The mild weather continues and this year’s display of late autumn/early winter colour has been fabulous. Perhaps the most stunning has been Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’, its delicate pointed leaves turning a deep red suffused with orange. Sadly, the camera cannot capture the subtlety and the leaves appear a shiny pink.
We have been continuing cutting back the herbaceous plants and clearing up the leaves outside, but inside, seed of Chionochloa conspicua, a spectacular grass from New Zealand has been sown on the surface of the compost. This grass grows in very stony hillsides and outcrops. We also sowed seed of Celmisia semicordata, the Giant Mountain Daisy, also from New Zealand and these may be compatible plants to grow on the rocky retaining wall leading from the Walled Garden to the new Woodland Walk. Two other plants, which I hope will make beautiful small trees in time at Glenarm were also sowed: Metrosideros umbellata and Clianthus puniceus ‘Rosea’. The Southern Rata, Metrosideros umbellata, is a most adaptable tree and flowers usually every second year in Ireland in early July. The red, filamentous flowers cover the shiny evergreen leaves in profusion. Even when young, the plant grows red tipped, spongy aerial roots, which in mature plants coalesce into specialist rainwater harvesting organs, which resemble weaver bird nests or even the heads of a wooden golf club hanging down beneath the canopy. The ‘Lobster Claw’ Clianthus puniceus, flowers all winter long, its large clusters of rosy-red tallons brighten up the winter garden and are produced in great abundance. Clianthus is a short-lived tree, but it produces viable seed most years which can be stored and dried and then sown in the spring after soaking the seed for a couple of hours in warm water.
We are going to be attempting a wide selection of plants we intend to train as standards. Cantua buxifolia, the wondrously named Peruvian Magic Tree or Flower of the inca, has been persuaded to form reasonable standards and the long pink flowers are borne late. Plumbago capensis or Streptosolen jamesonii, can also be trained to make wonderful standard plants and at the moment, we are encouraging stock plants to grow in out glasshouses in order to take a crop of cuttings in the course of next summer.