Thursday, 26 May 2016

Canons Ashby

I went to Canons Ashby on Wednesday evening. The occasion was a visit by The Boddington and District Garden Association and, although we have recently had several days of lovely warm and sunny weather, this was an evening for wrapping up well. I had collected Ann and John Pimm on the way and in all about twenty of us turned up to brave the elements.
Spindle was in flower near the car park. Its flowers are hardly colourful but its berries, in a sealing-wax pink, are a delight. It is native to the county, where it is more often found on limy soils.

Spindle was growing beside the car park at Canons Ashby.
25 May, 2016
I was pessimistic with regard to the chance of finding interesting insects and, sure enough, there was little of note but an exception was caterpillars of the Mullein Moth, Cuculia verbasci, on - you've guessed it - Mullein.
Mullein Moth caterpillar at Canons Ashby.
25 May, 2016
These larvae were still quite small and my photograph exaggerates their size, for they were only about ten millimetres long. I am always pleased to find them; gardeners are generally not so keen!

Some aspects of the gardens are rather formal and, although they offer fine views, I was more interested in the herbaceous borders, where some unusual plants were to be seen.

Looking out across an attractive  landscape.
Canons Ashby, Northants. 25 May, 2016

The pale green-pink flowers of Nectaroscordum siculum were backed by the purple leaves of Cotinus coggygria to provide an interesting contrast, but by and large I'm not a person to bother about 'colour clashes'.  The Nectaroscordum has an onion-like smell and indeed was once included in the onion genus as Allium siculum.

Honey Garlic, Nectaroscordum siculum backed by a
purple Cotinus coggygria. Canons Ashby. 25 May, 2016

A little further on grew an attractive member of the Cistus family.  It may have been Cistus clusii or C. monspeliensis. There are several similar species but Chris, who was showing us around, was not at hand to ask.  Whatever it was, I rather coveted it! 
This Cistus shrub was an attractive border feature.
Canons Ashby, 25 May, 2016
Next to capture my interest was the striking spurge, Euphorbia griffithii. The form usually grown goes under the name of 'Fireglow' and I am assuming that this is what it was. It hails from Tibet and Bhutan and the name commemorates the largely forgotten William Griffith, who travelled and collected widely in the region.
Euphorbia griffithii is a lovely feature in a border.
Canons Ashby. 25 May, 2016


In a shady border numerous ferns were growing and Claytonia sibirica was also growing profusely. This plant has flowers of a strong pink coloration but in the gathering gloom my camera failed to pick this up. In my youth it was placed in the Portulacaceae Family along with the purslanes, but I find that some botanists have recently placed in a 'new' family, the Montiaceae.
Claytonia sibirica, aka Montia sibirica 
Canons Ashby, Northants. 25 May, 2016
It is an annual but may sometimes behaves as a short-lived perennial. Here is has attained the status of a weed, tolerated because it is very pretty, but I suspect that the staff need to be quite ruthless with it.

Trillium discolor in a shady border at Canons Ashby.
25 May, 2016
I could ramble on but will content myself with one final plant. In the same border as the Claytonia were some specimens of Trillium. Here the genus was represented by Trillium discolor; even more stunning - in my opinion - is Trillium foetidissimum. As the name would suggest it has an unpleasant smell. But the finest species must surely be T. sessile; it too has a foul smell but no worse than, for example, Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis. If I could give them the conditions they demand, a loamy soil with dappled shade,  I would surely give any of them a home.

The cold was now really making itself felt so, after coffee and cake, it was time to leave. I have promised the staff that I will return and do a survey of the invertebrates at Canons Ashby, so I'll be back.

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