Archive for ‘herbaceous perennials’

August 23, 2013

Burnets- Greater Burnet in the the wild and great burnets for the garden

by Ciaran Burke
Sanguisorba officinalis growing amongst trees at Lough conn, Co. mayo, Ireland

Sanguisorba officinalis growing amongst trees at Lough Conn, Co. mayo, Ireland

Recently while I was researching a plant profile article on the genus of Sanguisorba for The Irish Garden magazine, I consulted my old and slightly battered copy of Webb’s Irish Flora. This versatile and showy genus of plants has two Irish natives amongst its members. The salad burnet, S. minor, which is small and not very attractive, although useful as a salad ingredients, and the taller more showy greater burnet, S. officinalis. According to the old book, S. officinalis is not widely encountered, populations are confined to the north east of the island and also the shores of Liugh Cullin and Lough Conn, in my county of residence, County Mayo. Lough Conn attracts visitors for fishing and I would guess not so many plant hunters, on a cloudy August afternoon we set off to see if we could encounter, the greater burnet, S. officinalis, growing and flowering in its native habitat.

Shore line at Lough Conn, Co. mayo. In amongst the trees, Sanguisorba officinalis grows and flowers in stone covered soil.

Shore line at Lough Conn, Co. mayo. In amongst the trees, Sanguisorba officinalis grows and flowers in stone covered soil.

Lough Conn, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Lough Conn, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Our searches at a few places on Lough Cullin gave us no reward. We continued our search at Lough Conn, both lakes are separated by only a narrow strip of land. At our first Lough Conn stop we drove down a bumpy gravel road with a healthy sward of grass along the centre.

Shore of Lough Conn, Co. mayo with view of Nephin Mountain

Shore of Lough Conn, Co. Mayo with view of Nephin Mountain

We hopped out and strolled across the pebbled covered beach, past purple loosestrife and knapweeds flowering along the shore. We ventured into some sparse woodland, here native species of willow, ash and alder grew between stones. The water lapped the peacefully and a breeze made a lively yet soothing rustle with the leaves. The world was t peace around me, then the silence was broken, a triumphant shout from my Hanna, my wife, the greater burnet had been found.

Sanguisorba officinalis flowering at Lough Conn, Co. mayo

Sanguisorba officinalis flowering at Lough Conn, Co. Mayo

It is not often that you encounter a fashionable herbaceous perennial that is a native to these shores. Sanguisorba officinalis bears its tight clustered flowers in dense dark purple spikes on top of wiry swaying stems. Its appeal is simple and seductive, possessing an elegant reserved charm. The increasing popularity of the genus amongst gardeners reflects tastes of our time. The burnets are perfect for placing in naturalistic planting schemes, prairie planting and floral meadows where structure and texture matter more the flamboyance and brash colours.

Sanguisorba hakuasanensis var. japonica flower close-up flowering in our garden

Sanguisorba hakuasanensis var. japonica flower close-up flowering in our garden

In our own garden we grow quite a few species and hybrids. Earlier in the summer, S. ‘Pink Elephant’ and S. tenuifolia ‘Alba’ entertained us with their swaying displays of flowery haze. Now the pink fluffy heads of S. obtusa swing lightly in the breeze, while the even fluffier S. hakuasanensis var. japonica, which we brought from a nursery in Finland a couple of years ago, shimmers its stamens along an erect infloresence. In the garden there is the cool S. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, and in a raised bed the carpeting green mound of S. ‘Tanna’ has been flowering for a couple of months, its flowers like a cloud of purple bumble bees. Burnets, the greater burnet and many others are just, great!

Sanguisorba 'Tanna' flowers flowring in our garden in a raised bed

Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’ flowers flowring in our garden in a raised bed

Sanguisorba obtusa flowering in our garden, it grows in a poor stoney soil

Sanguisorba obtusa flowering in our garden, it grows in a poor stoney soil

Sanguisorba 'Rock 'n' Roll'  flowering in our front garden.

Sanguisorba ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ flowering in our front garden.

Achillea ptarmica flowering at Lough Cullin, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Achillea ptarmica flowering at Lough Cullin, Co. Mayo, Ireland

View wild Irish native plants and some scenery photos of Lough Cullin, Co. Mayo on my Photoshelter site

The August issue of The irish Garden features my plant profile article on Erigeron, and the forthcoming September isuue will be in the shops very soon. THE IRISH GARDEN MAGAZINE

%d bloggers like this: