anemone rupicola 'Wild Swan', Paraquilegia anemonoides, Primula sikkimensis, Primula alpicola var. alba, Corydalis 'Wildside Blue') but that's probably enough detailed plant stuff for one post. I'm sure I've lost all the botanical artists and nature lovers who occasionally drop by this blog.

I'll finish with a spot the schnauzer (especially for CH) which we haven't had for a while. This is from a recent walk in the local park, past one of my favourite Scots pines (the curved rather grand looking one on the left).

Go well all.


  1. Greetings from Christchurch airport! I dont think my plant spotting in the rain forests of New Zealand will come up to martins wonderful plant spotting. But they were pretty wonderful, especially the ferns - 40 shades of green + more. Graineweile xox

  2. As always, so interesting, I'm looking at that wonderful Arisaema consanguineaum and thinking how wonderful it would be to paint that. If you ever do find one, let me know!