Monday, 8 June 2015

Hellidon Gardens

Hellidon must be one of Northamptonshire's loveliest villages so when Chris and I found that gardens there were to be open to the public on 6 June we decided to go for a shufti, especially as the entrance fee went to a favourite charity - the local air ambulance service. Our friends Ann and John Pimm were equally keen so we made a foursome. Summer has been reluctant to get going but the day was both warm and sunny. 

Redcurrant leaves distorted by the aphid,
Cryptomyzus ribis. Hellidon, Northants. 6 June, 2015
Like most people I make these visits in the hope of seeing fine plants; unlike most people I am also on the lookout for insect damage and excrescences. In the first garden I was happier than the owner to find the leaves of redcurrants distorted by aphids. The species responsible is the common Cryptomyzus ribis; there is probably no significant damage to the fruit but aphids can carry viruses from plant to plant.

In general the gardens were very fine indeed. I was interested to learn that almost every tree in the village was subject to a Tree Preservation Order (T.P.O.). One gardener told me that shortly after purchasing a property there she found that there was a T.P.O. on a tall line of 'Leylandii' in her garden. Her objections were thrown out until the relevant officer resigned. His replacement promptly allowed her to go ahead and fell them.

Magnolia sieboldii. Hellidon, Northants.
6 June, 2015

This lovely magnolia was at its best. It is Magnolia sieboldii, a very hardy tree native to China, Korea and Japan. The stamens form a striking reddish ring, contrasting with the ivory-white tepals. (Tepals is a term used for perianth structures which cannot easily be identified as petals or sepals.)

A few withered bracts remained on this Pocket
Handkerchief Tree. Hellidon, Northants. 6 June, 2015
Just past its best was a fine Davidia involucrata. Known as the Dove Tree or, more usually, the Pocket Handkerchief Tree, it too is from China. It is the only member of its genus but has been divided into two varieties. Perhaps they should now be regarded as separate species as it has been recently shown that the 'varieties' have different chromosome numbers. A handful of the handkerchief-like bracts remained in the higher branches.

By this time we in need of a cuppa. Teas were being served at the village hall. 'Go up Two Tuns Lane,' we were advised. I know a roadside inn on the old A5 at Tamworth called 'The Three Tuns', so I assumed that our route would take us past a pub.

In fact the truth was almost hilariously mundane. The road had a two tons weight limit imposed on it. It was indeed narrow - and steep - but we made it and were rewarded with tea (or in my case, coffee) and cakes.

Moss roses are forms of Rosa x centifolia. Hellidon,
Northants. 6 June, 2015

I don't often see moss roses. They are forms of Rosa x centifolia and were apparently unknown prior to 1720. The sepals and adjacent structures are covered with tiny outgrowths looking rather like moss. I couldn't find the owner to ask about this specimen but it is probably 'William Lobb'; certainly this is the most widely-grown variety.

I liked this periwinkle, Vinca major var oxyloba
Hellidon, Northants.  6 June, 2016
This attractive plant caught my eye. The owner of the garden wasn't able to name it and I was only of partial help. I knew it was a periwinkle, i.e. a species of Vinca, and was pretty sure it was Vinca major - but not the usual form. In fact I now know it to be Vinca major, var oxyloba. Periwinkles tend to be invasive plants and I have always avoided them, but if my garden were larger I just might consider this one.

Even with the flowers only in bud Centaurea macrocephala
is an eye-catching plant.  Hellidon, Northants. 6 June, 2015

This had me scratching my head for a while. Where had I seen it before? Then the penny dropped. I should have recognised it immediately for I had grown it many years ago when Chris and I live at Longland Road, in Northampton. It is a Centaury, Centaurea macrocephala, a very handsome and robust plant for the larger border.  The brown structure is the flower bud and it will shortly open up to reveal big yellow blooms.

We had parked some three hours earlier in a large field, together with 60-70 other cars, at the village edge. We arrived back, a little footsore, to find our vehicle standing forlorn and alone. We'd certainly had our money's worth.

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