Sunday, 29 March 2015

Evenley Wood

Evenley Wood is a lovely woodland garden just outside Evenley and a couple of miles from Brackley, in the south west of Northamptonshire. I haven't been there for many years so when Chris and I heard that there was to be a Rare Plant Fair there we decided to go for it. We told our old friends Sue and Derrick about it and they were happy to join us.

After a reasonable meal at the Red Lion in Evenley (Derrick is a vegetarian and, as is often the case, he didn't come out of it too well) we made our way to the gardens. The wind was picking up, bringing with it some rain. In fact by the time we got out of our cars the wind was strong enough to take the breath away.

We spent a few minutes perusing the plant stalls and, in my case, purchasing a few, and then down came the rain. We dashed for shelter and waited for the worst to pass over before venturing forth.

This early in the year my expectations were on the low side but there were surprises in store.

Narcissus cyclamineus brightened the edge of a ride.
Evenley Wood Gardens, Northants.  29 March, 2015

Beside the woodland rides were clumps of Narcissus cyclamineus, unmistakable with their reflexed 'petals'. It is native to the north-west of Spain and Portugal but was happy here in dappled shade. It is one of the parents of the very popular Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete.

Galanthus plicatus: nothing to get excited about.

A little further on on were clumps of Galanthus plicatus. I cannot work up a great deal of enthusiasm for snowdrops and these were a little past their best anyway. Nevertheless this species from the Crimea and adjacent areas was pretty enough.

A river of Scilla siberica runs through Evenley
Wood.  29 March, 2015

A lovely ribbon of blue ran, river-like, through the woodland. It had been created by planting many thousand of bulbs of the Siberian Squill, Scilla siberica, and the effect was quite dramatic. These will take advantage of the sunlight filtering through the leafless trees and, by the time the canopy has closed, the bulbs of the squills will have fattened for the next year.

Cyclamen coum. The now-invalid name of Cyclamen orbiculatum
 would be more appropriate. Evenley Wood. 29 March, 2015

Cyclamens had been used to great effect. The species chosen was Cyclamen coum. It has previously been known as Cyclamen orbiculatum and, if 'orbiculatum' refers to the rounded leaves, it seems more appropriate. But however appropriate it may be, that name seems to be regarded as invalid. The flowers are very fragrant but sadly, in the very windy conditions, we were unable to detect the scent.

Drifts of Cyclamen coum made a lovely sight. Evenley Wood Gardens. 29 March, 2015

Expectations may have been low but there were still surprises.

As with snowdrops, hellebores are not among my favourite flowers but I had to admit that there were some most attractive specimens to be seen. Am I beginning to change my mind about these lovely members of the buttercup family? Of course, they couldn't be accommodated in our very limited garden.

These hellebores are all hybrids, some with quite complex parentage. Helleborus niger, H. orientalis and more recently even H. thibetanus can be involved.
The yellow blotch-mine of Phytomyza ilicis scars this Holly
leaf. Evenley Wood Gardens.  29 March, 2015

Some interesting hollies were being grown. This very narrow-leaved specimen may look odd but is just a variety of our common holly, Ilex aquifolium. Not surprisingly, given its narrow leaves, it is called Ilex aquifolium 'Angustifolium' but, odd or not, the leaves still bear the yellow mines of the fly Phytomyza ilicis.

The rather neat leaves of Ilex 'Lydia Morris'
Evenley Wood Gardens. 29 March, 2015
Sporting only a few prickles to each leaf is Ilex 'Lydia Morris'. It is a cross between two Chinese species, Ilex cornuta and Ilex pernyi; I could find no trace of an attack by the Phytomyza - and it was still bearing a few berries.

Other hollies merited attention but wet, muddy condition discouraged us from lingering.

Cornus officinalis was new to me. It is very similar to the Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas, the yet-leafless branches being wreathed  in pale gold flowers. 

The pale yellow flowers of Cornus officinalis brighten a glade.
Evenley Wood Gardens. 29 march, 2015

The fruits of the true Cornelian Cherry are edible and, I am told, delicious. Whether C. officinalis, known as the Japenese Cornelian Cherry, are also edible, I don't know.

I could go on but will restrain myself to the 
mention of one other plant. Zanthoxylem piperitum, known as the Japanese Pepper, is not often seen and I was sorry that, so early in the year, it was not displaying its curious pinnate leaves or, indeed, its flowers. Very obvious however were the vicious spines on the trunk and branches.

The branches of Zanthoxylem piperatum are armed with
vicious thorns. Evenley Wood Gardens. 29 March, 2015
Anyone stumbling against this tree would clearly receive severe lacerations. 

The Latin name is pleasingly simple to translate: zantho (or often xantho) means yellow and xylem means wood. Piper is the name of the true pepper trees and again comes from the Latin piper, meaning pepper. Would that all names were so easy to unpick.

By now our footwear was thoroughly muddy and we decided to call it a day. Chris so enjoyed the visit that she is keen to go again. I wouldn't argue against that.

Tony White.  E-mail:

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