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Sorbus pseudovilmorinii and its relatives

Sorbus Pseudovilmorinii

At this time of year the rowans of Ness are looking spectacular with so many being covered in autumn berries. One of the most attractive species of Rowans is Sorbus pseudovilmorinii (above). It is a lovely white flowered shrub to small tree (growing up to 4 metres) with delicate fern-like foliage and superb white or pink fruit which last well into early winter. This species is found in the mountains of western China, Tibet and into north Vietnam where it often grows in coniferous or mixed forests. It is a variable species, with both fruit colour (often starting crimson and turning white by October) and the intensity of autumn colour varying from plant to plant.

The best 'forms' of the species have fruit which start as deep burgundy in early autumn and fade to bright pink into winter. The best plants of this growing at Ness originate from the Cangshan mountain range above Dali, Yunnan in China.  The easiest to see plants are found in the heather garden, following the path towards the terraces and on your left (the others are found in the bottom field just above the owl box, but not so easy to find!).

Sorbus Aff .filipes KR5100

What is significant about this species is that it is the parent of very many attractive hybrids. These will all come true from seed (and they produce a lot!) and can be distinguished by their delicate leaves and white flowers. Some of the best include Sorbus aff. vilmorinii (above) which are some of the most attractive shrubs to be found at Ness and are covered in masses of pinky-white fruit at this time of year. These can be found on the slope from the visitors centre opposite the herbaceous beds on the steep slope to the right (next to the Eucryphia glutinosa).

Growing Sorbus

Rowans do best in full sun or light shade on well drained soils (they hate heavy clay soils).  The best time of year to plant rowns is from the end of november through to Febuaray when they are asleep.  Once established Sorbus require little care and no pruning.

Many nurseries propagate plants by grafting using common rowan S. aucuparia as the rootstock. Be careful as the vigorous rootstock can sprout and outgrow the scion. Remove any such growth when it appears.  If you wish a multi stemmed tree you need to buy one that has been grown from seed.

Growing Sorbus from seed is easy, often producing more drought tolerate plants and more impressive multi stemmed plants.  Collect fruit when  it is ripe in late autumn and extract the seed by pulping and sieving in water.  Remove any seed that float; these will be infertile.  Sorbus seed will need a period of cold to germinate so sow in autumn and leave outside over winter.

Back to the Gardens in November