Wisley's Alpine Log
By Paul Cumbleton
Log 24 --- 20th November 2008
The season has swung to late autumn and this means one thing above all others for us…leaves.
As they fall thick and fast, they accumulate quickly and in some areas a huge effort goes into clearing them. Most important is to clear them from paths and steps where, if wet, they could cause our visitors to slip. So we sweep these areas every day. Here is our new special options trainee Suguru doing his bit:
You may remember from last year when Gemma was our special options trainee that these are students who instead of moving around every department in the garden, specialise in one subject. Suguru, who comes from Japan, will be with us until next August, learning as much we are able to teach him about alpines in that time. He has an ambition to create a garden back in Japan that combines the old Japanese traditional styles with more modern design ideas to create a new style of Japanese garden for today.
Now, back to the leaves. Small plants can easily be swamped by leaves, so we are spending a lot of time too clearing them from areas where our tiny treasures are in danger of getting covered up.
Leaves swamp small plants
In some areas it is feasible to use a leaf blower, but much of the time on the rock garden that is impractical and doesn't do a very good job. Here, it is better to do the job by hand like our volunteer Helen here:
Clearing leaves by hand
With so much hard work put into leaf clearing at this time of year, it is tempting to start feeling a bit negative towards them! But gladly we have some reminders of the pleasure they have also brought us. Here for example, is an Acer hanging on to a glorious display long after all the others have dropped their leaves:
Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira'
This beauty is worth a closer look:
Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira' close up
Other autumn jobs we have completed include putting on the "wigwams" to protect the Gunnera crowns, as I described at this time last year (see Log 10 of 2007):
We have also put on the protective covers over the sand beds to keep off the winter rain. Notice the leaves too fall on these and will have to be wiped off regularly to prevent them from blocking out too much light for the plants below:
Sandbed lids on
But as we go about these autumn jobs we are cheered by still having plenty of interest and colour to enjoy. Just a few things flowering now include a couple of petrocosmeas:
Another joy is Moraea polystacha, the tall plant in the middle here:
This Iris relative from South Africa flowers for weeks through autumn and into early winter - areal "value for money" plant. It pays closer inspection:
Moraea polystacha close up
Finally for this week, my own special-interest genus Pleione is also giving pleasure. Though the vast majority are dormant and will flower in spring, there are a few that are autumn or winter flowering. This is one of the autumn flowering hybrids, Pleione Sangay:
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