There was great excitement this week in the gardens team when we received a parcel of young Vireyas, a little sub-group within the Rhododendron genus. These charming little plants are most at home in the cool wet Montaigne forests of tropical south-east Asia. (See photo below of their native habitat).
They normally grow as epiphytes in the forks of trees and on mossy logs, having very similar growing requirements to orchids, which they quite often grow alongside. These young plants will hopefully become the foundation of a new collection of Vireyas here at Exbury, (many of which are critically endangered in their native habitats). The main concentration of Vireyas are found throughout Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and one species even strays into Northern Australia growing solely on one mountain near Darwin.
Exbury once had an extensive collection of Vireyas but due to their complex growing requirements they have dwindled. As they are notoriously difficult to grow we favour a mixture of vermiculite, compost and bark (like an orchid mix), to recreate their natural habitat. We also use terracotta pots as these keep the roots cooler and aerated. See the photos left and right of some of the Vireyas we still have.
Although the spring display that Exbury is so rightly famous for is starting to wane, there are plenty of late rhododendrons yet to flower and I hope talk about these in another post later in the year.
The preparations are well on the way for the summer display of herbaceous perennials which over the last few years we have made a real effort to increase and enhance. The borders have been weeded and mulched by our fantastic team of volunteers. Half-hardy perennials such as osteospermum, salvia, penstemon and of course dahlias were all lovingly propagated in Oct and over wintered in the glasshouse. For the last few weeks they have been hardened off in our cold frames and are now being brought out to populate the borders.
Here our herbaceous expert Linda is carefully planting up the sundial garden which in a month's time will be a riot of colour.
Early summer is also a good time to start taking cuttings especially with shrubs that come into growth early in the spring such as Rhododendron 'Tyermanii'. The advantage of taking cuttings early is that if at first you don't succeed you have time to try again, indeed up until early Sept. The biggest risk to the failure of cuttings is drying out, so we always use a wooden box with a plastic lid to maintain humidity, failing that a cheap covered propagator or even a plastic bag will do the same job.
In order to compliment our historic collection of rhododendrons Exbury has planted a wide variety of later flowering trees. With this in mind our collection of dogwoods, or Cornus, are starting to come into their own. These plants come from the temperate regions of the world, North America, Europe including UK, (Cornus mas), and eastwards as far as Korea and Japan. They do particularly well here at Exbury and make a lovely addition to the visit.