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Plants

Blodau Trilliwarddeg 022Hydrangea Displays

Location - Hydrangeas are found in many shrubby areas of Portmeirion village where they provide the main ornamental display of colour during the summer months.

Origin - Many of the hydrangeas are selected garden cultivars or hybrids from Chinese and Japanese wild species.

Facts - The reason for the amazing long flowering display is due to the very small, often unnoticed flowers, having evolved to increase their attraction to insects by having a surrounding of colourful bracts. These colourful bracts are produced before and remain after the small flowers have finished and therefore the bracts provide a long lasting ornamental display.

The flower colouring of the same individual shrub may vary from blue on acidic to pink on alkaline soils.
Hydrangeas are excellent shrubs for withstanding conditions for planting in ornamental coastal areas.

Callistemon citrinus ( the Bottlebrush ) : July 2008

Planted - 1980's

Location - Situated on a a sunny aspect of the lower grass bank near the Gate House.

Origin - Introduced to Britain in 1788 from E. Australia.

Facts - A medium sized shrub with narrow leaves and beautiful red bottle brush shaped flowers produced at the ends of arching twigs during the summer. The tight clusters of small greenish flowers encircle the twig and the shrub gets its name from the masses of red stamens which resemble a cylindrical bottle brush. The curious cylindrical clusters of persistent woody fruit capsules can be found on second and third year old growth of the branches where in nature they wait for the heat of an Australian bush fire to release their seeds. The botanical latin name of the bottlebrush Callistemon means, calli for beautiful and stemon, a flower stamen.

JUNE - JULY 2008
Cornus kousa var chinensis ( Chinese Dogwood Tree ) : June - July 2008

Planted - 1980's

Location - A number of attractive small dogwood trees occur in the Gwyllt and there are good specimens behind Caffi Glas.

Facts - Botanically there are different kinds of shrubby dogwoods, all with small flowers. One group of small trees includes the amazing ornamental flowering dogwoods which during the summer have colourful floral leaves botanically known as bracts. They are usually cream, pink or rose coloured bracts which help to attract pollinating insects to the central cluster head of very small flowers. Horticulturalists have selected cultivars for improved floral display. Two excellent small trees suitable for a small shaded garden with good moisture retentive soils are Cornus 'Norman Hadden' and Cornus 'Porlock'. These spectacular flowering trees, produce layers of flowers above leafy arching branches which from a distance, resembling tiers of a wedding cake or a fresh covering of creamy snow. The leaf shaped bracts remain colourful during June and July and the central head of small flowers are often followed by edible strawberry like fruits.

Nymphaea 'Fulgens' (the Red Water Lily) : June 2008

Location - The Red Water Lily can be seen during the summer on the lake near the red Chinese Bridge.

Planted - 1990s

Origin - Garden bred cultivar.

Facts - This red flowering cultivar form of the water lily has an attractive floating display of burgundy red flowers and purplish lily pad leaves which provides a dramatic contrast with the more abundant white water lilies on the lake.

Many cultivars of water lilies have been selected or bred for the rich flower colours from white, yellow to reds. Usually the blue flowered water lilies grow in the tropics but in 2008, breeders in Thailand are claiming success with a selection of a hardy blue water lily which they have named Nymphaea 'Siam Blue Hardy'.

The Giant Water Lily can be found in central Brazil, in slow moving or still water areas of the river Amazon. The huge lily pads are 2m wide and the pattern of the strong leaf veins influenced the design of Victorian glasshouses such as Chrystal Palace of the great Exhibition in 1861 and at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The botanists gave the Giant Water Lily a royal latin name of Victoria amazonica being named after Queen Victoria and the amazing Amazon river. The large white flowers close at night, trapping pollinating beetles and if they succeed in their mission, the flowers open the next day blushing rosey red. If you want to see the giant botanical wonder, then travel to the area of Manaus in Brazil or the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the summer.

Aesculus indica ( Indian Horsechestnut ) : June 2008

Planted - Early 1980's

Location - An attractive tree, about 30 years old, on the left side of the main drive next to the Walled garden and nursery, approaching Castell Deudraeth, with the castle on the right. Another younger tree, half the age and size, can be seen in the grounds of the main car park.

Origin - As the species name implies, the tree comes from India and the reason the tree is hardy, is because it grows as a large tree in the mixed forest of high altitude valleys of the western Himalayan mountains, ranging through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and onto Nepal. Therefore, a more apt English name could be " Himalayan Horse-chestnut."
Facts - The Indian Horse-chestnut differs from the common Horse-chestnut in having slender shaped compound palmate leaves, smoother bark and smooth fruits enclosing the conker seeds.

The dramatic flower displays are cylindrical panicles, often known as candles and are pinkish-white with yellow and reddish blotches. The well known Horse-chestnut or Conker Tree originates from Albania and Macedonia and flowers in early spring. The Indian Horse-chestnut extends the flowering season of the genus by flowering in June and July. The last one to flower into August is the Shrubby Horse-chestnut Aesculus paviflora, which is native to S.E. USA, a shrubby specimen of which can be found in the ornamental area near a large magnolia tree beyond the Caffi Glas.

Embothrium coccineum ( Chilean Firebush ) : June 2008

Planted - 1980's

Location - Situated in the ornamental woodland area above the restaurant, up and along the steep steps of the Tree Trail track leading to the Chinese Lake.

Origin - A narrow shrubby evergreen understory tree which occurrs in the forests of the Andean mountains of southern Chile.

Facts - The Chilean Firebush belongs to the PROTEACEAE family of plants predominately from the Southern Hemisphere and are difficult to grow, needing a sheltered but often sunny microclimate in the UK. The name firebush and latin for coccineum means red and the showy trusses of match like flowers are strikingly flame coloured which, from a distance, the small narrow tree appears to glow, as if it's on fire.

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree) : June 2008

Planted - The mature tree is estimated at around 200 years old.

Location -A very large specimen tree dominates the area near the main shops in the upper part of the central Piazza.

Origin - Occurring throughout eastern North America.

Facts - The tulip shaped flowers are greenish yellow with a band of orange markings within and the blooms resemble a small magnolia, to which they are related. During the summer the flowers are not readily seen up at close quarters. Old specimen trees often lack lower limbs and unfortunately flowers are usually produced high up in the crown where they blend with the curious tulip shaped leaves. Also the fast growing tulip tree rarely produces flowers on young trees under 20 years old. An attractive seasonal feature is when the foliage turns buttery gold in autumn. The American Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera was introduced in 1650, hence the occurrence of large old trees in many arboreta and parks. The only other known species is the rare Chinese Tulip Tree Liriodendron chinensis, introduced in 1901 from central China.

Rhododendron 'Polar Bear' : JUNE 2008

Location - A number of mature specimens are near the lakes in the ornamental woodland.

Origin - Garden origin.

Facts - An excellent large white flowered cultivar which extends the rhododendron flowering period into the summer.

Trachycarpus fortunei (the Windmill Palm) : June 2008

Planted: mainly planted by Susan Williams-Ellis in the early 1980s.

Location - Along the Central Piazza and in several locations in the central area of the village. The hardy windmill palm add an imposing exotic feature in the village centre with its mature landscape planting.

Origin - Its exact origin is unknown, but it likely that the Trachycarpus originates from mountainous regions of China.

Facts - Trachycarpus fortunei are dioecious, therefore having male or female trees, which are separate individuals. They have masses of yellow flowers in June and if there are nearby male trees and bees, then the female palm trees can produce an abundance of small purple fruits.

Dipteronia sinensis (the Dipteronia Tree) : June 2008

Planted: mid 1980's

Location: west end of the Temple Lake.

Origin - A rare small deciduous tree from Central China.

Facts - Although lacking an ornamental flower display, the Dipteronia produces insignificant greenish white flowers on a terminal panicle during the summer. It can be considered unusual in its rarity value, as the only other genus in the family ACERACEAE, that is related with the common genus of Acer which are the well known maple and sycamore trees. The identification of Dipteronia sinensis can often baffle the gardening enthusiast and the clues to look for are the opposite buds or compound leaves and the interesting winged fruit in the autumn.

Echium pininana ( the Giant Echium) : June 2008

Planted: early 1990s

Location: beds between Anchor and the main Hotel, beds by Chantry Row and the Dome.

Location - The gardening staff, who measured the giant echiums near the hotel overlooking the estuary, found the tallest reaching 5.79m (19'). Perhaps this is a record height in the UK for this year. Most of the gardening information written about giant echiums indicates the usual height of up to 4 meters.

Origin: Native to La Palma, Canary Islands

Facts: Self-seeding

Also known as Pride of Tenerife, Tower of Jewels, Giant Viper's Bugloss the Giant Echium is endemic to La Palma where it is a highly threatened species in the mountainous laurel cloud forest. The rosette of large leaves are attractive even as a non-flowering plant. Its huge inflorescence may reach over 4m in height when grown in mild areas. It requires a partially shaded spot and always moist, slightly peaty, yet well drained soil. Flowers within 4 years. An extremely rare and noble plant bearing a magnificent inflorescence which, in its native Canary Islands, can tower to over 12 ft. The countless individual flowers are blue. This is probably the hardiest of the Canary Echiums and is grown outside in several places in this country. Monocarpic.

Azalea Walk : June 2008

Planted: early 1990s onwards

Location: Gwyllt

Origin: Japan and China plus hybrids

Azaleas are flowering shrubs making up part of the genus Rhododendron. Originally azaleas were classed as a different genus of plant, but now they are recognised as two of the eight sub-genera of rhododendrons - subgenus Pentanthera (deciduous), and subgenus Titsushi (evergreen). Rhododendrons grow their flowers in stripers, while most azaleas have terminal blooms (one flower per flower stem). However, they have so many stems that during the flowering season they are a solid mass of colour. Azaleas are recognised by these flowers blooming all at once, in a showy display for a month or two in spring.

The Azalea walk features -

Rhododendron mucronatum (The snow azalea)
This has Chinese ancestry but in not found in the wild. It is commonly used for ornamental pruning, grows 6 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. It is hardy to Zone 5, -15 F. Its many branches are densely covered with oval evergreen leaves, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, matted with hairs. It's fragrant white flowers, 1 to 3 inches wide, often bloom in pairs and may be stained with green, lilac or pink at the base, depending on the variety.

Rhododendron 'Johanna',
known as Japanese azalea 'Johanna', Azalea japonica 'Johanna' (Genus: Rhododendron, Variety or Cultivar: 'Johanna', a compact, evergreen shrub with small, glossy, dark green leaves and carmine-red flowers in late spring.

Rhododendron hybrid (Louise Dowdle Glen Dale Azalea)
Compact evergreen azalea developed primarily for cold hardiness along the mid Atlantic States. Flowers are surprisingly large and showy, magenta with red marks in throat, funnel-shaped, to 3 inches long. Bloom time is late April in warmer areas, and as late as early June where climate is cooler. Growth habit is dense, to 3 feet tall and wide. Plant as you would any of the other azaleas: high and in well-drained, acid soil, rich with organic matter. Filtered light is best. Though azaleas have a potentially large list of possible pest and disease problems, they are usually trouble free if planted correctly in proper cultural conditions.

Rhododendron (Azalea) Squirrel

Planted: early 1990s

Location - Below Castle Rock

Facts: it has bright scarlet flowers. A dwarf azalea, compact and very hardy.

Crinodendron hookerianum (the Lantern Tree) : June 2008

Planted - Mid 1990s

Location - Border Path and area around the Dog Cemetery

Origin: Native to Chile (temperate zone)

Also known as the Lantern Tree it has long stalked crimson lanterns hang thickly along branches in May / June. Introduced to UK by William Lobb in 1848 from Chile. Prefers growing in partially shaded areas. The flower stalks appear in autumn, but do not flower until May. It is native to the south of Chile and can reach up to 30 ft (9 m) tall in its native area. Evergreen leaves, alternate, oblong to lanceolate, 1-3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) long, dark-green on the upper side, pale-green on the underside.

Flowers are axillary bell-shaped and pendant flowers. They are red, unscented, and solitary or grouped in pairs. They appear from mid-spring to late-summer. The fruit is an inedible capsule that splits open when ripe. A temperate climate plant that performs best under somewhat acidic soil conditions.

Puya chilensis : May 2008

Planted - 1992

Location - Telfords Tower garden

Native of Chile

Facts: A genus of South American plants of the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae), Puya chilensis, rare in the UK, is a terrestrial bromeliad originating from the arid hillsides of Chile. An evergreen perennial it forms large, dense rosettes of grey-green, strap like leaves edged with hooked spines. The green-yellow flowers are born on spikes up to 2 m high and which resemble a medieval mace. Spreading by offsets; over time Puya chilensis can colonise large areas. Growth is slow and plants may take twenty years or more to flower.

This specimen was planted by Philip Brown from seeds gathered in Tresco. Portmeirion's Puya chilensis has just flowered.

Puya chilensis is easily raised from seed and when young can make a fine house plant. If grown outside it is able to withstand light frosts and may even survive brief overnight temperatures as low as minus five degrees Celsius.

Puya chilensis requires a well drained, lime free soil. It is drought tolerant but will appreciate plenty of water during the summer months. It is susceptible to rotting during winter if too wet. It will tolerate some shade but is best grown in full sun.

Acradenia frankliniae (Whitey-wood tree): May 2008

Date Planted: 1995

Location: Central Piazza

Native of: Tasmania

Facts: Acradenia frankliniae the "Whitey-wood tree" is a rare shrubby evergeen tree from Tasmania. The masses of small white flowers are produced in early May and can be seen on the dense narrowly shaped shrubby tree by the main archway entrance in the walled area in the centre of Portmierion village.

In winter, it may be an identification challenge for the botanically interested visitor, to name the rare specimen which is unusual in having small trifoliate opposite leaves which are pungent when crushed. The latter being typical of its family Rutaceae.

Whitey wood (Acradenia frankliniae) is a magnificent endemic shrub/tree from the Citrus family (Rutaceae) . It has robust deep glossy trifoliate leaves and brilliant white blooms. A diagnostic feature are the interesting glands on the ovule.

Acradenia frankliniae is a one of two species of Acradenia. The other species Acradenia euodiiformis is native to New South Wales.  Acradenai franliniae is native to western areas of Tasmania where Whitey wood naturally occurs.

Elizabeth Magnolia : May 2008

Date Planted: 1990

Location: Cliff House

Native of: USA

Facts: Evamaria Sperber planted a newly hybridized seed in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1957. As it was seed-grown it took until 1972 for the first flowers. 5 years later Ms Sperber had it patented (US PP4145), naming it in honour of the director and benefactor of the Garden, Elizabeth van Brunt. It is a cross between magnolia acuminata and magnolia denudata.

The flowers are rich primrose to butter yellow, location and conditions pending, with light green shades on the exterior towards the bottom of the calyxes. Freshly unfolded from the buds, they sit on bare branches strictly upright for a day or two and they open wide showing rich yellow stamens in the centre. The petals are 5-7 cm long, oval with rounded tips, slightly undulate. Open wide the flowers are up to 8 cm in diameter. Grafted plants bloom in the 2nd or 3rd year.

Deciduous leaves are obovate, quite sizeable, 12-23 cm long and 7-10 cm wide. They are fresh green from spring till autumn when they turn yellow or yellowish-brown and fall down soon. The shrub grows in pyramidal shape and can be 4-5m tall and probably half of that in wide in 20 years.

Gunnera manicata : May 2008

Date Planted: 1960 - 1980

Location: Several - pool by Caffi Glas, Temple Pond, Shelter Valley

Native of: Brazil (Serra do Mar mountains)

Facts: Gunnera is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants, some of them gigantic. The genus is the only member of the family Gunneraceae. Gunnera manicata, native to the Serra do Mar mountains of southeastern Brazil, is the largest species, with leaves typically 1.5-2 m (5-6 ft) wide, but exceptionally long, up to 3.4 m (11 ft), borne on thick, succulent leaf stalks (petioles) up to 2.5 m (8 ft) long. It germinates best in very moist, but not wet, conditions and temperatures of 22 to 29 °C.

Commonly known as "giant rhubarb" it is an ornamental plant in the Gunneraceae family. The underside of the leaf and the whole stalk have spikes on them. The leaves of Gunnera grow to an impressive size. Leaves with diameters well in excess of four feet are commonplace. This plant grows best in damp conditions eg by the side of garden ponds. Flowering period: July to August.

April 2008 : Puya chilensis

Planted - 1992

Location - Telfords Tower garden

Native of Chile

Fact: Yellow flowers. Very rare in the U.K.

Genus of South American plants of the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae) that contains about 120 species, including the tallest bromeliads. P. gigas (P. raimondii), native to northern South America, grows to more than 10 m (about 33 feet) tall and forms a flower stalk nearly 5.4 m tall.

Most species grow on the cool, dry, stony slopes of the Andes mountains. The stems are rather thick and woody. The stiff, spiny-edged leaves are long and narrow and grow in a dense rosette. Several species, such as P. alpestris and P. chilensis, are cultivated indoors as decorative plants. The leaves of P. chilensis are the source of a fibre sometimes used to make fishing nets.

Puya chilensis, is a terrestrial bromeliad originating from the arid hillsides of Chile. An evergreen perennial it forms large, dense rosettes of grey-green, strap like leaves edged with hooked spines. The green-yellow flowers are born on spikes up to 2 m high and which resemble a medieval mace. Spreading by offsets; over time Puya chilensis can colonise large areas. Growth is slow and plants may take twenty years or more to flower. Leaf spines point inward as well as outward and have been known to trap birds and small animals. Unable to escape the victim dies of starvation and its body's decay then provides additional nutrients to the Puya.

This year the puya chilensis at Portmeirion is about to flower - it is a yellow flowering plant.

A Puya alpestris that flowered here in April 2007 was a blue flowered specimen - see photo.

April 2008 : Magnolia campbelli

Planted - 1950s

Location  - Behind Caffi Glas

Native of Nepal / Bhutan

Facts - Flowers before leaves, and last 3 weeks if no frost.

Campbell's Magnolia (Magnolia campbellii) is a species of Magnolia that grows in sheltered valleys in the Himalaya from eastern Nepal, Sikkim and Assam east to southwestern China (southern Xizang, Yunnan, southern Sichuan) and south to northern Myanmar.

It is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree growing to 30 m, rarely to 45 m, tall, with smooth grey bark. The leaves are 10-23 cm (rarely to 33 cm) long and 4.5-10 cm (rarely to 14 cm) broad, fuzzy underneath and with an acute apex. The flowers are very large, 15-25 cm (rarely 35 cm) diameter, with 12-16 petals, which vary from white to dark pink. They appear very early, before the leaves, opening from late winter to early spring. After opening, the innermost tepals remain erect while the others spread widely. This arrangement may shelter the stamens and stigmas from rain, snow, and other harsh environmental conditions common during their very early flowering time period.

There are two varieties:

  • Magnolia campbellii var. campbellii. Western part of the species' range, in the Himalaya. Shoots and flower stalks thinly hairy.
  • Magnolia campbellii var. mollicomata. Eastern part of the species' range, in Yunnan and surrounding areas. Shoots more densely hairy, flower stalks thickly felted.

Cultivation - It is grown as an ornamental tree for its spectacular flowers, though successful flowering is limited to mild areas with no late spring frosts; var. mollicomata flowers slightly later and is less likely to have its flowers frost-damaged. Young trees take a long time to reach flowering age and need deep, moist soil and a mild, sheltered site. Several cultivars have been named, including 'Alba' (white flowers), 'Charles Raffil' (bright purple-pink flowers; starts flowering on younger trees), and 'Strybing White' (white flowers). A number of hybrids with other Magnolias have also been developed.

April 2008 : Rhododendron 'Fragrantissimum'

Planted - 1980s

Location - Piazza

Native of China / Japan

Fact: Very scented. White flushed rose flower.

Rhododendron cv. Fragrantissimum is a primary hybrid raised before 1868 using the species Rhododendron edgeworthii and Rhododendron formosum.'Fragrantissimum' an evergreen shrub. March-April flowering. Large white flowers with a flush of pink. Very fragrant. 1m x 1m. Acid to neutral, humus-rich, moist, well drained soil. Sun or partial shade.

April 2008 : Rhododendron macabeanum

Planted: 1920s

Location: behind Caffi Glas

Native of Manipur

Facts: Flowers for 6 weeks. One of Kingdom Wards' introductions. Planted at Portmeirion by Caton Haig

General aspect and origins - Rhododendron macabeanum is a rhododendron of the section Ponticum, which is native to Northeastern India. This is a shrub or a small tree, which has a relatively erect aspect, and which is most interesting for semi-shaded and shaded expositions.
Leaves - The leaves are evergreen, glossy dark green and are up to 12-16 in, (30-45cm) with a white indumentum on the lower side. The new leaves are light grey-green and are bordered with colored bracts.

Flowers - Flowers are pale yellow to bright yellow, with red traces. They bloom in early to mid-spring.

April 2008 : "Tree Fern" Dicksonia antartica

Planted 1980s

Location - Many areas of the Gwyllt.

Native of Eastern Australia and Tasmania

Facts - Can grow up to 20' in height. New fronds open in early April.

Dicksonia is a genus of tree ferns in the order Cyatheales. It is regarded as related to Cyathea, but is considered more primitive, dating back at least to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The fossil record includes stems, pinnules, and spores.

The genus contains 20-25 species, distributed from Mexico to Uruguay and Chile, St. Helena, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. New Guinea has the greatest diversity, with five species.

The most widely cultivated species of Dicksonia is the Soft Tree Fern (D. Antarctica).

The genus was first described by Charles Louis L'Héritier de Brutelle in 1788. The name honors James Dickson, a prominent nurseryman and botanist.

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