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Aesculus - Growing Guide
Buckeye, Horse chestnut
It was only after visiting Michael Heseltine’s national collection of Aesculus at Thenhurst that the realisation dawned that this genus can extend the flowering season on to late May and early June in a woodland garden that is, by then, close to finishing up for the season. Aesculus hippocastanum, the horse chestnut may be a common street or parkland flowering tree but other species have much more varied and colourful flowers. This all led to the creation of a new Aesculus plantation in Kennel Close at Caerhays in which there are now 15 species and varieties to admire as ornamental flowering trees.
Aesculus x mutabilis ‘Induta’ was one of the stars of the show gardens at Chelsea 2019. This is a slow growing shrub which is ideal for the smaller garden and has apricot coloured flowers with yellow markings.
Caerhays has the original Wilson introduction of Aesculus wilsonii which appeared here in 1908. The 100ft tall tree is on its last legs now but its conkers have been grown over many decades. This is still a rare tree but the white flowers with yellow then red centres are a delight in June.
A. pavia, the red buckeye, is another beautiful large shrub with crimson-red flowers. A. chinensis, the Chinese horse chestnut, has long slender cylindrical racemes.
A. parviflora, the dwarf horse chestnut, is a clump forming suckering shrub growing eventually to 8-10ft in height. It flowers late in July or August with white flowers that have red anthers.
A. turbiniata, the Japanese horse chestnut, is now a large tree at Burncoose. It was first given to us by Squadron-Leader George Witherwick, a dentist and gardener from Trelean whose memoirs were called ‘Fangs’. It has yellowish-white flowers each with a red spot.
A. indica ‘Sidney Pearce’ is a form of the Indian horse chestnut with white flowers suffused pink and yellow markings. A. x carnea ‘Briotii’, a form of the red horse chestnut, has deep pink flowers.
Most of these are large spreading trees which need space to grow in full sun as specimen plants. They have transformed the early summer providing much of interest for late season visitors to Caerhays.