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Bluebell Arboretum – Part 2

Back to Derbyshire and we shall continue our beautiful autumnal wanderings within the grounds of Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery. I shall concentrate on a selection of the true favourites we enjoyed most of all. The beauty of this arboretum is that there is so much to discover and enjoy that our favourites would be different each time we visit.

We start again just as we discovered a couple of different Hawthorns which is always interesting as most nurseries sell only the common native as a hedge plant and the double pink ornamental tree form. We enjoyed discovering the unusual Crataegus tanacetifolia, the Tansy Leaved Thorn and the rare Crataegus ellwangeriana “Fireball”. It is amazing how the leaf shapes differ as do the berry colours.

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Now I will share two very different trees worth growing for their bark colours, patterns and textures, on the left Betula utilis “Grayswood Ghost” and in the centre and on the right Acer davidii “Cascade”. This selection of snakebark maple has a beautiful delicately weeping habit.

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This next specimen had me foxed and I had to go in search of a label. Although it is a Lime the leaves were the size of a Catalpa but the label informed us it was Tilia carolina subs. heterophylla.

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We were attracted to the autumn foliage colour of this Tulip Tree, so crisp and bright on a dull day. It is Lirodendron tulipifera  “Arnold” a tree we had never seen before with its fastigiate form.

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I love the berries and leaf shapes of all the Sorbus and to see a variety new to me was a delightful surprise, Sorbus eburnia “Harry Smith”. It was growing close to a Liquidamber which was turning from deep green to deep reds, and formed a beautiful open specimen.

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Before I tell you what tree impressed me most at this wonderful arboretum I would like to share a few pics of  Euonymus europaeus “Thornhayes” one of the selections of our native deciduous Euonymus simply because they are my favourite deciduous shrub and a Hydrangea petiolaris just getting established at the base of a tree. This will look great in 5 years time! We can’t grow them and so have given up! I have just discovered that the botanists have now decided that this climbing shrub must be called Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris. I wonder what it did to deserve that!


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And the star of the show? Well it just has to be a Birch doesn’t it – Betula utilis “Doorenbos”. White stems with the texture of suede and in places the gentlest hints of salmon pink. This multi-stemmed specimen stopped us in our tracks.

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Of course before we left with just minutes until Bluebell shut up shop for the day we had to have a peruse around the nursery. We bought this little beautiful shrub with its delicate little scented yellow flowers and bronzed foliage turning red in places as autumn was approaching. It is called Bush Honeysuckle or Diervilla lonicera for our garden at home and a tree for the Winter Garden at our allotment community gardens, an orange stemmed Lime, Tilia cordata “Winter Orange” a tree we have been searching for since we planted this border up over 6 years ago now. So we had a great day and came home with two wonderful new plants. We were so interested in everything the Bluebell Arboretum has to offer that we almost overstayed our welcome. The owners politely asked if they could close the gate now please so they could take their dogs for a walk and they probably deserved their tea! Below is our newly purchased Diervilla.

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Anne’s Garden

It is always special to visit a friend’s garden for the first time. Today with fellow Shropshire Hardy Plant Society members we visited the garden of our group chairman, Anne. She lives just over the Welsh border so we had but a forty minute journey.

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The pathway to the front door set the scene with plants jostling for position to make sure they were seen. I always believe this sort of way into a garden heightens the anticipation. You just know you are going to enjoy the garden and discover some real gems. This was just what happened.

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Anne greeted us at her door and from then on we had a very enjoyable afternoon exploring her little garden, drinking tea and relishing cakes. The garden had pathways wriggling beneath trees and shrubs giving the atmosphere of a small copse.

Anne’s garden illustrated the importance of growing trees in small gardens. So many small gardens are full of small plants which just makes you look down. Anne’s patch had your eyes rushing around, upwards, downwards and seeking out the next corner to peer around.

In the front garden Cercis “Forest Pansy”, Pyrus salifolius pendula and a splendid specimen of Cornus “Midwinter Fire” held the garden together.

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The weeping pear’s leaves were fully out and its pure white blossom showed off its black stamens. The Forest Pansy was way behind ,its bare black stems just starting to show bursting purple buds.

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I enjoyed the way so many different leaf shapes, colours and textures juxtaposed so happily.


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Being mid-April spring flowering bulbs added cheer to combat the grey skies of the day.

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Whenever I visit a garden I spot one of my favourite families of plants, the euphorbias. Anne had some fine euphorbias including E. mellifera a variety that we grow but have to take in during the winter as it just couldn’t survive our winter weather. Anne’s happily lived outside all year.

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Acers feature here too and mid-April is a good time to enjoy their fresh subtly coloured new foliage bursting from their buds.

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We have been looking for small Hostas recently to plant around a water feature situated close to a corner where two path meet. We were really taken with those we found growing in pots in a little shaded courtyard. Luckily they had labels on giving us ideas for our own planting.

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Anne’s garden is small in size but it has a mighty big heart! As the last set of photographs below show it is a garden full of interesting individual plants, original plant combinations and many appealing features. We had a great afternoon – thanks Anne.

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The ever changing colours of Liquidamber

 Liquidamber has to be one of the best trees for the small garden in autumn and winter.

It develops the usual colours  associated with autumn but holds onto its leaves and  the colours get more and more intense as the season progresses.

So for this post I shall regularly take pics of our Liquidamber to illustrate how they change.

The first three photos were taken in October, at which time greens were still bright and frequent amongst the yellows and oranges.

Early in December the colours are richer and not much evidence of green remains.


In mid-December a rim of frost decorated each leaf, emphasising their palmate shape and adding depth to the tints of fire.



By January the leaves are beginning to look dry with browns becoming the commonest colours.

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Now in mid-March I would normally be able to enjoy the deepest of red leaves it is possible to imagine and they would be clinging onto their stems until new season leaves force them to release their grip and drop to the ground.

This year this eagerly anticipated redness has failed to appear and the remaining leaves are just crisp and dull brown. Half have already fallen and the others look as if they will soon give up their grip.

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Once spring arrives and instigates budburst I shall start taking photos of our Liquidamber once again and follow the progress of its leaves throughout the year.