Sunday, 12 May 2019

A Love of Botany

The Bluebells have finished flowering, but if you missed them, fear not, they will be back again next year.
Miss Hunter taught me maths and botany. Botany is no longer a specified subject on school curriculums but is now a part of environmental studies. 
Miss Hunter was a typical middle-aged maiden lady who wore thick tweed skirts, twin sets and pearls, and lisle hosiery decorated with lacy designs. 
I was both curious and fascinated by her hair which she wore in tight sausage like curls. They would swing around her head as she entered the classroom, but if she became angry then they would jiggle up and down, but how I loved Miss Hunter's botany class. She would beautifully illustrate each wild flower on the blackboard using different coloured chalks and then make detailed illustrations so that we would understand and appreciate each flowers anatomy. 
My favourite moment every year was when she took us out for the whole day into the Derbyshire Dales where we would climb the hills and 'hunt' with Miss Hunter for as many different wildflowers as we could find. 
Every pupil carried a small sweet or biscuit tin to safely house each specimen that we found, and on our return to school, we would draw and dissect them. Picking wildflowers is not allowed today - look and admire, but definitely do not pick. She taught us the latin and the common names of the flowers and also local tales and folklore connected to them. Miss Hunter has left me with an abiding love of flowers both in the wild and in my garden.
Various shades of pink are commanding attention in the garden right now along with yellow, blue, and mauve.

Catching my eye in particular are these Lilium martagon - Turk's cap lilies. 
I will never forget finding them growing wild in a remote Pyrenean valley.
I love this Piptanthus nepalensis - an evergreen Laburnum which comes from the Himalayas with its bright citrus flowers and rich glossy black stems.







Every year the pretty blossom and heart shaped leaves of the Cercis siliquastrumJudas Tree never fails to charm and delight.


In the garden there are four Peony Trees, but we are fortunate to have this one called Paeonia delavayi. It is endemic to SW China but limited to Sichuan, Yunnan and also the very SE part of Tibet. It is listed as endangered in the China Plant Red Data Book and may be under threat if digging out roots for medicine on a large scale is not adequately controlled. 
I have only seen this tree growing in one other garden called Branklyn which sits on the side of Kinnoull Hill overlooking Perth in Scotland. The garden is in the care of the NT for Scotland and I noticed on our visit that they had one growing in the garden. In vain I searched their plant stall hoping to buy one but my luck was out. One of the gardeners happened to walk by as I was searching so I asked him if he had any for sale. He said that he had seen one recently at the back of one of the greenhouses that had fallen off the plants staging and become both moribund and pot bound, but if he could find it then I could have it. I waited and waited and eventually he returned with a poor specimen whose roots were bursting out through the pot. He said "take it and see how it goes". We carried it carefully all around Scotland before returning back home and now it has grown into a beautiful tree, which is greatly appreciated and enjoyed.
One of the other Peony Trees - Paeonia ludlowii also comes from China but is endemic to the Nyingchi, Mainling and Lhȕnzê counties of SE Tibet, however, it is a far easier tree to propagate. Unlike Paeonia delavayi which is propagated by taking semi hardwood cuttings, Paeonia ludlowii is propagated from seed. It has very large black seeds and I must have given at least 20 of these trees away to family and friends. It is named in honour of Frank Ludlow an English officer who was stationed in the British Mission at Lhasa and a keen naturalist. 
In comparison the other two peony trees come from Japan - they resemble shrubs rather than trees, and have larger showy flowers. 

35 comments:

  1. It is quite clear that everyone should have had a teacher like Miss Hunter. I know that I certainly didn't. Such a gorgeous set of pictures of the wildflowers you have come to appreciate so much. When I was young we used to press flowers. I am not sure if that is done any more.

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    1. I used to press flowers too David - Our childhoods were much simpler, less sophisticated, and possibly more innocent than those of today - no mobile phones, 24 hour TV, or computers then.

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  2. Mr Holden was my biology teacher, a man who taught the subject as if our very lives depended on it - which of course they do! All he needed to do to keep order in a class of 30 teenage boys was to occasionally stick out his bottom lip in displeasure. It is heartening that at least once a week our local primary school can be found out in the little community woodland and the Botanic Garden in Cambridge is often populated by very small but enthusiastic botanists.

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    1. Some teachers definitely make more of an impression on our memories than others, and it appears that we can also remember their names too.
      I am delighted to learn that your local primary school can be found in their community woodland every week, and that the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge are frequented by enthusiastic young botanists too.

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  3. Miss Hunter gave you a gift that lasted a lifetime! "Teachers touch the future," as they say.

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    1. It says a great deal about a teacher when their memory lives on with you forever.

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  4. You sure made great use of your class with Miss Hunter. I imagine she would be most impressed at how you have expanded your love and knowledge of botany . Apparently, you also have a green thumb. Something else I truly admire as I seem to be able to kill anything that grows at record speed.
    Your garden is lovely! You have such a wonderful variety of flowers and trees. ;-)

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    1. Dear Catherine - how I wish that were true. We certainly have had some great successes in the garden and the results are there to be admired, but I have also had many failures too. Sometimes I have planted specimen plants that I truly love but they do not in turn love my soil or environment. It is a case of swings and roundabouts. However, now I do know what is happy in our particular garden and what is not.

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  5. Lovely peony trees! I planted Bluebells last autumn. They have grown, but aren’t blooming. I hope they will! Happy gardening, Rosemary!

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    1. Thanks Satu - I love my peony trees very much.
      Did you plant Hyacinthoides non-scripta which are English bluebells or Hyacinthoides hispanica which are Spanish bluebells. May be they will flower for you next year.

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  6. We had Mrs. Roberts who was our general science teacher and I loved science. My one brag is getting 97% in the end of year exam ( no one had ever got a score as high ) I studied biology; sadly I never took it further than high school as I started work. Your peonies are beautiful! Best, Jane :) x

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    1. When you have a subject you love and a teacher who knows and loves their subject too then that is a winning combination.
      We have a part of the garden set aside for the Peony Trees and look forward to seeing them flower each year.

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  7. Dearest Rosemary,
    How lucky you were with such a teacher as Miss Hunter!
    It is a big plus for our entire life, knowing the Latin or Botanical name as well.
    Your Cercis siliquastrum is lovely as well. We do have the Cercis canadensis instead, or the Eastern Redbud. In the Apalachian Mountains where we climbed the summit for the lookout, we admired the Appalachian version with even more dense and darker shade flowers. A dream and they grow in the wild!
    Your Tree peonies are a joy too, we lost ours and all other Peonies as the climate is too harsh and hot.
    Sending you hugs and compliments for such great photos!
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - I hunted high and low to find either type of Cercis tree and this is the only one I could find at the time. They are very expensive to buy here, and not readily available. At first I thought that I had lost it as a deer came into the garden one evening and rubbed his antlers up and down the main stem and I thought it had died. Fortunately it sprung up again from the main root to make the lovely tree that it is today. As I look out of the study window now, the pink blossom is so beautiful against the clear blue sky.

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  8. Hello Rosemary, Botany has been a primary hobby since I was small. By the time I was in junior high I had quite a collection of botany manuals of all kinds. When I was in college the only 8:00 AM class I was willing to take was botany (I had a strict rule of 11:00 or later for all other classes). One of the teachers, Lauren Brown, was an expert on grasses, and since I had her book on the subject, she autographed it for me and added a botanic illustration. They also had a class on paleobotany (plant fossils), but it was cancelled for some reason the year I was going to take it.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I can also recall enjoying flowers from a young age. I particularly remember the pleasure of seeing poppies growing in the cornfields.
      Lauren Brown's book sounds interesting and it is lovely that she added not only her autograph but also did an illustration for you. In part of our garden we have an area that it filled with different ornamental grasses.

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  9. Wonderful photos as always. A good teacher makes such a difference to ones life.

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    1. Good teachers you remember, bad teachers you forget.

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  10. Wonderful collection of plants in the garden.
    Interesting to read your memories of botany back then.
    The first photo is magic, love the trees ever so tall.

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  11. What a treat to read about your childhood memories of botany lessons Rosemary. You bring back my own memories of our 'botany books', which had alternate blank and lined pages, and were filled with little specimens. It did inspire life-long interest in plants and gardens. Your peony trees are absolutely gorgeous. I have only rarely seen peonies, and never on a tree. I don't even know how big they are! Thank you for a lovely post.

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    1. The two trees from China are quite tall - roughly 8 ft high, but the Japanese ones are more like large shrubs and are about 5 ft high.

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  12. Very lucky to get a botany class as it was not even part of the school curriculum up here. I love wild flowers and nature in general but that came after schoolwork, playing outdoors in the fields surrounding our estate. You can always tell by bloggers photographs if they have a keen interest in certain subjects as they go the extra mile to capture them in finest vivid detail - like yours.

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    1. It is interesting what we surmise from blogs Bob - I wonder if we always get it right. You are correct about me - I realise that we do both share some similar interests.

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  13. Beautiful, beautiful flower photos Rosemary.
    Arrived at Heathrow early evening - long 5 hr. coach trip in lovely weather. Countryside looked stunning along the way.
    Just had a pub supper and falling into bed now! Into the city in the morning for a quick look around.
    Thank you for that sweet comment you left me. Yes, it was such a lovely visit with you both.
    Mary X

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  14. Oh I would love to have a pink Peony plant in my yard. Your photo spoke to me ❤️

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    1. I actually like peonies better than roses as they are far easier to grow and don't have prickles or green fly!

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  15. Miss Hunter sounds like such an inspirational teacher. Botany is something I've become interested in more recently and I wish I knew all the Latin names of plants as well as their common names. Your peonies are just lovely and the one you toted around Scotland has a great story behind it.

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    1. The Latin names are difficult, but once you have mastered one of them they do seem to stick with you forever.

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  16. From your description I can easily picture Miss Hunter in my head , I had a teacher myself who was always wearing brown from top to toe . and a very tight mouth .I am a garden designer myself and I just love everything regarding plants , and the best ones are the ones you 'save' :-))

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    1. I didn't realise that you were a garden designer Jane - you have even more talents than I knew. I was fortunate to get this particular tree as the gardeners were growing it for the garden only and not for resale to visitors.

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