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What’s out in the garden

Come and see what’s out in the Botanic Garden

As a long-standing Friend of the Oxford Botanic Garden, I visit the Garden regularly, usually once a month, after the Friends’ coffee mornings. Here are a few of the sights currently to be seen, at the beginning of the month. I have included a number of Latin names for plants: but, don’t worry, these all come from the Garden’s labels, and you don’t have to learn them by heart!

Now that the Equinox is upon us, autumn has officially begun. However, the Botanic Garden is not yet in full autumnal dress, but the Autumn Border was looking magnificent, and there were various sorts of fruit about., edible and botanical, as well as trees just thinking about changing colour.

Inside the Walled garden, next to the main path, there is a small tree with pale green papery discs dangling on the ends of the branches, called the Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliate. It comes from North America and is a member of the family Rutaceae, along with oranges and lemons!  I was looking for autumn colour, but the Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica next to the central fountain is only just beginning to colour up on the tips of its branches. Something to look forward to, there.

Another smallmulti-stemmed tree, inside the garden is Aesculus indica, in the bed on the right, next to the veteran yew tree. It’s a relative of the Horse Chestnut, but without conkers. And quite near it, beside the path is Cydonia oblonga, the Common Quince, covered with rock-hard yellow fruits, resembling a cross between an apple and a pear. This plant originates from Iran, same as the Parrotia.

Also near the south wall is the White Mulberry, Morus alba. This is the one King James I should have got to start his projected silk industry. The fruit is white, and sickly sweet, unlike the Black Mulberry, Morus nigra, near the EastGate, which is what the King did get, and has luscious dark purple fruit, which stains your fingers, so scrumping is no secret. The White Mulberry was heavily pruned a few years ago, when a large branch was lopped off it, but it has responded well, by sending out a serious crop of strong new shoots, some of them now 6” in diameter. Next to it is Chinese Poncirus trifoliata, with spines and green slightly squashed fruits.  This time trifoliate means a leaf with three lobes, whereas the Ptelea has leaves with three leaflets.

Still inside, the sunflower bed is a WOW! Some of them must be 9 feet tall, and others are barely 18 inches. The flowers are also all sizes from soup-plates to half a crown (well an inch and a half). As for colours, everything from palest sulphur yellow to dark velvety brown. The tall ones are traditional, with a mass of seed surrounded by a fringe of yellow petals, but some of the others, variations on a theme, are more like mad yellow hedgehogs. Enough to make me resolve to grow some of my own next year.

So finally to the Autumn Border outside the walls. The selection of Dahlias will convince you that these are fine plants, and each has its own name, mostly in soft shades of orange, very dark red or salmon. But if you want orange with a capital O, there’s Tithonia ‘Fiesta del Sol’, with its feet in that almost black grass-like edging plant, Ophopogon plantiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, (which isn’t a grass at all, as it sometimes sends up little blue flower spikes). All this hot colour is cooled by a froth of blue Michaelmas daisies, Aster ‘Little Carlow’ and Aster x frikarti ‘Monch’, and some of the ever-popular Verbena bonariensis.

And a final quick look at the remaining fruit trees as I walked back from the far end of the Autumn Border. Malus in variety: ‘Golden Hornet’, with little bunches of tiny yellow apples, like yellow cherries; ‘John Downie’ a famous cultivar, with apples the size of cherry tomatoes. M. ‘John Innes 1001’, with a crop of traditional red apples, and one out-of-season red flower. M. ‘Hillieri’ with a large bunch of mistletoe, low enough to inspect and see the growing fruits, still in the green. They will be transparent sticky white by Christmas. And a final tree in this section, a sort of hawthorn, Crateagus x lavellei (which is a cross between C. stipulatea and C. crus-galli, according to the label), which is distinguished from its relatives, the apples, by having its fruits, called haws, standing upright.

Next time, a visit to the Harcourt Arboretum.


And don’t forget the Harcourt Arboretum!

Jane Jacobs

Gardener at Myself
I'm a passionate gardener, who loves the yearly Chelsea Flower Show and Gardeners World! I also enjoy my own garden experiments regularly in my spare time.

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