Thursday, 28 March 2013


Another lovely image from this white population of Meconopsis horridula from Arunchal Pradesh by David and Margaret Thorne


This is a wonderful white form of M. horridula sent to me by Margaret Thorne. It was photograped at the Bomdi La in Arunchal Pradesh. All the plants seen were of this lovely clear white. Taylor lumped together a huge range of monocarpic deciduous plants  with long, narrow and often very spiny leaves from all over the Himalayas and China as M.horridula. Chris Grey-Wilson has recently split them up into at least nine, with new plants being described by Toshio Yoshida. M. horridula has been reserved for the very high altitude plant (above 5,000 m.). Plants from this part of the Himalayas have also been decribed as M. racemosa at lower altitudes (see the different species descriptions on the main website). What we have is a super species (very much like M. integrifolia) where there is huge variation according to height and location. The dust may settle when Chris Grey-Wilson publishes his new monograph next year.
However with huge variation they are always going to be difficulties and for non taxonomists calling them all M. horridula makes a lot of sense. The only one that is readily in cultivation is currently called M. prattii, This is probably the easiest species of all to grow in the U.K.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


This lovely image is of a deep red form of Meconopsis paniculata and was photographed in Arunchal Pradesh by David and Margaret Thorne. The Thornes have a lovely garden south of Edinburgh and have led a whole series of very successful expeditions to different parts of the Himalayas for the last few years. Their journeys have delivered a great deal of information about the occurrence and distribution of plants which is of major conservation value and particularly for Meconopsis. Meconopsis paniculata was described by George Taylor who wrote the first definitive monograph on this genera in 1934 and he claimed it unmistakeable because of the substellate pubescence on the hairs of the leaves. While these hairs are not visible on this image I think modern taxonomists are not quite sure what he meant by this and even with a powerful microscope it is not clear. The web master finds it interesting that normally this species is yellow and not this superb deep scarlet red. The genetics of red and yellow in the same species is not straight forward. Would a cross pollination between them produce an intermediate colour? Perhaps yellow is dominant to red but certain conditions of soil or climate favour different colours in different locations.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Garden To Visit

Branklyn gardens will soon the be opening for the 2013 season. This garden was created by the Renton's and always been associated with Himalayan plant collecting. It was taken over by the National Trust and is open to the general public. It is easily found in Perth as you leave on the road to Dundee at the edge of the city to the south east. There is a large carpark in a field above the gardens and for the disabled limited parking right at the entrance. It is a maze of paths with suprises round each corner. It has had it's ups and downs but at present it is at it's absolutely superb best under the curation of Steve McNamara. It has a very large collection of Meconopsis big blue poppies that have come from the very significant collection of Evelyn Stevens. It also has wonderful mature and rare trees, a large collection of Rhododendrons, often grown many years ago from wild seed, as well as Primulas and other classical woodland plants.This garden has been described as the best two acres in the world and I would go along with that. For a plant lover it should be the highlight of any trip to Scotland.

Branklyn Gardens

This is a plant at the world famous Branklyn gardens. These were originally owned the the Rentons who supported seed collecting in the Himalayas and grew many Rhododendrons, Primulas and Meconopsis collected.They also grew on rare trees and this garden has an almost unending series of vistas round each corner as you walk the many little paths. It has very good visitor facilites including parking for many and a small anount near the front gate for the disabled.There is an excellent visitor centre usually manned by volunteers. The garden is under the care of Steve McNamara who over the last few years has turned a good garden into something outstanding. Has been described as the best two acres of garden in the world - and it is. It is easily accessed off the Perth Dundee road as it leaves the Fair City.

If you travel on towards Dundee you will pass the excellent garden centre of Glendoick, and  before the end of June, they open their own superb collection of Rhododendron mainly collected from seed in the wild by 3 generations of this exceptional gardening family on important plant hunting expeditions. These two gardens should be top of any list for gardeners visiting Scotland. E.H.M. Cox wrote the cultivation section in Taylor's brilliant monograph on Meconopsis published in 1934.


March 20th

Species I have grown.

This image was taken in Cumbria and is of the fertile hybrid between M. betonicifolia and M. grandis. It is called Lingholm after a garden in Cumbria where it first occurred many years ago. If you want to grow big blue poppies then this is the only one you need grow. Masses of seed about which germinates well - even some commercial seed houses offer it (though such seed is often a year older than from seed exchanges). Currently trying to learn how to use this blog - hence the number of posts!

Lingholm in Cumbria


These are notes I wrote for another publication about my own personal efforts at growing these species - I have tried about 30 and will over the next few weeks add them as a blog.

M. aculeata. Western Himalayas and straightforward, though seed is often scarce and it is not widely grown.

M. baileyii. Now split from M. betonicifolia but long in cultivation and the easiest perennial blue succeeding with attention even in Southern England. It must be noted that many seedlings will die after flowering and deflowering in the first year may not help and probably better to let it flower and obtain seed. Note at this point, to my knowledge, only M. superba will set seed if self-pollinated, so one plant is not enough!

M. bella. A high altitude dwarf and very beautiful species. Seed used to be readily available from an Indian seed house and it germinated quite well. Seedlings were minute the first year and I always struggled with it. It was once flowered in Scotland by exceptional growers. Will always be difficult

M. betonicifolia. Originally described from south Yunnan. It is very similar to M. baileyi with 9 differences described by Chris Grey-Wilson but most of these are also found in some M. baileyi. It has since been found a bit farther north in Yunnan near Lijiang. It has seeds that produce good oil and my personal suspicion is that the Yunnan plants were selections brought out of Tibet as either a source of oil or medicine or both. It needs good genetic analysis to see if M. betonicifolia and M. baileyi really have evolved separately to different species.

M. concinna. Have tried this from seed which germinated but did not grow on. A high altitude plant likely to be difficult if not impossible in the U.K.

M. delavayi. This is an instructive species since it has been well grown and established in northern Norway and indeed its continued cultivation in the U.K. has depended on an annual supply of seed from Finn Haugli from Tromso. It was awarded an FCC as long ago as 1913 and was grown by Trotter near Inverness very successfully for many years. In Fife I struggle with it but in Caithness it grows reliably and flowers regularly and has even set seed. Dr.Peter Cox grew it well at Glendoick until some unspeakable person dug up and stole his plants. They would have certainly died. It does have one rare advantage in that it will grow from root cuttings or even regrow from plants that have been heavily slug eaten. Cuttings grow on reliably but are difficult to overwinter. Seed germinates very reliably but seedlings at about 2 months old are prone to a fungal attack. Generally Meconopsis of most species hate chemical intervention especially insecticides but a little dilute fungicide can help this species.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


I have recently been discussing with other members of the Edinburgh based Meconopsis Group the many forms of M. grandis.

The image also pasted shows 3 seed heads, Lingholm is the wonderful hybrid between M. betonicifolia and M. grandis which produced a tetraploid (2 sets of chromosomes from each species) seed pod and because both sets of chromosomes are present from each true species this hybrid is fertile and tetraploid. This is exactly the same origin as Kingsbarns Hybrid. The parent plants that produced the tetraploid pods were the cross M. x  sheldonii, in both cases though different forms since M. x sheldonii has been produced a number of times by crossing M. betonicifolia with M. grandis.

Monday, 18 March 2013


A long cold spring in the whole of the United Kingdom and especially here on the east coast of Scotland. Buds on M. punicea are now showing and the first noses of various Dactylorhiza are just poking through. Seed of M.  punicea sown last June as each pod ripened, germinated on time in Mid January but the seedlings have hated the unending cold grey skies and we still have not had even a midday temperature above 7 C. The seedlings have had gentle heat from soil warming cables under the seed trays for the last six weeks but the surface of the trays has always been cold. Hard frosts recently have damaged some hellebores but last years extensive plantings of M. punicea are now showing flower buds and have survived -10 C. without blemish.

I have sown nearly 60 Meconopsis seed numbers, much of it wild collected seeds from both ends of the Himalayas. The only seed so far germinating is seed at least 3 years old from my seed bank which is kept at about - 15 C.

There are new images to post on the blog but I am still learning how to do this!