Solving plant-based mysteries is one of the enjoyable aspects of gardening, and they crop up daily in summertime.
It most often relates to plant, pest or disease identification, and there is always a case of perennial shrubs or ornamental trees starting to lose leaves prematurely.
This is generally down to drought.
It may have been raining heavily for a short period, but how far has that moisture penetrated?
If a plant is closing down its system prematurely it can be saved if you recognise the signs soon enough and offer water.
Last week friend Ian produced a photograph of a shrub with red, bell-shaped flowers he had taken on his mobile.
He’d seen it growing at Cragside and wondered what it was.
He sent me an image and The Hillier Dictionary of Tress and Shrubs confirmed my initial response – it was Crinodendron hookerianum.
Next step was to advise him that all the information he required could be found at the RHS site online.
How helpful the internet can be.
But books are useful too. The epithet hookerianum suggests that the plant was named after Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), a famous botanist, director of Kew, and the man who initiated rhododendromania.
His story can be found in The Plant Hunters, published by Ward Lock, alongside those of Banks, Douglas, Wilson et al – another fascinating book I’m forever delving into.