Saturday, 23 March 2019

Jephson Gardens, Leamington

I normally restrict my blogs to observations made in and around Daventry, but today Chris and I went to Leamington - correction, Royal Leamington Spa, - and it isn't a million miles away.

Having parked the car we made for the town centre, and our walk took us through the Jephson Gardens. They are one of the town's most attractive features and it would be lovely if Northampton, Daventry or Banbury could do something similar. They would be, in theory, very expensive to create and maintain but lots of people are apparently involved on a volunteer basis and I'm sure that in Northampton for example, with a population of 230,000, a similar volunteer force could be assembled to do something in, say, Abington Park. 

We passed Butterbur growing beside the River Leam. Yes, I know it can become a bit of a nuisance but it is an oddly attractive plant. Butterbur, despite its name of Petasites hybridus, does not appear to be a hybrid but a true species. It flowers early in the year when other nectar sources are limited and so is a valuable bee plant. By late summer its leaves will be huge.

Butterbur beside the River Leam, Leamington.
23 March, 2019
The day was turning out to be rather chilly and so we made for the warmth of the moderately large, heated glasshouse. The first thing to strike the visitor are the Bird of Paradise flowers, Strelitzia reginae. their blooms are certainly dramatic and yet, for their subtlety I rather prefer Strelitzia nicolei, which was growing nearby. The Strelitzias were once, I believe, placed in the Banana family, Musaceae, but are now given a family of their own, the Strelitziaceae.

Strelitzia reginae with its strange inflorescence, reminiscent of a bird's head.
Jephson Gardens, Leamington. 23 March, 2019
Both plants hail from southern Africa and so they demand rather warm conditions. In Britain they live outdoors in Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly but to grow them elsewhere it would be a big, big gamble.

Strelitzia nicolai, growing nearby, makes a much larger plant.
There was a range of other plants to be seen, some blooming dramatically, but I will add only a couple of other pictures, neither involving flowers.

The Stag's Horn Fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, is a curiosity, bizarre rather than beautiful, but if I could give it the conditions it needs (It comes from, for example, the forests of Queensland, Australia) then I would certainly have one.

The Stag's Horn Fern also requires warm greenhouse conditions.
Jephson Gardens, Leamington, 23 March, 2019
Finally a plant upon which I could find no label but is certainly some sort of fig, Ficus species. It may have been Ficus trichopoda, but several figs develop similar prop-roots. It was straddling the surrounding hand-rail in a very suggestive way, but I do not believe that this qualifies as copulation.

Hmm... A fig. I will say no more! Jephson Gardens, Leamington.
23 March, 2019

As for the outdoor plantings, we have found that in the warmer months there are fine displays, particularly of flowering shrubs. Leamington always has something of interest for the gardener or botanist.

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