30th March

FJ Williams Profile Picture
FJW 1955-2007
CH Williams Profile Picture
CHW 2015-
JC Williams Profile Picture
JCW 1897-1939
C Williams Profile Picture
CW 1940-1955

2020 – CHW

It is normally a job which I undertake reluctantly on holiday in the Isle of Wight but I am now, in enforced isolation, tackling the final batch of 120 to 150 care articles for every genus or species/variety of plant which Burncoose Nurseries offers. In all I have written around 520 of these already over the last five years interspersed with visits to Isle of Wight gardens to get pictures of as many of them as possible growing in gardens. Ventnor Botanic Garden has been perfect for this. Each care article is 200 to 300 words but many are much longer when covering larger plant groups like acers, magnolias or camellias.

The point is to make the Burncoose website a genuine destination not just for people who want to buy plants but, more importantly, for those who want knowledge and advice about how to grow them. As an example of how this can work 3,000 people read the acer care article each month and even obscure plants receive 20 to 40 care article views in the spring. I guess half our 1.5 million visitors are now using us as a reference point for information.

As ever, in today’s digital age, where attention spans are minimal, pictures become essential. The website already has four or five pictures of each plant we sell in bud, flower, bark, autumn colour, in a pot as you would get it, etc. What the care articles bring to the party now are, where possible, a growing set of pictures of the trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants actually growing and performing in a variety of different gardens. Over the last springs and summers the Burncoose team have visited many RHS, National Trust and other private gardens seeking new pictures of plants ‘doing things’ rather than them just sitting in the nursery.

Each new care article therefore has a selection of pictures which are very different from the ‘selling’ pictures alongside individual plants. This has all taken a huge amount of time and effort. Karol now has a gigantic plant database with pictures of all manner of different plants. Those we do not currently stock we may well do one day. The time and effort required by Julie at Forgecom, our longstanding website designers and managers, to put all this information onto the website should not be underestimated either.

I feat that, between us, we will have made some mistakes. Perhaps even some unwitting ‘howlers’ which will no doubt be spotted along the way. The care articles try to represent our personal experiences with plants in what I hope is a down to earth manner. Not too much botany or fancy Latin but this cannot always be avoided.

If you search this diary for a particular plant you should get a picture or two but the data in the diary is small compared to the plant database behind the website itself.

Sadly I am left now with writing about the plants I do not know well myself or the larger plant genus that are so varied that it is difficult to work out quite how to make the care articles simple or consistent. Previously, with plants which I knew well, I could bash out 10 articles a day and still have a pub lunch. With this lot five a day (and no pub lunch) is rather more of a struggle.

Then the even bigger ‘excitement’ of starting to proof the 2021 mail order catalogue three months early.

Inevitably I get bored with Abies and Alnus which are remarkably dull categories to write about and so to look at some plants yet again!

This is the third of our large Daphniphyllum to be dying. One two years ago and two on the way out now. One left. All a long way from each other. The last two seemed to have major rot at the base but this is not obvious here. Do they have short lives where they over flower or are they just susceptible to honey fungus? One branch looks ok while most of the tree is joining the dodo.

Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
Daphniphyllum
A more sheltered Magnolia ‘Margaret Helen’ is just coming out. The plant is developing suckering growth. It is the same cross as ‘Caerhays Surprise’ but done in New Zealand which explains the suckering.
Magnolia ‘Margaret Helen’
Magnolia ‘Margaret Helen’
Magnolia ‘Margaret Helen’
Magnolia ‘Margaret Helen’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mary Phoebe Taylor’ still excellent on the drive.
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mary Phoebe Taylor’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mary Phoebe Taylor’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mary Phoebe Taylor’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mary Phoebe Taylor’
Rhododendron kiyosumense on the drive is going over. Next to it a much darker forms is about to come out.
Rhododendron kiyosumense
Rhododendron kiyosumense
Rhododendron kiyosumense
Rhododendron kiyosumense
First flowers on Azalea amoena.
Azalea amoena
Azalea amoena
Stachyurus praecox still not quite full out.
Stachyurus praecox
Stachyurus praecox
The juvenile growth on Xanthocyparisus vietnamensis is already being overtaken by the quantity of mature growth. The juvenile growth propagates easily from cuttings.
Xanthocyparisus vietnamensis
Xanthocyparisus vietnamensis
Little winter’s wind damage on the tender Ternstroemia gymnanthera. Just a bit of reddish blotching on the tips of last year’s new growth.
Ternstroemia gymnanthera
Ternstroemia gymnanthera
Ternstroemia gymnanthera
Ternstroemia gymnanthera
Magnolia ‘Asian Artistry’. This is Magnolia denudata x Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’ which I do not entirely believe and no picture in Eisenhut’s book. A bit bigger flower perhaps than the supposed ‘A. Kalleberg’ yesterday but not much different. Another rogue I fear.
Magnolia ‘Asian Artistry’
Magnolia ‘Asian Artistry’
Magnolia ‘Asian Artistry’
Magnolia ‘Asian Artistry’
One last flower left on a young Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ by Tin Garden. The old plant long over and the other young ones had their last flowers destroyed in hailstorms two weeks ago.
Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’
Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’
A troika of tiny flowered Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’.
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
Camellia ‘Coral Bright’, ‘Fairy Blush’ and ‘Fairy Wand’
I have a very soft spot for this Korean form of Magnolia cylindrica. The flowers are not pure white like our original old plant. This 30 year old tree is now 20ft and so also taller than the original. A great colour combination.
Magnolia cylindrica
Magnolia cylindrica
Magnolia cylindrica
Magnolia cylindrica
Magnolia ‘Sundance’ (Magnolia acuminata x Magnolia denudata) just coming out.
Magnolia ‘Sundance’
Magnolia ‘Sundance’
Magnolia ‘Sundance’
Magnolia ‘Sundance’
Camellia ‘Mimosa Jury’ was good and new to us.
Camellia ‘Mimosa Jury’
Camellia ‘Mimosa Jury’
Equally new is Camellia reticulata ‘Debut’ which was not that different to others of that ilk.
Camellia reticulata ‘Debut’
Camellia reticulata ‘Debut’
Camellia reticulata ‘Debut’
Camellia reticulata ‘Debut’
Laurelia sempervirens just coming into flower.
Laurelia sempervirens
Laurelia sempervirens
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’ is an exceptional ‘smelly’! To be planted out shortly.
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
Rhododendron ‘Elsie Frye’
We always forget this pure white Magnolia x veitchii tree up by the Rookery Nursery Bed. It may not be as large as the 1913 one by the shop entrance but it is still a huge tree. A few flowers out low down.
Magnolia x veitchii
Magnolia x veitchii
Magnolia x veitchii
Magnolia x veitchii

2019 – CHW
We have now removed the roots and stones from the newly cleared area around the Tin Garden. Yesterday it all got rotavated to level it all off ready for planting next week. This will be a planting in memory of Dad and will incorporate many of the hybrid magnolias and rhododendrons which he bred over his lifetime. Since he only died in early January I will only be able to make a small start on the planting this spring. It will take a year or so to assemble some of the key plants.
newly cleared area around the Tin Garden
newly cleared area around the Tin Garden
newly cleared area around the Tin Garden
newly cleared area around the Tin Garden
The Tin Garden shed has also been cleaned out with a few artefacts from 80 to 100 years ago still intact. We plan to erect benches and information boards here for visitors for next year’s garden open season. Michael’s father has made a wonderful wooden sign for the door but the door needs a few repairs. We saw the plaque last week.
Tin Garden shed
Tin Garden shed
Flowers opening on Magnolia ‘Tikitere’ in Old Park. They have not moved much in a week so I will have to revisit when it is full out.
Magnolia ‘Tikitere’
Magnolia ‘Tikitere’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’ is perfect today on the drive in the sun. Burncoose won ‘Best in Show’ at the Cornwall Garden Society show with this some years ago. Splendid but a brief flowering. The Matsumae cherry varieties flower for much longer and will soon become far more ‘garden worthy’ than these older Japanese varieties which have become common May flowering street trees in London.
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’
Prunus ‘Shirofugen’

2018 – CHW
Pleasant day for a garden tour. Weather not as bad as forecast. Serena and Peter and nine dogs.Magnolia ‘Mr Julian’ with a few half decent flowers emerging lower down.
Magnolia ‘Mr Julian’
Magnolia ‘Mr Julian’
A red form of Rhododendron arboreum that has not been this good before.
red form of Rhododendron arboreum
red form of Rhododendron arboreum
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mona Jury’ on the Main Ride.
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mona Jury’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mona Jury’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mona Jury’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Mona Jury’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’ now full out.
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
Camellia reticulata ‘Dream Castle’
First colour showing on Magnolia ‘Caerhays Surprise’. No frost damage!
Magnolia ‘Caerhays Surprise’
Magnolia ‘Caerhays Surprise’
Camellia ‘Ivory Chalice’ is a good new white variety from France.
Camellia ‘Ivory Chalice’
Camellia ‘Ivory Chalice’
Magnolia kobus ‘Octopus’ is just out too.
Magnolia kobus ‘Octopus’
Magnolia kobus ‘Octopus’
Camellia ‘Dream Boat’ is another new (to us) French import.
Camellia ‘Dream Boat’
Camellia ‘Dream Boat’
Camellia reticulata ‘Miss Tulare’ likewise.
Camellia reticulata ‘Miss Tulare’
Camellia reticulata ‘Miss Tulare’
Camellia reticulata ‘Miss Tulare’
Camellia reticulata ‘Miss Tulare’
Hidden behind other things below Donkey Shoe I find a long forgotten clump of 50ish year old rhodos in what was once a nursery bed. Are they Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum? The indumentum is white-ish at this time of the year so perhaps neither. This will need rather more investigation but one of those discoveries which makes the day.
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron venator or perhaps Rhododendron floccigerum
Rhododendron ‘Assaye’ (Caerhays bred) is just coming out above Crinodendron Hedge. An elderly clump with some good new layers in place.
Rhododendron ‘Assaye’
Rhododendron ‘Assaye’
Rhododendron ‘Assaye’
Rhododendron ‘Assaye’
Magnolia dawsoniana from above. Another decent tree magnolia in this year of misery for magnolias.
Magnolia dawsoniana
Magnolia dawsoniana

2017 – CHW
Another private tour party and quite a long one also.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’ – very few tepals in this one compared to all the others. Pretty in its own way and worth its place on the drive by the fernery. Nicer than ‘Merrill’?

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
Magnolia x loebneri ‘Snow Drift’
First flowers out on Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ on the drive. This one has rather stunted growth and yesterday’s rain has led most flowers to pop open.
Magnolia ‘Butterflies’
Magnolia ‘Butterflies’
Magnolia ‘Butterflies’
Magnolia ‘Butterflies’
Magnolia ‘Alixeed’ has a pleasant pink tinge as it opens but this quickly fades. I have planted too big a tree too near the drive and pruning soon.
Magnolia ‘Alixeed’
Magnolia ‘Alixeed’
Magnolia x proctoriana is now a big tree; 25 plus years old. A mass of flower before the leaves emerge this year which is not always the case.
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia x proctoriana
Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ has been damaged by wind. I wonder why stellata forms flower so much later here than the true species?
Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’
Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’
Magnolia ‘George Henry Kern’ is a lilliflora crossed with stellata. Larger flowers than usual I think.
Magnolia ‘George Henry Kern’
Magnolia ‘George Henry Kern’
Magnolia ‘George Henry Kern’
Magnolia ‘George Henry Kern’
The label has vanished here since last year but this is the second flowering of Magnolia ‘Rose Marie’ x ‘Black Tulip’.
Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’
Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’
After all last week’s excitement over the Cephalotaxus fortunei I thought I would have a look at the related species. This is Torreya nuncifera on Hovel Cart Road. A dullish ‘yew-like’ tree perhaps but it has defied earlier deer damage to grow away. No duller than Pseudotaxus chienii seen a few weeks ago anyway.
Torreya nuncifera
Torreya nuncifera
Torreya nuncifera
Torreya nuncifera
Torreya nuncifera
Torreya nuncifera
Nearby is Torreya taxifolia which clearly has sets of flowers which are about to produce pollen. Known as the ‘Stinking Cedar’ I gather but no idea why (yet!)? Very rare in the wild but this plant is doing well. Not exactly a showstopper either.
Torreya taxifolia
Torreya taxifolia
Torreya taxifolia
Torreya taxifolia
Torreya taxifolia
Torreya taxifolia
Magnolia nitida full out with the most marvellous scent. The stripe on the petals is not visible until the flower is fully out. Last year none were low enough down the tree to see properly but a good crop this season all over. Rain prevents more pictures today.
Magnolia nitida
Magnolia nitida
Magnolia nitida
Magnolia nitida
Went to see if the young Quercus rhysophylla ‘Maya’ in the Rookery needs a stake and it does! No sign of the wonderful new growth yet.
Quercus rhysophylla ‘Maya’
Quercus rhysophylla ‘Maya’
Quercus rhysophylla ‘Maya’
Quercus rhysophylla ‘Maya’

2016 – CHW
Rhododendron moupinense by the cashpoint has emerged unexpectedly from an overpowering podocarpus. You cannot say it is flowering early and no earlier than the Rhododendron ‘Golden Oriole var Talavera’ shown on Monday.
Rhododendron moupinense
Rhododendron moupinense
Rhododendron moupinense
Rhododendron moupinense
Nearby is an elderly surviving clump of Sarcocca hookeriana var dignya. This is the sole survivor from my pre 1992 planting when the cashpoint and car park area as it is now was a vegetable garden for the house (known as Georges (as in George Blandford who was my childhood mentor) Garden and around which I once had aviaries for 15 plus breeds of ornamental pheasants). Today it looks as though it has always been tarmac with a few plants around it. Times change! The first public opening of the garden was in 1992.
Sarcocca hookeriana var dignya
Sarcocca hookeriana var dignya
Sarcocca hookeriana var dignya
Sarcocca hookeriana var dignya
Another plant which is arguably late into flower in this early season is, surprisingly, Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’ on the bank by the gents’ loo. Of the three plants here only one is ‘Lynwood’ which I planted 40 years or so ago. This is the one pictured. The others have smaller flowers and are not showing at all yet.
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’
You will not often see daffodils, a bluebell and copious primroses all out at the same time. I repeat that bluebells in March are absurd!
daffodils, a bluebell and copious primroses
daffodils, a bluebell and copious primroses
Camellia ‘Noblissima’ still has plenty of flower (and the wind has blown down the horrid brown dead old ones) outside the front door. It is now a full three months since I photographed the first flower here and still a good show today. The question so frequently asked by (supposed) gardeners is ‘how long does it flower for?’. They do not need to buy a plastic one here!
Camellia ‘Noblissima’
Camellia ‘Noblissima’
The daffodils on the bank have shrunk in quantity over the last 30 to 40 years since I remember them being moved here from the Kitchen Garden. My father blamed the peacocks for spreading the eel worm which has apparently slowly been killing them (‘blind’ bulbs with no flower and yellowing tips to the leaves). In the old days daffodil bulbs were boiled in an urn to kill eel worms once a year before the days of insecticides and one of these urns still survives at Burncoose. Eel worms bore into the bulbs to lay their eggs which then emerge to devour the bulbs from within. Quite how a peacock, which would eat any sort of worm of insect, can be blamed for this I have no idea. The peacocks which existed here for 50 years have now died out or moved away anyway. Nevertheless a particularly fine show from some varieties today and no sign (yet) of yellowing leaves. I suspect weed killer and mowing off the old leaves too quickly are more likely to be the problem than any worms!
daffodils on the bank
daffodils on the bank
daffodils on the bank
daffodils on the bank
Rhododendron siderophyllum (second showing but different plant) is very fine outside the front gate. One surviving plant of three which is I fear normal for this type of rhodo.
Rhododendron siderophyllum
Rhododendron siderophyllum
Just as one of the two specimen monkey puzzles, planted in about 1830 at Burncoose, suddenly dies so we have a nice young one here just starting its new growth. Not yet sure if this is a male of a female. A mature plant which I believe is female is 100 yards away. I planted two here but the strimmer got one after a few years.
monkey puzzle
monkey puzzle
2015 – CHW
Ann Swithenbank from the BBC Radio 4 Gardeners Question Time rings me at Burncoose to enquire which magnolias flower for a second time in September/October.   She needs to answer a tricky question.   Magnolia soulangeana and Magnolia lilliflora nigra and their various hybrids exhibit this characteristic.   Magnolia ‘March-till-Frost’, and Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ are perhaps the best examples but the secondary flowers are often a muddy purple and hidden by the leaves.   Swithenbank does not offer a fee for this information for which she is being paid so perhaps we may get a mention sometime.

2003 – FJW
608 adults come round the garden – fine day – DRY.

1997 – FJW
2000+ around garden after too heavy publicity – DRY.

1994 – FJW
Very wet first quarter.

1986 – FJW
Very late year – pink Campbellii ‘seen’ by Easter public for first time for a long while.

1963 – FJW
David took first solo steps.

1962 – FJW
As expected magnolias poor – Salicifolia, Diva, Robusta, Campbellii and molicomata in that order of success. Reticulatas skinned of leaf. No azaleas out at all.

1945 – CW
Rob came down for the first time and saw the last flowers of Magnolia campbellii – Sargentiana, Robusta, Dawsoniana and Diva. Rho sinograndee at its best. Reds very good and the first of the Arboreum – Auklandii hybrids. Blue Tit, Yellow Hammer, scintillans and Camellia all very good. The Bullatum x Moupinense are very nice.

1933 – JCW
All the Corylopsis are very good indeed. Cherries just starting to open. Hybrid Calophytums are good and so the species. Rho fargesii is very nice.

1930 – JCW
Corylopsis pauciflora is very nice. C williamsii fair.

1920 – JCW
The double cherries are nearly at their best.

1915 – JCW
Bean left. Frost had cut all the stuff, but some Fortuneiis stood it.

1900 – JCW
Jacko just pinched out, none of the above within five days of being open.

1899 – JCW
Several G mundi, G of Leiden. Sir Watkin, Scott (1), Griflamme, all Torch. Plenty of Blackthorn in flower, a few tulips, Jacko open.

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