Sorbus pseudovilmorinii and its relatives
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!).
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).
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
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