GREEN

NewsletTer

The Green Newsletter each month highlights those plants which are in flower or that are of especial interest at that time of the year

As hours of daylight lengthen we are cheered by the emergence of colourful blooms from spring bulb species. Bright yellow daffodils encircle each of the four young mulberry trees in the carriage circle whilst others bloom on the grass slope down to the lawn. Will, our gardener, has allowed two blocks of daffodils to flower, one on either side of a flower free strip of grass. Hopefully this will entice children to choose the central zone for their game of rolling down the slope. We keep our fingers crossed that this arrangement will deter the young visitors from flattening the flowers this year!

The small blue flowers of Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow) are widespread in the turf below the ancient mulberry. Chionodoxa has spread during the past few years and is now quite common in many Caversham gardens providing an an alternative to closely related Scilla. Also look for the clumps of what look like 'tall snowdrops'. There are three near the steps to the lawn alongside the herbaceous borders. These plants are spring flowering snowflakes and can be recognised by the tiny green spot at the end of each white tepal that comprises the flower. A closely related summer flowering snowflake is often called the Loddon lily because it is widely found on the banks of the River Loddon.

In April, the main interest in the herbaceous borders is the colourful tulips in the Western Border. Tulips were very popular in the 17th Century especially in Holland during the Dutch Golden Age. Bulbs of some varieties of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip fetched huge sums of money when they were the subject of intense financial speculation. So-called Tulip Mania began in 1634 and collapsed dramatically in 1637.

The greater part of the Bhutan pine was felled on 11 February. The remaining trunk has now been felled to ground level. Much of the felled wood has been chipped and many barrow loads spread as mulch around several of our most precious trees to retain water and aid their survival. A replacement Bhutan pine was planted on Good Friday with the assistance of Reading Tree Wardens.

On the Terrace you will find a spreading Ceanothus alongside the churchyard wall (see image below). Its impressive display of blue flowers a real picture in mid-April. Another name for Ceanothus is California lilac. It is a native of North America and a member of the buckthorn family. The shrub is also significant in that it fixes nitrogen in the same way as peas, beans and clover. Unlike most other plants those capable of fixing nitrogen absorb nitrogen gas from the atmosphere into a form that they can absorb. Bacteria living on the roots of nitrogen fixers perform this essential function.

Also look out for Bergenia, an evergreen perennial which has large leathery leaves, often tinged red and giving the plant its common name of Elephant's Ear. Plants are currently in flower producing loose clusters of pinkish red bell-like flowers open on upright stems. Popular as ground cover in borders Bergenia belongs to the Saxifrage family and is a native of central Asia.