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Plant Collections of Ness


Ness has one of the best plant collections in the country. There are approximately 10,000 types (taxa) of plants grown in the gardens, ranging from the beautiful and awe-inspiring, to the rare and interesting. The plants are broadly split into two types; a horticultural collection of beautiful plants, and an academic collection of fully documented plants. Ness has a great many beautiful plants in the horticultural collection that includes some of the best and most beautiful plants to be found in gardens. The academic plant collections are of more specialist interest as these comprise mostly species from a wide range of plants, 90% of which are trees and shrubs. The academic collections are found throughout the gardens, with the greatest number found in the bottom field around the wildflower meadow.


Galanthus 'Lavinia' SL9With the gardens open to the public all but three days of the year, there is a wonderful array of plants to be found in all seasons. The garden year is kick-started with fine displays of snowdrops (Galanthus species) in the pine wood, azalea collection and woodland garden. Mid-spring sees the flowering of the large collections of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias in the gardens. The pine wood and specimen lawn houses most of these wonderful plants, including one of the largest collections of rhododendrons in the North West. Many interesting species can be found here, including R. sutchuenense, R. campanulatum, R. rubiginosum and Triflorum series. Ness also grows some impressive displays of hardy hybrids, including the winter-flowering 'Rosa Mundi' and red-flowered 'Choremia' and 'May Day'. The camellia collection is mostly found in the pine woods,  many of which are C. japonica types. Some of the best plants to be found include 'Pink Icicle', 'Hagaromo', 'J.C. Williams' and 'Salutation'. Around 60 Magnolias grow in the gardens, including fine specimens of M. kobus, stellata, and cambellii, as well as favourite cultivars such as liliiflora 'Nigra', 'Susan', and the unusually yellow-flowered 'Miss Honey Bee' (specimen lawn). The prize gem amongst these is the spectacular sight of Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva' in full flower in March in the specimen lawn. Ness is fortunate to also have an original specimen of the Handkerchief Tree Davidia involucrata, originally brought back from China by Ernest Wilson in 1908.


Rhododendron 'Burton'Summer sees spectacular herbaceous displays throughout the gardens, with the long border (herbaceous area) providing interest from May through to September. The range of plants grown makes the area great for wildlife, with numerous species of bee and butterfly visiting the flowers. Some of the choice plants include the tall Veronicastrum virginicum f. roseum that usually has distorted (fascinated) flowers, Inula hookeri, Phlomis tuberosa, Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue' and E. 'Blue Globe', Iris 'Jane Phillips', and the Onions Allium 'Globemaster' and 'Gladiator'. Two attractive grasses for later in the season include Stipa gigantea and Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau'. A Ness special plant grown here is Geranium macrorrhizum var. album 'White-Ness', found growing on Mount Olympus by a former employee of the gardens. Also to look out for in this area are the late flowering azaleas known as the Ness Holt hybrids. These were described and named by Ness in the 1990's, with each one named after a town on the Wirral. These are superb plants that flower in late June to August and many have good scent. The rock garden looks at its best during the summer months, with superb displays of herbaceous, alpine and shrubby plants. Finally, not to be missed is the wildflower meadow in the bottom field that is at its best during May and June. Created in 2008, the meadow is an important home to a great range of birds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. At dusk hunting barn owls come out to play as well as bats. The trees around the perimeter of the meadow are also some of the most important one in the gardens, many of which are for the woody plant enthusiast.


Sorbus forrestii F19583 SP9Autumn is the main season for superb leaf colour as well as seeing the National Collection of Sorbus (rowans, whitebeams and allies) and fantastic birch collections at their best. The range of plants at Ness with great autumn colour is significant. Throughout the gardens there are many plants that turn sumptuous shades of red, yellow or orange. Ness has a significant collection of Maples (Acer species) including Paperbark Maple Acer griseum, Red Maple A. rubrum 'October Glory', and Sugar Maple A. saccharum. A must see in autumn in the water gardens is a grove of Persian Ironwood Parrotia persica from Iran growing, colouring from bright yellow to orange, red to deep burgundy. Other notable plants include fine specimens of Swamp Cypress Taxodium distichum, Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Black Tulepo Nyssa sylvatica and the Red Oaks from North America. Some of the birches also show wonderful autumn colour, especially those from North America (Paper Birch B. papyrifera, Cherry Birch B. lenta and B. alleghaniensis, bottom field) and Japan (the very rare species B. globispica, Spinney, and Japanese Cherry Birch B. grossa, bottom field). The Sorbus (rowans, whitebeams and allies) collection is one of the best in the world, with plants found throughout the gardens and forming a stunning array of fruit colours in autumn. The plants are found throughout the gardens and many of which have been used in ongoing research on this genus. Sadly many of them do not have easy names to remember! Some of the best garden picks include: Sorbus carmesina and S.
hugh-mcallesteri (pine wood); S. pseudovilmorinii and S. rosea (heather garden); and S. decora,S. forrestii, and S. vestita (bottom field).


Betula utilis ssp albosinensis W4106 HOWinter at Ness is a wonderful time and is the best time to appreciate some of the array of different birch barks in the gardens. The Ness Birch collection (Betula species) is one of the best in the country with many unusual species. Some of the highlights include numerous plants of Himalayan Birch Betula utilis, ranging from the beautiful pure white stemmed ssp. jacquemontii (Specimen lawn) from India to amazing shades of copper through to almost copper-black (bottom field). Dahurian Birch B. dahurica has flaky bark that peels into small plates with contrasting white and brown or copper undersides. The finest plants can be found in the bottom field and originate from Japan. Ness also grows a number of winter flowering camellias (oleifera and sasanqua hybrids) including 'Baronesa de Soutelinho', 'Winter's Charm', 'Winter's Star', and the best of them all 'Hugh Evans'. Ness also has a great range of winter flowering plants including several striking Witch Hazel (Hamamelis species).




Sunset behind Nothofagus dombyi 1