SRGC Feature Article
Home       Recommend This Site To A Friend


When does spring become summer? In Dunblane I think of May as still being spring? August is heading for autumn because the grain has been cut. My summer must be quite short compared to American summers which go on until October when Fall starts. June is summer for me. Our Embothrium coccineum comes into flower and soon the path beneath it is covered with discarded scarlet tubular flowers.

Embothrium coccineum

It is a spectacular sight. My neighbour once asked me what the red tree above our roof was and I was able to tell him the tale of the seed from Chile, the plant bought in Inverness 30 years ago, its journey south and the fact that because I thought it was tender, I planted it close to the west facing wall of our new house when we came to Dunblane. Perhaps if it had been planted further from the warm wall it might have died. However it has survived and flourished and is now the star plant in the garden in June.

Another stunner which might be thought of as tender is Abutilon suntense, this time growing against the east facing house wall

Abutilon suntense

This spring my seasons became very mixed up. In April on the day of the SRGC Edinburgh show we left for a trip to Dubai. Ben Ledi was white with snow…Winter?

Ben Ledi, 8th April 2006

Emirates Towers Dubai, 9th April 2006

Edinburgh had hail stones and the streets were white in the morning…..Winter? By afternoon it was warm and sunny and the hall was filled with Narcissi and Fritillarias….Spring! Early next morning we were standing at Dubai Airport getting used to the heat. It was only in the low 20s but seemed like a good July day…..Summer?

Dubai old and new

Dubai was a wonderful mixture of the old town and new high tech buildings, exotic bzzars and familiar store names. There were lots of planted areas. I expected a desert botanic garden, like that in Phoenix Arizona but there did not seem to be one. Some of the areas of 'grass' were actually planted with a low growing succulent which I supposed was a mesembyanthemum.

Real grass on a roundabout in Dubai

In the spice souk we saw many strange dried plants and on shop shelves were boxes of saffron. How many crocus stamens does it take to fill just one box? And we saw hundreds of boxes!


Spices for sale in the Spice Souk, Dubai

Water is precious in Dubai but it has not led to water rationing and hose pipe bans. I am certain that local people appreciate the wonderful fountains and water features in the city.

The fountain at the Emirates Towers

Dubai has acres of petunias

Petunias. Palms and Cannas

We returned to Scotland a week later and it was definitely spring time. At the end of the month I joined Jean Wyllie, Ian Young and Co. in Gothenburg and we went back several weeks in season….Early Spring? Ian has written a lot about Gothenburg . I just want to say what a superb garden they have and would encourage you all to go there. They had good weather till I brought the rain over.

Woodland in Gothenburg Botanic Garden , 28th April 2006

Colourful Ian

One feature of the Gothenburg botanic garden which I must boast about having seen is the Shortia garden. Innumerable fabulous Shortias thriving in big peat blocks, seeding all over.

Gothenburg have a large planting of Ian Young's Corydalis hybrid, Craigton Blue, which they acknowledge as one of the best introductions of recent years

Peter Korn is building his own garden and nursery outside Gothenburg. This garden has to be seen to be believed but will contain almost every feature that you would want from cactus garden to bog, taking in alpine house, rock garden and woodland on the way. I am delighted to have been there early on in its construction. Peter has a good nursery, so when you visit Gothenburg visit Peter as well.

Peter Korn's nursery garden [trädgård]

I have to boast that I too have seen that impossible plant with Pulsatilla flowers and Dodecatheon leaves from the Russian island of Sakhalin in the North West Pacific It is called Miyakea integrifolia. Peter grew it as well as the botanic garden.

Miyakea integrifolia

May passed with the Glasgow show, the Aberdeen and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Now for me Chelsea seems like summer because the south of England is further advanced in its seasons than Dunblane.

Lewisia tweedyi a nearly summer plant in my opinion


At the end of May and into June, meadows which a few years ago would have been cut, ploughed or grazed are now a mass of buttercups; adding weeks of colour to the countryside.

Buttercups and Stirling Castle

Hawthorn hedges are heavily laden with white [and pink] flowers. In gardens there are dark red forms as well. I had long cast my clout even though the may [hawthorn flowers] was out [barely] as my travels had confused me. It is interesting that no matter how uniform plants are, special forms always pop up and are then greatly prized by gardeners. For many species with coloured flowers it is the white form which we covet but with hawthorn we look for dark red coloured forms.

Hawthorn and buttercups

Hence 'the Quest for the Pink Celmisia' by Peter Erskine, in his lecture with that title. I remember my daughter sitting through the whole lecture and her dismay at the end, when Peter admitted that the party had failed to find a flowering wild pink Celmisia, despite finding many other treasures on their travels. She now knows that all quests are not successful. We must enjoy our journeys as well as our arrivals. Susan Band grows a clone of Celmisia spectabilis whose flowers age through pink. Indeed they are still in good fettle while the pink suffuses the flowers.

Celmisia spectabilis in the garden

The RBGE grows a super pink 'daisy' but it is a Helichrysum, not a Celmisia. It is one of the prettiest of our summer flowering rock garden plants.

Helichrysum ecklonis from South Africa growing at the RBGE

Those of you who have been to the Explorer's garden in Pitlochry will have appreciated first Ian Young's wonderful photos of bulbs in flower and during May been tempted to book an alpine holiday when viewing Fred Hunt's European Alpines.

Fred Hunt in the Douglas Pavilion. You can still see prints of Fred's photos on the display boards

For June Anne Chambers has prepared a treat.

Anne Chambers beside her Rheum nobile exhibit

Few of our members have been to the Himalaya and fewer still have returned time after time. Anne and husband Viv went 30 years ago and photographed Primula aureata sheltering from a snow storm. I remember the lecture they gave to the Glasgow group when they returned and I though that they were incredibly brave. Now, with specially mounted photographs of the plants she has seen and prints of her paintings of these plants, Anne takes you to her own special places. She allows you to appreciate the habitats and the beauty of her subjects. The exhibit encompasses her talents as walker, botanist, photographer, artist and in its presentation shows her fine artistic sense. She has recently returned from another trip to the mountains of the East. Anne has put a lot of work into her exhibit and I hope as many people as possible will visit Pitlochry to enjoy it.

I know that in a few weeks I will have summer holidays and that these are in July and they are coming soon. Until then I will just sit and remember 'summer' in April in Dubai. Like our gardens Dubai is an example of man's contest with nature. Like the people of Dubai we all need to learn to live in harmony with nature and use our resources carefully but just sometimes it is worth being bold and making a statement like the Embothrium!

See you in Pitlochry!
If you are lucky you will catch a glimpse of Julia frolicking in the beds of Meconopsis.

Or Dubai?

^ back to the top ^