Botanic Gardens, Churchtown, 7th April 2024

Our first treat this morning had nothing to do with wildlife or the gardens, it was a crocheted post box topper on the corner of Preston New Road and Marshside Road showing Postman Pat, his cat and his van. The attached label said it was by crochet group, the Southport Hookers. Brilliant!

At the entrance to Botanic Gardens the border was an eye-popping mix of primulas and tulips in shades of red, yellow and orange.

Around the edge of the Fernery lawns some young trees with bronze leaves were in white flower. I guessed Snowy Mespil, Amelanchier spp. It’s a North American tree, very often recommended for small gardens, and also named Juneberry or Serviceberry.  The ID was confirmed by the memorial labels. Usually such tributes just name the deceased friend or relative, but these had the tree species name as well. Most commendable. It was strange that two apparently identical trees were said to be of different species. One was Amelanchier lamarckii, said to be the most sought after kind, spreading and multi-stemmed, with pendulous flowers.  The other was labelled Amelanchier canadensis, said to be a shrub with more upright blossoms. They looked the same to me.

Tree labelled as Amelanchier lamarckii
Flowers of A. lamarckii, said to have pendulous flowers
Flowers of A. canadensis said to have “more upright” flowers

It had been gusty in the morning, with Storm Kathleen just passing over, but the high winds eased off after lunch. The lake had a pair of Mute Swans, some Mallards and Moorhens, and about a dozen Tufted Duck, all apparently coupling up. Do they breed here? I don’t think I have ever seen Tuftie ducklings.

Horse Chestnut trees spread branches right over the water, and I spotted my first flower of the year.

Near the northern gate is an open area with some unusual conifers planted there. On the southern edge of that area we spotted what appeared to be a tree signboard, but we had to duck below overhanging branches to reach it. Amazingly it was a Paperbark Maple Acer griseum tucked away close to some other trees and overshadowed by Rhododendron. It is growing tall and thin, high up into the canopy, trying to get some light. We never saw any leaves.

Why on earth would it be planted there? It can’t be an accidental germination. On Countryfile this weekend they showed a scientist at Westonbirt saying germination of Acer griseum is so low they have to X-ray the seeds to see which ones are viable. To further add to the mystery, there is a large sign below it, implying it’s number 11 on a Tree Trail. On the way out we asked in the café if they had a tree trail leaflet, but the staff looked quite mystified at the very idea!

Also on the way out we looked over the racks of plants for sale, There are always bargains to be had. I came home with an unusual Aubrietia ‘Blue blush bicolour’, while another of the group got eight Primulas for a pound.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Southport at 10.24, alighting Hillside at 11.01. Bus 47 from outside Hillside Station at 11.18, arriving Preston New Road / Marshside Road at 11.36. Returned from Botanic Road opp Gardens on the 49 bus at 2.05, arriving Lord Street / Monument at 2.19, just in time for the 2.27 train to Liverpool.

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