Modern Day Plant Hunters

Modern Day Plant Hunters

Sadly there is very little documentation from those days and it was only in the 1980s that plant surveys were undertaken at Trebah to record notable specimens.

Since starting here in 2003 a large part of my remit at Trebah has been recording, plotting, numbering, and where appropriate, labelling all the plants in the garden. This monumental task took about three years initially and now I update as new plants are put in.

Recent interesting new plantings along Radiata Path include Grevillea 'Bronze Rambler' and Grevillea victoriae, both members of the Protea family from Australia. Stewartia pseudocamellia and Stewartia rostrata are closely related to Camellias and known for their white summer flowers, fiery autumn colours and unique textured bark. Halesia carolina, or Snowdrop Trees, come from south-east USA. They are spell-bindingly beautiful in blossom with snowdrop shaped flowers that appear just before the leaves emerge in late spring.

Another very pretty small tree, Styrax japonicus Pink Chimes, a rare cultivar has bell-shaped, pale pink pendant flowers. Edgeworthia chrysantha (related to Daphne), otherwise known as the Paper Bush, from China, will have clusters of fragrant, tubular yellow flowers from early winter to spring. A first time introduction to the garden is Dipelta yunnanensis. It is prized and sought after by plantsmen for its spectacular fragrant, creamy white foxglove flowers known as Yunnan Honeysuckle.

In the paragraph above I'm aware that I've mostly used the botanical names of the plants and I can hear you asking 'why aren't the common names good enough?' Some species have as many as 12 different common names whereas botanical names refer to one and only one plant. They are used therefore, to avoid confusion and the words used are a mixture of Latin, Greek and native names.

Don't be afraid to work with the botanical nomenclature - it may seem intimidating at first but you will soon recognise some terms that appear over and over again, for example the use of reptans in the name of a creeper. Many, such as alba (white), caerulea (blue) and rubra (red) denote colour while others such as alpine, arctica, canadensis, japonica and sinensis refer to a specific location.

Going back to our recent plantings, each of these botanical names tells a story; Edgeworthia was named in honour of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812 - 1881), a keen amateur botanist who combined colonial service with a passion for plant hunting. He collected E. chrysantha in the Himalayas while in service of the East India Company and introduced it to British gardeners in the mid 1800s. Chrysantha comes from the Greek chrysos meaning gold and anthemon meaning flower.

Dipelta comes from Greek di meaning two and pelte a shield; referring to the two conspicuous shield-like bracts at the bases of the flower, and yunnensis if you've managed to wade through this lengthy blog, will know means the plant has come from Yunnan in West China!

Related articles