'WORLD'S SMALLEST BOTANICAL GARDEN BLOG' - Kohli Memorial

Welcome to my fourth blog. Following the re-start of the Himalayan Plant Association in 2016, it is time to restore the KOHLI MEMORIAL HIMALAYAN GARDEN - which operated as the world's smallest botanical garden (approximately 15m x 6m in the rare section; 11m x 7m in the front section) for a period of some 20 years from the early 1990s, housed within the garden of a modest semi-detached house (built in the early 1960s) on the outskirts of Slough (not far from Heathrow and Windsor)!  Ultimately, the intention is to make it into an accessible, albeit very small, display garden on behalf of the Himalayan Plant Association and as a reference source for genuine Himalayan material.  This will enable photographs and pressed specimens to be taken to enhance Chris Chadwell's REFERENCE collection of HIMALAYAN FLORA helping IMPROVE the reliability of IDENTIFICATION of species in the Himalaya and our gardens) - setting an example for others, including large botanic gardens, to follow!  Unless plants are ACCURATELY and RELIABLY identified, whether in the wild or cultivation it is IMPOSSIBLE to conserve them!  As things currently stand, a significant proportion of plants in the Himalaya and 'Himalayan' specimens in cultivation are misidentified.

The entries about the Kohli Memorial 'Himalayan' Garden, appear in reverse chronological order (for germination results see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/germination-experiments

3rd August 2018 -  Re-potting Inula seedlings growing in a clump, ideal for a drought!

Pot of Inula seedlings near bursting point © Chris Chadwell

Root system bursting out of pot - making it clear re-potting is required © Chris Chadwell

This certainly counted as being 'pot-bound'! © Chris Chadwell

Side-view © Chris Chadwell



Clump of seedlings placed in centre of pot, undisturbed. © Chris Chadwell

Firmed in and all set to go - I have successfully used this method for decades now but the drought conditions in the UK have got me thinking and it makes sense that under such harsh circumstances the survival rate will be much higher compared with lots of pricked out seedlings. The clump of seedlings will still be there next year but many of the pricked out ones would have expired.  The method is worth considering during a normal year, even more so when exceptionally dry.  In case anyone is thinking but surely the root systems are will be all entangled next year -this is not a problem as they become stronger and more easily separated when time comes to separate them or just plant out as a clump © Chris Chadwell


1st August 2018 -  Seedlings of Arisaemas (Himalayan Cobra-lilies) flourishing in clumps!

Seeds are traditionally sown spaced apart to allow room to grow - at least that is the way my Late Uncle Douglas Chalk (a RHS Wisley-trained Horticultural Adviser) taught Chris Chadwell when Chris spent some of his teenage summers at his Heather & Hebe nursery in Somerset in the mid-1970s. But Chris has always been one not to follow the rules and saw no reason why he could not achieve success with most of his seed by sowing thickly - and as you can see from the above shot of Arisaema tortuosum and two images below taken by his youngest son (currently studying Human Sciences at University College, London), the approach works well for Arisaemas originating in the Himalaya!  After all, seed is seldom neatly spread out 16cm apart in the wild.                © Joe Chadwell

Chris Chadwell amongst pots of Arisaema seedlings in the back section of his garden © Joe Chadwell


Chris Chadwell amongst pots of Arisaema seedlings in the back section of his garden © Joe Chadwell


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19th July 2018 -  Leaf-cutter bees at large .....

Evidence that leaf-cutter bees have been in action on the leaves of Acer cappadocium. I first noticed the handywork of leaf-cutters at the nursery of my late Uncle Douglas Chalk in Somerset (see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/douglas-chalk-horticultural-adviser-nurseryman-ndh) © Chris Chadwell

I have yet to observe the bees in action in the Kohli Memorial Garden but my eldest son, on a short visit from Japan, where he mostly works as a teacher, did notice them and was taken aback - not knowing that such insects existed. © Chris Chadwell

For further details about leaf-cutter bees, see: https://sites.google.com/site/natureguideuk/home/bees/megachilehttp://nurturing-nature.co.uk/wildlife-garden-videos/leaf-cutter-bees-harmless-useful-and-often-neglected-pollinator/; https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/making-a-home-for-leaf-cutter-bees/ © Chris Chadwell

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23rd June 2018 -  Himalayan Creeper (Parthenocissus semicordata)

Parthenocissus himalayana getting carried away on the back of our house compare with images from 15th may below - certainly as vigorous as 'Virginia Creeper' © Chris Chadwell

Parthenocissus himalayana getting carried away on the back of our house compare with images from 15th may below - certainly as vigorous as 'Virginia Creeper' © Chris Chadwell

Stylish leaf   © Chris Chadwell

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13th June 2018 -  Anagallis arvensis

'Scarlet Pimpernel' (Anagallis arvensis) - you might be wondering why I am posting images of a weed from the garden, a UK native, which appeared in the ground beside a Cupressus torulosa transplanted from the rear to the front section of the garden (this plant likes disturbed ground, of which there is plenty, as I have no lawn.  Well, being able to obtain a set of photos of this plant, is helping my digital photographic guides to the flora of the NW Himalaya (see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/digital-photographic-guides-to-wild-flowers-of-kashmir-ladakh-lahaul-himachal-Pradesh).  I don't have any photos to use of this species taken in the Himalaya.  Not keen on using photos taken in the UK, which may, when the genus is studied further, might prove to be a different species.  But better than no images at all. © Chris Chadwell

'Scarlet Pimpernel' (Anagallis arvensis) - note the undersides of the leaves are dotted with black glands © Chris Chadwell

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12th June 2018 -  Rosa brunonii

'Himalayan Musk Rose' (Rosa brunonii) in the evening in the front section of the garden - very popular with bees; at present I have removed the net curtains (waiting to continue decorating) on the large front window, which has provided a fine view of this rose and the 'Himalayan Indigo Bush' (Indigofera heterantha) which despite a sever pruning, is starting to produce, in addition to new growth of foliage, a few flower spikes; there is also 'Himalayan Pear', which also was subjected to an extreme pruning/cutting back but has produced some ornamental foliage - this has flowered and fruited in previous years but the trunk must reach a certain height before the blooms and thus pears put in an appearance, which require a ladder to reach © Chris Chadwell

'Himalayan Musk Rose' (Rosa brunonii) in the evening in the front section of the garden. By having these cultivated specimens to embrace and familiarise myself with, at the flowering, then fruiting stage, I build up an unrivalled knowledge of Himalayan flora.  Most botanists, especially in India, spend little time "in the field", seldom visit botanic gardens where Himalayan plants are grown, so rely upon DEAD dried, pressed specimens - and those in Indian herbaria are either a century or so old (often in poor shape) or poor quality.  It is hardly surprising that botanical works produced by Indian botanists are of such a poor standard.  As for the potential of digital photography.  This is great but evidence on efloraofIndia suggests very few Indian botanists have mastered cameras and limit themselves to insufficient numbers of images per plant, often out-of-focus and failing to show diagnostic characteristics.  I tried to improve the situation but was 'banging my head against a brick wall', so resigned, to focus on my digital floras and this web-site. © Chris Chadwell

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1st June 2018 -  Geranium himalayense, Iris crocea

An outstanding colour variant of Geranium himalayense growing in the front section of the garden - copes well with exposed, sunny conditions due to typically originating in the borderlands of Western Tibet (I think the specific epiphet - species name, does not fit on this occasion) © Chris Chadwell

Undersides of petals and sepals of Geranium himalayense © Chris Chadwell

Rounded outline of upper surface of typical leaf of  Geranium himalayense © Chris Chadwell

Under surface of typical leaf of  Geranium himalayense © Chris Chadwell

Most gardeners and botanists neglect to photograph the stipules of Geraniums, which is a serious omission as the size and shape of these can be characteristic (on previous occasions I have posted images of the distinctive, large, semi-circular stipules of G.wallichianum.  This species, Geranium himalayense, has much smaller stipules - note also the glandular hairy leaf-stalks. © Chris Chadwell

'Golden-yellow Kashmir Iris' (Iris crocea) in bud  © Chris Chadwell

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29th May 2018 -  'Himalayan Musk Rose' [Rosa brunonii]

The climbing 'Himalayan Musk Rose' (Rosa brunonii) up against the front wall/window of my house and our porch - the fragrant creamy-white are usually at their peak during first week of June, so these are a few days early, probably encouraged by ample rain and warm sunny conditions of late © Chris Chadwell

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28th May 2018 -  Potentilla atrosanguinea

Potentilla atrosanguinea 'Chadwell's Velvet' ex Growild Nursery - upper surface of flowers; this species is highly variable with flower colour from yellow, orange or dark red. When I began exploring in the Himalaya, the yellow-flowered forms were considered a separate species (P.argyrophylla). The genus Potentilla has numerous stamens, which are darker coloured in this variant. © Chris Chadwell

Delightful under-surface of flower showing well the 5-lobed calyx and perpendicular epicalyx; it is so important to inspect the under-surface of both flowers and foliage, as it can provide diagnostic characteristics or supporting evidence to confirm and identification.  The species has a distribution from Afghanistan to Sikkim but the variety atrosanguinea (which in Latin means blood-red) has not been recorded from the Eastern Himalaya © Chris Chadwell

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15th May 2018 - Himalayan Creeper (Parthenocissus semicordata)

Parthenocissus semicordata climbing up the rear of my house - some wooden panelling painted black, having been planted as a very short 'sapling' at the base of an exterior drainage pipe, in the early 1990s.  It has been severely pruned back several times.  In the past it reached under tiles, into our 'attic' and up the tiles themselves.  For a while we allowed branches to extend through upstairs windows © Chris Chadwell


Coming into healthy growth after recovering from the most recent severe pruning

Attractive bronze colouration to young foliage

Upper surface of trifoliate leaflet.

Lower surface of leaflet

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9th May 2018 - Chris' office in the living room of his modest house

The living room window with net-curtain removed, allowing bright light to enter and for me, from my office desk (housed by the TV) to enjoy fresh growth of Pyrus nepalensis and Rosa brunonii (flowers in bud).  This makes a pleasant change from having the thick curtains drawn most of the time, giving the impression of a prison. © Chris Chadwell  I can also keep a look-out for miscreants which include a Royal Mail post lady who takes a short cut across my front garden (not possible for most houses in this street) and perhaps the culprit who pulled up a specimen of Jasminum humile last year! © Chris Chadwell

When my parents bought this property in 1980, there was a secondary school opposite, which became an extension to Langley College and finally Langley Leisure Centure - which to be fair is quiet most of the time and was preferable to the alternatives.  It has been undergoing a drawn-out refurbishment since last year; seems inevitable to miss the dead-line for completion this summer.  There is a busy dual carriage-way between my house and the Centre but despite being just 7km from Heathrow, we are not (at present, who knows when the additional runway is built) subjected to the awful aircraft noise, as is the case in Datchet - where there are some fine detached properties but virtually impossible to sit in their gardens.  © Chris Chadwell

A giant crane brought in for the day (I wonder what the daily hire rate is).  © Chris Chadwell

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5th May 2018 - Viburnum cotinifolium & a hedgehog!


Viburnum cotinifolium in flower - I have raised plants of this shrub before but most struggle to develop to the flowering stage; none produced fruit. This specimen, which I photographed previously, has been given more space, sun and freedom, following extreme pruning of surrounding Rosa brunonii, Spiraea canescens and Clematis montana. Hopefully it will peform better.  © Chris Chadwell

Viburnum cotinifolium - a closer view  © Chris Chadwell


I have been busy treating the fencing panels in the rear section of the garden with preservative - their quality is disappointing, made worse by the attentions of large birds like pigeons and jackdaws, which not only poop making unsightly white stains but damage the tops with their beaks.  Happy that my neighbour attracts birds to their garden by bird feeders but prefer the small species, not the 'big' ones including starlings which appear en masse.
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20th April 2018 - Clematis & Star Tulip

Closed flower of the 'Star Tulip' (Tulipa stellata), which, appropriately, arrived as a bulb (with necessary phytosanitary certificate) from P.Kohli & Co., back in 1989 - this is the last remaining bulb, which has never set seed; Prem Nath Kohli was writing about plant conservation issues as far back as the 1920s, long before it was fashionable to do so, setting an example by growing Kashmir bulbs (and many other Himalayan plants) at his nurseries, rather than selling wild-collected material, as was the problem with bulbs collected in Turkey and sold in UK garden centres in the past © Chris Chadwell

Tangled stems of Clematis montana which can reach 10m or more up trees; one should bear in mind when planting cultivars of this climber that they are not accustomed to the confines of a garden trellis.  © Chris Chadwell

Flower-buds and young foliage of Clematis montana; presumably due to cold snaps, flowering is a month behind that in 2017 © Chris Chadwell

Unfolding foliage of a tall shrub which has reach quite a height in the rear section of the garden but is yet to flower; its identity is yet to be determined - could it be a Zanthoxylum? © Chris Chadwell


20th April 2018 - seedlings in pots


Seedlings of Arisaema consanguineum HPA 1337, re-emerging above surface; originally sown 7th April 2017  © Chris Chadwell

Seedlings of Arisaema consanguineum HPA 1337, re-emerging above surface; originally sown 7th April 2017 © Chris Chadwell


Two seedlings emerging for the first time above the surface; originally sown 7th April 2017 © Chris Chadwell


Seedlings of Inula racemosa; originally sown 7th April 2017 - larger ones sprouted during 2017, many more just appearing © Chris Chadwell

Seedlings of Cortia wallichiana; originally sown 2nd August 2017, they sprouted rapidly and stayed green through the winter © Chris Chadwell  According to 'The Plant list', this is an unresolved name.  I can find no mention in 'Flora of Bhutan', which includes Sikkim & Darjeeling; the seedlings were raised from Berlin Botanic Garden Index Seminum (2480) seed gathered from specimens raised from seed originally collected at Ghoom, Darjeeling (which is along the route of the famous Darjeeling steam railway) @ 2200m.  I shall endeavour to raise these to flowering, take close-up images and see if they can be identified - one of the advantages of growing plants of known provenance, is that having live specimens provide invaluable reference material for taxonomists to study, which is often better than pressed, dried ones, which is what one has to work with in herbaria.

There are images on the internet under this name: http://www.asianflora.com/Apiaceae/Cortia-wallichiana.htm; https://www.gaertnerei-staudenspatz.de/onlineshop/Cortia-wallichiana--alt--Selinum-wallichianum--Himalaya-Silge-.html?language=de; https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22Cortia+wallichiana%22&tbm=isch&gws_rd=ssl#gws_rd=ssl&imgrc=a-fg96tCGq87_M:&spf=1524282086235

One of these gives Selinum wallichianum (DC.) Raizadae & Saxena as a synonym - which 'Flora of Bhutan' records from open, well-drained rough grassland, yak pasture, tracksides, in coniferous forest clearings, scrubland etc. @ 2300-4000m incl. Darjeeling, which fits with the origins of this introduction (Ern 3411).

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10th April 2018 - spring flowerings of non-Himalayan 'weeds' in the front
section of the garden + 'Tibetan' Rhubarb.

Young growth of Rheum tibeticum 'Tibetan Rhubarb' beside my walking-stick.  Rheums are under-rated ornamentally due to the culinary uses of cultivated Rhubarb. © Chris Chadwell

The crinkled reddish young leaves of Rheum tibeticum - which is growing fine amongst the lesser celandine and garden grape hyacinth. It was raised from seed supplied from the Index Seminum of Berlin Botanic Garden, some 20 years ago, if my memory serves me correctly.  In the current list this species is given the reference number of 1775, originally collected in the Swat Division of the North-West Frontier Province @ 3500m. As the late Geoff Hamilton kept saying when filming for the BBC, "Well Chris, its growing well in Slough isn't it". © Chris Chadwell


Undersides of the crinkled reddish young leaves of Rheum tibeticum. © Chris Chadwell


The front section of the garden (yes, it is only housed in the 'grounds' of a modest semi-detached house, so must make it the world's smallest botanical garden (or at least my intention is to get it back to function as such, which was the case when BBC 'Gardeners' World' filmed here in the mid-1990s). Yes, it is very small, a visiting American described it as 'Postage-stamp-sized'..... © Chris Chadwell

I am 'guilty' of introducing Ranunculus ficaria from a copse up the world and as expected has become invasive!  The 'Garden Grape-Hyacinth' (Muscari armeniacum) arrived by itself - it is found in neighbours' garden and in gardens in nearby streets.  It would be virtually impossible to eradicate, short of removing all the topsoil and starting again but would immediately spread vegetatively and by seed; it is also found in churchyards, roadsides & hedgebanks. Maycock & Woods in 'A checklist of the plants of Buckinghamshire' (2005) adjudged it to be uncommon but increasing - it certainly is around Langley.  The gardeners amongst you may be aghast, whilst the non-gardeners might consider that one day the whole of the front section of this garden will be nothing but these two, highly successful and competitive invasive species (one native, one not)!  In the mean-time, they surely will damage the other plants.  Far from it and could even be beneficial.  Later in the year their above ground parts will have died off down to the tubers or bulbs and not be visible.

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4th April 2018 - first transplantings of the year


Cupressus torulosa with root system © Chris Chadwell


'West Himalayan Spruce' (Picea smithiana) © Chris Chadwell


'West Himalayan Fir' (Abies pindrow) © Chris Chadwell


Root system of a pot-bound Berberis sp. © Chris Chadwell

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SEED  SOWING

Most gardeners will have sown all their seed by the end of March, as when the temperatures rise and the weather improves, there are many jobs to do. However, one can get perfectly good results sowing later. Over the years, Chris has sown during April, May and even into early June, with perfectly satisfactory results - although if circumstances permit, he would probably sown in March or February.  Most of the seed he sows, whether from the Himalaya, Japan or other regions of the world, have, once stored dry during autumn and winter months, have no chilling requirement. He does not recommend sowing later than early June, as this presents additional challenges due to warm to hot temperatures and if a good one, little rain, so extra watering is required and if seedlings appear, when first sprouted, can suffer from drought plus seedlings need to reach a certain size/stage of development to cope with their first winter.

1st April 2018 - first seed sowing of the year


Pots of sown & labelled seed in the rear section of the Kohli Memorial Himalayan Botanical Garden - items from the 2018 Himalayan Plant Association Seed Exchange (to test viability of each item from the world's highest quality exchange). © Chris Chadwell

Chris' work bench with seed, pots, labels, pencil, horticultural grit & compost. © Chris Chadwell

Moist compost mix. © Chris Chadwell

Horticultural grit which is added once seed is sown onto the compost to deter growth of algae & mosses - and enables the observer to spot first signs of germination more easily. © Chris Chadwell

Plastic labels - marked with a pencil, which lasts for years, longer than the labels themselves, which colour and become brittle. © Chris Chadwell

Plastic pots with square bases, which is better for root growth than circular ones. © Chris Chadwell


Large globular Arisaema seeds before grit is placed over. © Chris Chadwell


Pots of sown seed, the one at the front is an Arisaema with a Himalayan plant Association Seed Exchange Reference Number. © Chris Chadwell


Cotoneaster seed. © Chris Chadwell


Piptanthus seed. © Chris Chadwell


Pots of sown seed © Chris Chadwell

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27th March 2018 - first flowering of the year


Flowers of BERGENIA PACUMBIS just coming into flower (a little later than usual due cold snaps experienced this year) - previously known as BERGENIA  CILIATA forma  LIGULATA, BERGENIA  HIMALAICA and B. LIGULATA - prior to that, in Hooker's 'Flora of British India' SAXIFRAGA LIGULATA.  No doubt some gardeners not keen on Latin plant names will be saying, why can't these botanists make their minds up!  In the defence of plant taxonomists, most of their changes are for sound reasons (though sometimes their is disagreement) or the correction of mistakes made because of independent figures not following the rules of nomenclature. © Chris Chadwell


Flowers of BERGENIA PACUMBIS just coming into flower (a little later than usual due cold snaps experienced this year) -
see caption for image above for further details. © Chris Chadwell

BERGENIA PACUMBIS labelled as BERGENIA LIGULATA (correctly identified but out-of-date nomenclature) in the Nehru Botanical Garden, Kashmir.
© Chris Chadwell

The accompanying sign providing information to visitors about the medicinal uses of this plant. © Chris Chadwell

BERGENIA PACUMBIS being cultivated as an ornamental plant in a private garden in Kashmir. © Chris Chadwell
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24th March 2018 - seedlings

 Seedlings of Polemonium  caeruleum  subsp.  himalayanum. © Chris Chadwell

 Root systems of seedlings of Polemonium  caeruleum  subsp.  himalayanum - clearly, in need of re-potting! © Chris Chadwell

 Seedlings of Bergenia  stracheyi obtained from Berlin Botanic Garden (sown summer 2017); Reference: 262, 2211, IN-0-B-2701481. © Chris Chadwell

Originally collected by Oleg Polunin at Karnag, Himachal Pradesh. Did Oleg have official permission in advance at a government level for collection of seed?  I doubt it.  Does this mean his reputation should be tarnished?  Of course not.  He also collected seed for shareholders during one of his visits to Kashmir - this financial support helped meet travel and other costs. Without such visits and the fine photos which resulted, 'Flowers of the Himalaya' would not have been produced.  The content is of a high standard because of Polunin's field expertise.  His co-author, Adam Stainton, happened to have a private income, so did not need to raise funds or led botanical tours (Polunin led a number of these, which also provided the opportunity for him to take photos).  No Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis or any others have published such a book.  The widespread belief that ALL British people are multimillionaires amongst both Indias poor and indeed wealthy, needs to be exposed as the myth it is.  Western interest in cultivating Himalayan plants has helped stimulate and fund plant exploration in the Indian and Nepalese Himalaya.  It was NOT botanical curiosity which led to funding two major expeditions into Nepal in the 1950s (which continue to form a basis of almost all studies on Nepalese flora) but interest amongst specialist gardeners in gaining access to species of Primula, Meconopsis, Rhododendron and other genera, not in cultivation at that time.  Nepalese and Indian people should be grateful for the contribution of such amateurs and those who undertook the collecting.  So much has been put back, scientifically, as a result.  The recent rules, regulations and laws are DAMAGING the study and conservation of Himalayan flora, rather than protecting it!  It is high time senior figures stood up and told the truth about this nonsense.  Those pretending to be concerned about conservation, shedding crocodile tears, should be ashamed of themselves.  Chris Chadwell should be commended for his hard-won expertise, bearing in mind the sacrifices involved, no attacked by ill-informed, tabloid-level journalists, who could not care less about the plants, environment or peoples of the Himalaya..... This is the TRUTH.

Under-sides of leaves of Quercus sp. © Chris Chadwell

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17th January 2018 - Ring-necked Parakeets!

Ring-necked Parakeets in a neighbour's garden enjoying the bird-feeders on an apple tree. © Chris Chadwell

Ring-necked Parakeets in a neighbour's garden enjoying the bird-feeders on an apple tree. © Chris Chadwell

I first noticed 'Ring-necked Parakeets' flying over the Kohli Memorial Himalayan garden decades ago but this is the first time they were spotted both in my neighbour's garden and up to 10 perched on the CELTIS AUSTRALIS tree - perhaps they felt at home as this bird (Psittacula krameri) occurs in the wild in Northern India up to the Himalayan foothills.  Their call reminds me of visits to the home of Deepak Badwhar (a grandson of P,.N. Kohli), where sat in his garden, a common bird call was from these parrots.  They are the most abundant and well-known Parakeet in the Indian subcontinent, found in light woodland, parks, gardens and cultivated areas; it is a pest of some importance, as the noisy flocks do much damage to crops and fruit.

There is much speculation as to how they first escaped into the wild in the UK.  Only in recent decades have the started to breed.  At one time they were restricted to locations around London, commonly seen at the top of tall Lombardy Poplar trees at sports grounds, particularly rugby clubs. They now number tens of thousands and legitimate concerns are arising about their potential to damage crops in the UK.  Strangely enough, when Deepak, a serious birder (see previous paragraph) and his family came to the UK a few years back to view plants in this garden, he immediately recognised the parakeets flying above, much to his amusement.

12th January 2018 - hips of Himalayan Musk Rose

Fruits (hips) of ROSA BRUNONII in the front section of the garden. © Chris Chadwell

Fruits (hips) of ROSA BRUNONII in the front section of the garden. © Chris Chadwell

The fruits of the 'Himalayan Musk Rose' are globular to ovoid-shaped; there is a form in the rear section of the garden which has more globular, orange to red coloured.  Those above a red, ovoid.  This stout climber has terminal clusters of many fragrant white flowers (in June in this garden). It can reach metres 'climbing' up shrubs and on walls - so be careful to plant in a suitable spot, though one can prune back hard if it gets out-of-hand.

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23rd August 2017 - confusion over identification of seed from Berlin Botanic Garden

ALLIUM  TUBEROSUM (Reference: 3039) - young seedlings. © Chris Chadwell

I consider it is important to state that of all the index semina I have obtained seed from over a period of some 30 years, Berlin is one of the best in terms of reliability of identification - as one would expect of a German Institution, especially one with a herbarium attached.  Nevertheless, in the interests of consistency of identification of plants in cultivation, I urge them to check if the names originally applied to the specimens grown in their botanic garden are up-to-date.  Much confusion is caused when seed is distributed using an older synonym or if the seed has been misidentified.  May I draw attention to the FINE EXAMPLE set by the Akureyri Botanic Garden, Iceland - in their Index Semina they indicate, when a specimen they grow turns out to have been misidentified, both the correct name and what it "arrived as/under".  This is especially helpful, as errors have often been repeated/replicated elsewhere, enabling others to check/keep an "eye open" for the same error.  ALL botanic gardens offering Index Semina should be encouraged to do this - and be aware of the need for it, as a significant proportion of plants in cultivation have been misidentified....

I requested rather late this summer, 14 packets of seed of Himalayan origin through the INDEX SEMINUM of Freie Universitat Berlin, Botanischer Garten u. Botanisches Museum, Dahlemer Saatgutbank, Konigin-Luise-Str. 6-8, 14195 Berlin, Germany.  These took some time to arrive, such that it the very start of August; the latest I had ever sowed seed before was early June and then only because I was so overwhelmed with tasks, which prevented me from sowing during my usual February to April period.  Given that the results of such late sowings have been satisfactory to quite good, I felt it was best to "have a go", despite advising that beyond early June it was advisable not to sow, rather than store the seed and wait until next spring.  I have long known that the vast majority of seed from plants originating in the Himalaya has no "chilling" requirement (at least once it has been stored dry at room temperature) but a typically hot & dry summer is not conducive to germination and presumably the seed can tell when conditions are not favourable.  However, it has not been a 'typical' summer in the south of England, with deluges of rain and cooler temperatures than one would expect during August.  These conditions have no doubt encouraged germination of several collections (6 within 2-3 weeks of sowing).  This is encouraging, so fingers crossed that a majority of those sown will appear shortly and build up to sufficient size to cope with the first winter.  An 'Indian Summer' would help - which often happens after a wet summer.  This is reflected in dry, sunny days, just as children are returning to school in the first week of September.  We shall see how these seedlings develop.  Some growers viewing these images might be surprised, even shocked at the thickness of sowing in the pots.  This is part of my "Clumping" method - with which I generally get considerable success.  I realise this is counter to conventional wisdom.  Those who join the Himalayan Plant Association can learn more are this and other aspects of cultivating Himalayan plants.

ALLIUM  TUBEROSUM (Reference: 3039) - a closer view; note the black empty seed-coats. © Chris Chadwell

The seed of Allium tuberosum was originally supplied through the 'Garwhal Himalayan Plant Journal'.  But what exactly is this 'species'?  It was originally named as Allium tuberosum Rottler ex Spreng.  Stewart in his 'Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir' (1972) gives A.odorum Hk.f. non. L.; A.roxburghii Kunth and A.clarkei Hk.f.  He recorded this from Gilgit, Baltistan and Western Tibet, calling it the "shallot", apparently an old introduction which has been confused with A.odorum W.T.Stearn.  Wikipedia gives several common names: garlic chives, Oriental garlic, Asian chives, Chinese leek.  This reference sources describe it as a species of 'Onion' native to a south-western part of the Chinese province of Shanxi, cultivated and naturalised elsewhere in Asia and around the world.  It is not mentioned in 'Flowers of the Himalaya'.  Apparently, in Nepal cooks fry a curried vegetable dish of potatoes and A.tuberosum known as 'dunduko sag'.  We shall see how it gets on.  In some parts of the world it is considered an invasive, noxious weed....  A.tuberosum is not listed in 'Flora of Bhutan' (which covers Sikkim & Darjeeling).  Whereas the account of Allium compiled by W.T.Stearn for 'Enumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal' ( Vol. 1, 1978) lists A.tuberosum  giving A.sulvia Buch.-Ham ex D.Don as a synonym.  He gave a distribution of Himalaya, Assam and China; west & central Nepal @ 2300-2600m.

CORTIA  WALLICHIANA (Reference: 2480) © Chris Chadwell

This introduction was originally collected on behalf of Berlin Botanic Garden (Ern 3411) at Ghoom, near Darjeeling, North-East India.  This member of what was the Umbelliferae family (now Apiaceae) is also not mentioned in 'Flowers of the Himalaya'. According to 'The Plant List' Cortia wallichiana (DC.) Leute is an unresolved name.  I did manage to grow this from a past allocation of seed from the same source, which regularly flowered, though never set seed, in a sunny and exposed spot in the front section of the garden here - probably not the ideal position given the high rainfall at Ghoom.  IF the plentiful supply of seedlings flourishes, I shall certainly try some in the shadier part of the back garden here.  I do recollect the finely dissected foliage.

There is no mention of C.wallichiana in 'Flora of Bhutan' (which covers Sikkim & Darjeeling) - the only species of this genus recorded is C.depressa.  Whereas, there is Selinum wallichianum (DC.) Raizadae & Saxena (syn. Selinum tenuifolium Clarke), which is recorded from the sort of habitat and places around Darjeeling that Ern 3411 was probably gathered from.  Please note M.F.Watson, the author of the account of Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) in 'Flora of Bhutan' rightly observes that Selinum is a complex genus where large ranges of variation in morphology have clouded specific limits.  The rather poor herbarium specimens on which early name have been based compound the problems.  He also, correctly states that the situation in Sikkim and the rest of the Sino-Himalayan region can only be provisional awaiting further work.  The situation in Bhutan has been greatly enlightened by detailed field observations and quality herbarium specimens of John Wood.  Unfortunately,  there has been minimal field work undertaken in the Indian Himalayan since Independence with the quality of pressed specimens and field notes leaving a lot to be desired.  Combined with a lack of International collaboration, the muddles which exist with taxonomically challenging genera remain....  Thus, at times, it is impossible to come up with a satisfactory identification.

CORTIA  WALLICHIANA (Reference: 2480) - a closer view of the cotyledons, which bear no resemblance to the true leaves. © Chris Chadwell

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17th April 2017

VIBURNUM  COTINIFOLIUM  just coming into flower. © Chris Chadwell

Corolla funnel-shaped of VIBURNUM  COTINIFOLIUM. © Chris Chadwell

Yellow anthers within the pretty flowers of VIBURNUM  COTINIFOLIUM © Chris Chadwell

Stellately-tomentose underside of lower surface of  VIBURNUM  COTINIFOLIUM leaf. © Chris Chadwell

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14th April 2017


CLEMATIS MONTANA climbing up tall shrubs at the rear section of the garden.© Chris Chadwell

Impressive display just as flowers have fully opened and turned white. © Chris Chadwell


Early bronze-coloured - leaves with 3 ovate-lanceolate acute toothed leaflets. © Chris Chadwell

Specimen collected for drying and pressing to add to Stewart Memorial Herbarium of Himalayan plants.© Chris Chadwell

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10th April 2017

Fine display of CLEMATIS MONTANA flowers changing from pale green in bud to white - this had climbed to over 4m. © Chris Chadwell

Pale green anthers and filaments within white CLEMATIS  MONTANA © Chris Chadwell

Pale green anthers and filaments within white CLEMATIS  MONTANA © Chris Chadwell


Softly reddish-white-hairy emerging leaves of QUERCUS  SP. © Chris Chadwell

Softly reddish-white-hairy emerging leaves of QUERCUS  SP.© Chris Chadwell



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