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Saxifraga Ciliata - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Saxifraga Ciliata - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Saxifraga Ciliata Described.

Saxifraga Ciliata - Hairy-margined Saxifrage; Syn. Megasea Ciliata; Nat. Ord. Saxifragaceæ.

This is a peculiar, distinct, and beautiful form of Saxifrage; there seems, however, to be some confusion in reference to its nomenclature. That it belongs to the Megasea section there can be little doubt, so that its synonym (M. ciliata) is fairly descriptive; but when it is said to be identical with S. ligulata, also of the Megasea section, the difficulty of recognising the form illustrated as such is very great indeed. It is also supposed to be a variety of S. ligulata, and though it has many important dissimilarities, it has also many affinities. So much does it differ from S. ligulata that it seems to be fully entitled to the specific honours which some authorities have given to it. It differs from S. ligulata, described by Don, in being rough and hairy on both sides of the leaves; in other respects it agrees, more especially in the colour of the flowers, which is uncommon. It may be the Megasea ciliata of Haworth, which Don refers to under S. ligulata, or it may be a distinct form of the latter, as, on the authority of Dr. Wallich, of the Botanical Gardens of Calcutta, the species has varieties. Wherever its proper place may be in its numerous genus, the name at the head hereof is a good descriptive one. It is an Indian contribution, hailing from the mountains east of Bengal. In this climate it endures our winters, though it is not one of the hardiest of its tribe. It has not long been cultivated in this country, and is rarely met with. Its distinct habit and fine flowers render it desirable, and it will with many be more so on the score of its peculiarities. A few of the latter may be mentioned here. Anthers very large, and brick-red before becoming pollenized; scapes and scape-sheaths nearly smooth, though all other foliar parts are hairy; stipules very large and fully developed whilst the leaves are in their rudimentary stage. When not in flower the plant has a strong resemblance to S. sarmentosa, which belongs to another section, but S. ciliata has features belonging to both sections. The habit, however, is more flat, and leaves more oval, and if, as has been hinted, this is a hybrid, it may not be without some relationship to that species, which is also of Asian origin. Further, on the authority of Murray, Sax. sarmentosa is identical with S. ligulata; so that, if we may suppose S. ciliata to be a distinct variety of S. ligulata, and the latter to have such affinity to S. sarmentosa that Murray puts it as identical, the chief difference between our subject and the form generally accepted as S. ligulata is accounted for, viz., the hairy and rougher surfaces of the leaves, which are traits of the well-known S. sarmentosa. If these remarks prove nothing, they may serve to show the difficulty of recognising the various forms and species of so popular a genus from reading alone, it having been so extensively treated of, and the classifications being so varied. Its study, when the species are being cultivated, is simply delightful, compared with the confusion of book study alone; and yet it is no uncommon thing, when forming a collection of Saxifrages, to receive three or four different forms from different sources under the same name, and each perhaps more or less authorised. The student by growing this genus of plants will reap other pleasures than that of identification, and in a few years time will find in his own garden (as the outcome of growing allied species) new forms springing from seed, and scattered about the beds and walks in a pleasing and suggestive manner.

The present subject has bell-shaped flowers, arranged in short-branched panicles, each flower ¾in. across, and sometimes, when well expanded, quite an inch; the colour is a delicate pink-tinted white; petals obovate and concave, inserted in the calyx, clawed, sometimes notched and even lobed; stamens long as petals, inserted in throat of calyx, stout, green changing to pink; anthers large and brick red when young; styles massive, joining close together, turgid, nearly long as stamens, and pale green; stigmas, simple, beardless, turning to a red colour; calyx bell-shaped, five-parted, wrinkled; segments slightly reflexed and conniving or joining; scapes 4in. to 6in. high, stout and smooth, excepting solitary hairs; bracts, leaf-like; leaves oval or cordate, 2in. to 4in. long, wrinkled, slightly waved, and toothed, conspicuously ciliated or haired on the margin, whence the specific name "ciliata." Both surfaces are also furnished with short stiff hairs, the whole leaf being stout and flatly arranged; leaf stalks short, thick, and furnished with numerous long hairs, and ample stipules, which are glabrous, but beautifully ciliated. Roots, woody, and slightly creeping on the surface. Habit of foliage reflexing, forming flat masses; smaller or supplementary scapes are sent up later than the main scape, from the midst of the stipules, bearing flowers in ones and twos. The blossom, which is effective and very beautiful, is also sweetly scented, like the hawthorn.

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Saxifraga Ciliata

As already hinted, this is not one of the most hardy Saxifrages, but I have twice wintered it out on gritty beds, well raised, also on rockwork, under a warm south wall; and, as such positions can be found or made in most gardens, it would be advisable to try and establish this distinct and lovely spring bloomer. Lime and sandstone grit mixed with loam and leaf soil I find to be the best compost I have yet tried for it; in fact, until a dry situation and a little lime were given, it proved a shy bloomer. It is now quite the reverse, notwithstanding that the roots were divided during the previous autumn. Fogs and rain are its greatest plagues, owing to its hairy nature; the glass and wire shelters should be used for this most deserving subject. Propagated by division of the woody semi-creeping roots during early autumn; each division should have a crown and some roots, when they may be planted in their permanent quarters.

Flowering period, March to May.

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