Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Oliver's Garden - September

My old friend Oliver (old in more ways than one - he is a very sprightly eighty eight) is having to spend a few days in Yorkshire with his daughter so he phoned me to ask if I would call in and check that all was well in the garden. I was more than happy to do so as there is invariably something of interest to note.

Looking from the patio across Oliver's garden. Byfield, 7 September, 2016

In one of the borders an interesting and not particularly common perennial from Japan is just coming into flower. This is Kirengeshoma palmata, sometimes called the Waxbell. It is a week or so short of its best but is already looking a fine plant with it primrose yellow flowers, which do indeed have a waxy texture, beginning to open.  It is placed in the Hydrangeaceae, although it requires a leap of the imagination to see any resemblance to the common hydrangeas of our gardens. Pronunciation? My first thought was Kiren GE shoma. I rolled it around my mouth and spat it out; it didn't seem right. What about Kirenge SHO ma? This felt better and a check in my book, 'Plant names simplified', confirmed that this was correct. What about the meaning? Wikipedia was unhelpful but a bit of delving in the internet came up with 'yellow lotus blossom hat'. Hmmm. Apparently the seed capsules are extraordinary; 'grotesque' was one description but, in the six years or so that I've known this plant, fruit have failed to appear.

Speaking of Japanese things, Oliver has several clumps of Japanese Anemone, Anemone hupehensis, in his borders. Despite its common name it is actually a native of China but has been cultivated in Japan for centuries and was at one time called Anemone japonica.

Oliver grows the original white form and although there are varieties in a range of pink shades this natural colour is hard to beat, somehow emphasising the simplicity of the lovely flower, showing off the boss of golden stamens.

Staying in China, albeit the south-west region, Leycesteria formosa has a prominent place on the edge of the patio. It is a very easy plant to grow and seedlings often pop up in adjacent borders. Indeed, in some parts of the world this member of the Honeysuckle Family, Caprifoliaceae, has become a serious weed. Its alternative names are Pheasant Berry and Flowering Nutmeg.

The first of these is easily explained: the berries borne by this plant are appreciated by birds (and incidentally the flowers are much visited by bees, making it a very good plant for the wildlife gardener). The second name is a problem: it is not related to nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, it does not look like nutmeg in any obvious way nor, as far as I know, is any part of the plant used as an alternative to nutmeg. A trawl of the internet offered no suggestions.

To end with slightly off-topic memory: I recall some years ago a fierce argument raged about the word  'myristicivorous'. Should it be included in the latest Chambers' Dictionary? As far as I know the word was rejected and sank without trace. It actually refers to a small but select group of insects which feed on wild nutmegs.

Now there's a useful nugget of information should the word appear in a pub quiz!

Stop Press Treated myself to a new 'Chambers' recently and find that the word has been included. So there is now no excuse for this word not to be in everyday usage.

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