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 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.
Early March 2017
BERGENIA PACUMBIS (previously known as B.CILIATA VAR. LIGULATA)
This plant generally inhabits shady damp rocks and forests often at lower elevations, so its foliage can be susceptible to late frosts but the whole plant is not killed by them; its has survived satisfactorily in the much more open, exposed front section of the garden, where one might have expected it to struggle - though the drier, sunnier conditions do not manifest themselves until flowering has finished
Regrettably, this has never set-seed. I have also grown BERGENIA STRACHEYI in this garden but have seldom succeeded it flowering it - in the Himalaya this species is found amongst rocks in 'alpine' areas, so one would be expected to cope better. Others have fared well with it - and it is widely cultivated. I have seen healthy specimens at the Oxford University Botanic and New York Botanic Gardens. B.STRACHEYI is a summer-flowering species.
'Himalayan Ginger' (HEDYCHIUM SPICATUM) with showy fruiting spikes - typically found in forest clearings and shrubberies up to 2800m, so exhibits a reasonable level of hardiness in the South of England at least
Capsules are globular, 3-valved, with an orange-red lining; seeds black with a red aril
Late July 2016
Joseph Chadwell admiring an impressive leaf of RHEUM AUSTRALE
Joseph beside 'Himalayan Creeper' (PARTHENOCISSUS HIMALAYANA) - a vigorous climber which has been engulfing the back of our house
Joseph beside 'Himalayan Pear' (PYRUS PASHIA)
Joseph beside a grass from the Himalaya
Rather attractive spikelets - does seem rather distinctive, matching the images I have been able to find of PENNISETUM FLACCIDUM - known as 'Himalayan Fountain Grass'; are there any Poaceaea specialists who can confirm this identification?
Colourful floral parts - golden stamens, purple plumose stigmas. According to Dr Walter Koelz, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, in the 1930s Pennisetum flaccidum is a common and persistent field grass in Lahoul, Himachal Pradesh. The roots are like those of American "quackgrass" and being fleshy were dug for cattle in the spring when fodder was low and being tough were used for scouring kitchen utensils. The culms were assembled into brooms and also made a durable thatch. The plant was one of the herbs used in a lamaistic ceremony.
Late June 2016
Impressive leaf of RHEUM AUSTRALE - its luxuriant growth aided but a particularly damp early summer (sorry to those who dislike such conditions but I always welcome additional rainfall during summer months to aid specimens from the wetter parts of the Himalaya)
'Flowers of the Himalaya' (Polunin & Stainton, 1983) describes the foliage of this species as having a very stout leaf-stalk 30-45cm, with rounded to broadly ovate blades with heart-shaped bases - the basal leaves up to 60cm across
The undersides of the leaves are hairy
Attractively, softly white-hairy
Unfurling foliage of ACER ACUMINATUM
NEPETA LEUCOPHYLLA - this specimen was planted in the rear section of the garden on a small raised bed, such conditions favour species whose home is in the drier, borderlands of Tibet
According to 'Flowers of the Himalaya' (Polunin & Stainton, 1983) this is a slender-stemmed perennial with small lilac or blue flowers in an interrupted spike; the flowers are twice as long as long as the hairy calyx
Here is a second clump growing in the front section of the garden, which currently has a layer of shingle to help "lighten" the underlying clay soil, which produces greater soil aeration (i.e. oxygen at the roots), which is beneficial for plants whose home is in the borderlands of Tibet and most 'alpines'/'rock-garden' plants
POTENTILLA CUNEATA flourishing amongst the shingle in the front section of the garden
This has proven to be a versatile ground cover under a variety of conditions (easily controlled) - a small spreading perennial with solitary yellow flowers borne on short stems with leaves with 3 small obovate, coarsely toothed leaflets; found on stony slopes and amongst rocks in many parts of the Himalaya
A DACTYLICAPNOS (previously DICENTRA) either SCANDENS or MACROCAPNOS) - the heavy rain has encouraged this to expand much more than in previous years, so I am hopeful of a showier flowering than previously
I have grown PARTHENOCISSUS HIMALAYANA for some 20 years now - this is the most luxuriant growth it has ever displayed, thanks once again to the heavy rainfall the garden has received; every few years I prune it back severely, as left to its own devices, it would top the roof and it can get through the tiles into our attic. One year we permitted it to grow fully into our bathroom and a bedroom
Its leaves are trifoliate with 3 long-pointed, sharply toothed, stalked leaflets
Undersides of a young leaf, just beginning to open
It is fitting to show the 'Star Tulip' (TULIPA STELLATA) as the first image (photographed in April 2016) of a Himalayan species being cultivated in the KOHLI MEMORIAL BOTANICAL GARDEN, as the bulbs of this were supplied by P.Kohli & Co., in the 1980s - so have shown impressive longevity. I should stress that P.Kohli & Co. held an export license for the bulbs (which came from a nursery, not directly from the wild - which Kohli had been doing for decades before concerns about conservation were raised) and the necessarily phyto-sanitary certificate was issued covering the export.
As with most things in life, it is not a matter of quantity (or scale) nor location but quality. In time, I hope to be in a position to accept groups of visitors, as was the case in the past. Given that many of the finest gardens and almost all specialist nurseries in the UK are located quite some distance from the main centres of population, having a garden full of Himalayan plants to the West of London, close to Windsor and just 7km from Heathrow, will represent a convenient curiosity for many to visit. And strangely enough, growing unusual plants in Langley is following in a tradition started by Veitch (who had an orchid nursery here), whose grounds were then purchased by Sutton Seeds (based at Reading) to establish a Seed Trial Ground - indeed A.P. Balfour Esq., the Manager, was a recipient of seed from the 1954 joint Royal Horticultural Society plant hunting expedition to Nepal (see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/the-joint-royal-horticultural-society-natural-history-museum-expeditions-to-nepal ). Locals would remark about the colourful flowers they saw, raised by Suttons, as they left Slough train station en route to Paddington.
Unlike many bulbs, the 'Star Tulipa' does not require cultivation in a bulb-frame (allowing a baking during summer months)
The Kohli Memorial Himalayan Garden was featured on BBC Gardeners' World in Spring 1995 (having been filmed in June the previous year) - though the presenter, the late Geoff Hamilton, seemed more taken with there being any sort of garden in Slough, rather than the Himalayan plants being cultivated within it! During the broadcast, Geoff remarked that a particular plant was "growing well in Slough" - as, if it could survive in SLOUGH it could surely grow almost anywhere.....
Due to many difficulties I was experiencing a few years ago, serious problems with my health and the expectation that I would be moving, I had my two youngest sons (who were still living at home then) "raise the Himalayan Garden', which I had built up over a period of 30 years, to the ground in 2014. No doubt much to the approval of my neighbours and other local visitors, who were mystified and disapproving of the strange plants I grew! A few shrubs (Clematis montana and other Clematis spp., Viburnum cotinifolium, Rosa brunonii, Rosa webbiana, Indigofera heterantha, Deutzia staminea), Trees (Celtis australis, Pyrus pashia) and perennials (Tulipa stellta, Iris kashmiriana, Inula racemosa, Rheum tibeticum, Lavatera kashmiriana, Geranium wallichianum, Geranium himalayense, Duchesnea indica, Phytolacca acinosa, Bergenia sp., Dactylicapnos sp. ) survived the "cull". Whilst a few were left in pots, which I have subsequently planted out: Abies pindrow, Acer sp., Asparagus sp., Iris clarkei, Picea smithiana.
I request that any Himalayan Plant Association members living in the UK, who have any excess plants of known Himalayan provenance, to donate them to help speed up the restoration of the Kohli Memorial Himalayan Garden. I am located just 5 minutes drive from Exit 5 of the M4 (close to Heathow). Why not drop them off if you are going to be on the M4 heading or coming to London for other reasons. In addition to refreshments, happy to accompany any donors of plants on a visit to The Savill Garden (in Windsor Great Park) just 20 minutes drive away. Do book in advance and let me know what you have available.
NEPETA LEUCOPHYLLA being planted out - as can be seem by the root system, this was ready for a new home
This catmint has small lilac or blue flowers in interrupted spikes; leaves are heart-shaped with rounded teeth, wrinkled above - as it is typically found in the drier, borderlands of Tibet, I have planted one of the two donated in the more exposed front section of the garden, one in a sunny bed in the back section
The substantial root system of RHEUM AUSTRALE - planted in the rear section of the garden; although this is found on open slopes, it is likely to benefit from ample watering and more shelter than is possible in the front section
LIGULARIA FISCHERI - previous experience with this species has shown it is prone to wilt in full sun, so has been planted beside a fence in the rear section