February 2011

Monday 18th April – Hapimag Resort, Albufeira

Don Witton is one of the two UK National Plant Collection Holders with about 150 taxa in his collection of hardy Euphorbias. He has travelled widely, researching his plants and visiting their wild habitats. He is an experienced and very popular lecturer. We booked our date with him  two years before ! Euphorbia is one of the most animal resistant plant families, rabbits and goats will not eat it ! All Euphorbias exude a white milky sap if damaged. This sap can irritate the skin and so it is therefore recommended that disposable gloves be worn when handling cuttings or any cut plant material.

Don Witton Web site – www.euphorbias.co.uk is designed to inform readers about the delights of Euphorbias in the garden, and the great variety available. It also contains information relating to the National Collection, publications, plants and seed available for the 2011 season.   Information about forthcoming events is also listed.

Don can also be contacted via email – donshardyeuphorbias@btopenworld.com

The day was divided into an illustrated talk in the morning and a study/practical session in the afternoon. The talk began with an impressive worldwide journey showing the wide distribution of euphorbias and their varied original habitats. From the tree euphorbias of Africa to the rare herbaceous E. glauca from New Zealand. Examples of tree, shrub, succulent and herbaceous forms were all included. We then moved onto cultivation and pruning with examples of euphorbias in many colours and for every season of the year. The talk concluded with some stunning shots of plant associations and views of Don’s own collection and garden in the UK. The afternoon study session gave everyone the opportunity to study euphorbia flower heads and their unique structure which helps with identification,  gathering and growing from seed as well as general propagation. Don brought seed from his own collection, slide lists, and work & information sheets for distribution. Everyone had work to do and the sorting of samples of mixed seed varieties was a very useful task for all.  He  also came with some copies of his new book on Euphorbia which quickly sold out on the day. There were also some plants for sale. No one went home empty handed, and my E. myrsinites seed have germinated already !

Seed List from the  Euphorbia Study Day

Supplied by National Plant Collection Holder, Don Witton and available on request from Rosie Peddle email rosie@thebtf.net or tel 289 791 869

Euphorbia characias Goldbrook E. palustris

E. characias Humpty Dumpty E. paralias

E. characias Lambrook Yellow E. X pasteurii

E. characias Thelma’s Giant E. polychroma Senior

E  cornigera                                                  E. sarawschanica

E. donii                                                          E. schillingii

E. lathyrus                                                    E. sikkimensis

E. myrsinites                                                E. stricta

E. oblongata

Don’s Top Ten Drought Resistant Euphorbias for the Mediterranean Climate

Euphorbia acanthothamnos – Greece/Turkey

E. characias subsp. characias & subsp. Wulfenii – Western Mediterranean

E. coralloides – Southern Italy, Sicily

E. dendroides – Mediterranean Basin

E. myrsinites- Southern Europe, N. Africa, Central Asia

E. X nicaensis – Southern Europe to Central Asia

E. paralias – Coastal Europe and North Africa

E. pithyusa – Coastal Mediterranean Basin

E. rigida – Mediterranean Basin, Asia Minor

E. spinosa – Mediterranean Basin

Many of us long to have a truly  ‘waterwise’ garden using native Algarvean and other Mediterranean region plants and this day was about the practical side of actually putting such a garden together.

Claudia Schwarzer is an experienced and knowledgeable Landscape Architect. She showed her deep love for, and appreciation of, the native plants of the Algarve in her talk.  Bringing such plants into our gardens brings them closer to us so that we can appreciate their beauty and see them outshine the more demanding garden plants usually offered.

Claudia had good advice to offer about planting seasons, techniques for success when planting, and details of how to plant. It all starts with choice of appropriate plants, look for small top growth with good root systems and preferably in pots with long straight sides to promote those all important roots.

She encouraged us to try our hand at making our own native plants from seed and small wild collected seedlings from around our own gardens. Observation is very important, look at what works in your area and choose your plants from those families – such as cistus, phlomis, lavenders and the evergreen shrubs and trees. Observing the distribution of plants in nature gives the design for integrating home grown or nursery plants into our gardens in a natural ‘star’ shaped layout which replicates seed grown plants in the wild.

Irrigation methods were discussed and Claudia recommended making a bowl around the plant which can be flooded with water during the first summer following autumn planting. This gives an opportunity to provide deep watering to encourage roots that can sustain a plant through the months without rain.  Watering should be copious but at intervals of about two to three weeks during the first summer only. A planting hole should be at least double the size of the pot in both width and depth. Using organic or inorganic mulches reduces evaporation and improves soil conditions around the plant. Shredded garden material or gravel preserves thin topsoils.  She  encouraged those who want to get rid of their lawns to diversify the plants and choose low growing thymes, oreganums and other aromatic herbs mixed with small bulbs to replace the thirsty grass.

Claudia used illustrations from the newly created Algarve Mediterranean Garden at the Hapimag Resort Albufeira throughout her presentation and we were able to have a guided tour of this garden following her talk.

In the afternoon session we had a practical workshop with Marilyn Kahan, Gardens Manager at the resort, which included hands on seed sowing and propagation from cuttings with emphasis on native plants.  Some seed of native plants was also distributed to those attending.

Claudia is well known to MGS members and friends as an experienced and knowledgeable professional Landscape Architect with a passion for ‘waterwise’ gardens with appropriate planting. You can see more information on her work at  www.biopiscinas.pt ARQUITECTURA PAISAGISTA Gardening with Nature.