First of May today and Rhododendron ‘May Day’ just out on time. Cuckoo in full voice near the top lodge. The scent of rhodos everywhere on a coldish but sunny day with no wind. We need rain in the next week or there will be casualties in the spring planting. It is turning into a good rhododendron year and a very early one here. Much talk of frosts upcountry.
The first of the ancient mixed group of Azalea indicum near the top lodge just into flower.
Wonderful violets in the St Michael Caerhays churchyard where we were for the AGM of the Parochial Church Council (10 of us anyway). The lovely retired vicar is still covid averse but we finally agreed one full service a month with or without him officiating himself rather than Rev. Warner. The indecision has carried on for months and the church was well packed at Easter. The church roof may last another 10 to 20 years.
Rhododendron crassum out already. Chelsea chances – nil!
Rhododendron chapmanii now full out opposite.
Azalea ‘Caerhays Lavender’ with its flowers already obscuring the attractive yellow coloured new growth.
Rhododendron ‘Nancor’ in a similar state to crassum – another Chelsea ‘too soon’.
Rhododendron griersonianum (beside ‘May Day’ but one of May Day’s parents) still in tight bud.
Rhododendron davidsonianum ‘Caerhays Pink’ is a very good form of this variable species.
Merriliopanax alpinus (BSWJ 13939) with its extraordinary new growth – brown undersides to the emerging leaves.
Michelia x foggii ‘Jack Fogg’ now properly out a week from when we last looked.
Rhododendron ‘Beauty of Littleworth’ full out behind Georges Hut. A pre 1884 hybrid (FCC 1904) but still very well worth its place.
Rhododendron ‘Elizabeth’ and Rhododendron ‘Yellow Hammer’.
2021 – CHW
Tom Christian asked what the three slow growing conifers were by the greenhouse and hothead during his recent visit. I could not remember but, on checking, two are record trees of Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Lycopodiodes’. Hillers refer to this as a ‘medium sized bush’ whereas our veterans are 30-40ft tall trees. This tree was introduced from Japan in 1861 by Philipp von Siebold. Here they grow in full sun in hot, dry, and exposed south facing conditions with curious bunches of foliage. Certainly worth Asia propagating as both trees look well past their prime. I remember a fourth one blowing over by the greenhouse in the 1990 hurricane.
Touching base with other members of the Great Gardens of Cornwall we think it unlikely that any gardens as such will be open much before July. The National Trust and those estate businesses with large parklands may be able to do something sooner and are planning as such.We would normally close the gardens and house on 20th June as we have done since 1992. The reasoning for this is that we are a spring garden with nothing much in flower after that.More importantly, it takes three months for the team to cut the grass (or trash as we call it) over 140 acres. Until this is done the woodland garden looks pretty unkempt. I suppose we could charge very little for a woodland walk but gearing up all the staff, labels etc for a week or two seems scarcely worth the effort and would have minimal impact on the revenues already lost. Once the beach is open again and the cliff walks that is more what families will want. With no tearoom or shop either due to social distancing and continuing restrictions on catering outlets is there any point? Even if ‘woodland walks’ are to be allowed soon.We are left with two years marketing costs for our spring season and only one year of income. So the undistributed garden leaflets and the Great Garden ones can be kept for 2021 to save the large printing and distribution costs. PR and social media stuff is on hold probably to Christmas and the marketing team will probably have to stay on furlough until the end of June while we decide on future revised business plans. The holiday lets and The Vean may eventually grab some summer bookings but our spring house and garden visitors are gone for this year.Guidance from English Heritage says that we should try to catch up with the opening days lost ‘if possible’ under our heritage scheme. It is not ‘possible’ to ask the plants to flower again before next spring so I guess that counts as ‘not possible’! How can you socially distance a house tour of 15 to 20 people anyway?
I have just completed the 2021 proof for the next Burncoose Nurseries catalogue. 200+ new plant entries already. Completed two to three months earlier than usual but I had better not write the catalogue introduction until we know where all this ends up.
Camellia ‘Mathotiana Alba’ is always one of the last camellias to have a decent show in May.
2019 – CHW
Another day of garden tours and then off to Exbury.
Fallen flowers under Rhododendron keysii. The plant is 30 years old and has grossly over-flowered. I fear it will now die.
Then to David Lees’ former nursery near Lymington. The nursery has now closed and houses are being built but the garden is full of surprises.A Wisteria floribunda ‘Rosea’ looking perfect.
2018 – CHW
These are an assortment of my father’s rhododendron hybrids. All are nice enough but nothing is outstanding or different enough to merit naming or registering. A lot of effort over 20 years to grow these from seed to flowering sized plants now consigned to obscurity!
2017 – CHW A day with Gerry and Louisa finalising the detailed Chelsea Flower Show plans and, more importantly, inspecting the plants themselves in the show tunnel. With such an early year in the garden and the rhododendrons full out three weeks earlier than normal it was with some trepidation and pessimism that I entered the main show tunnel.
I needn’t have worried! The show tunnel plants are in startlingly good order; glowing in leaf and with buds in all directions.
The gunneras which have been inside look a bit weak and insipid still.But the huge ones outside do not! The leaves will double in size in the three weeks to show judging.
So it is under control for now but what will the weather bring? We will decide on what needs to go into the coldstore next week to hold it back. A frost could be disastrous but too much hot sun may mean we have to shift plants from the show tunnel outside and into the shade. Lots of work and lots of moving about in the next few days before the final decisions about what exactly goes onto the lorries!
Bank holiday Sunday and, predictably, rain! Hardly worth opening. The beech tree below the green gate was a self-sown seedling from the centre of the Chinese garden at Werrington given to Dad by my grandfather. There are two more at the Top Lodge but one split in half there early last autumn. In the last week this now nearly 40 year old tree has come quickly into full leaf. Splendid if we had the sun on it.
Driven indoors by the rain I finally get to write the article on the mysteries of michelia identification here and how the experts have now said all seven of our 90 year old plants are not three species, as we thought, but just one. For the Magnolia Society International yearbook or the Cornwall Garden Society yearbook perhaps or for both?
2015 – CHW
The target today is to look at (and for) other newish michelias flowering for the first time but I get side tracked as usual.
Magnolia ‘Daybreak’ – we have two plants in flower and nice though it is one cannot help wondering if it has the same parentage as ‘Yuchelia’. As they come out, but not later, the flowers are very similar. The reference books do not seem to know Daybreak’s parentage.
Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange’ is coming into leaf and the twigs and new growth from last year is starting to lose its orange glow which was so striking in the winter months. A chance seedling from a Dutch grower found only in 1987.
Rhododendron ‘Moonstone’ (campylogynum x williamsianum) forming a nice new clump along from Georges Hut alongside two Rhododendron williamsianum.
2000 – FJW
Garden at its peak, new planting beginning to show.
1960 – FJW
Garden at its peak. Has been dry and hot since April 17th. Flower buds on Magnolia rostrata for first time since 1955.
Auklandii just opening, Souliei x hardly moving, Incisa and Subhirtella lot are over. Mag halleana at its best. Kobus and salicifolia over. Conspicua at its best. Denudata nearly over. Some nice Augustinii.
1918 – JCW
Auklandii’s begin to wane. Cherries very much so. Recurvas well open. The first flowers at C of E dichroanthum.
1915 – JCW
R auklandii just opening. Cherries still good. P loderi, R augustinii, Dr Stocker, white decorum, R suavis, Red Arboreum and White Arboreum hybrids all good. Many plain Arboreums good. Daffs are on the wane. N recurvas not really out.
1914 – JCW
R auklandii has begun to molt in a rough dry wind, a very fine lot of rhodo’s out, some these the best we ever had. Cherries going back.
1913 – JCW
Cherries going back, we saw Mag out near St Blazey a fortnight since, a good lot of azaleas out. The unopened Mrs Butlers have some flowers open. R rubiginosum in full flower, the auklandii’s nearly out. R glaucum and some scented things out. Sent scented buds to Dinton. Recurvas nearly a ¼ of it open.
1905 – JCW
No sign of May. Montana ⅓ open, ¼ of the recurvas. Many azaleas open.
1903 – JCW
Mary picked some May about five days since.
1902 – JCW
Half the recurvas open nearly, Marvel about the same, several azaleas out, a good bit of montana. Maples quite good.