The cute little Alpine snowbell is native in the mountains but it thrives also on flatlands. The most crucial prerequisite is sufficient shade. The leaves of the Alpine snowbell are reniform, thick, stiff and evergreen. Conifers provide the best cover especially in spring when deciduous trees are still bare and the sun shines brightly. In sunshine the leaves of the Alpine snowbell become pale and may suffer from brown, dry spots.
Bearwort, with fine, almost fern-like leaves, is a luxuriant natural perennial in the mountainous areas of Europe, where it grows in alpine meadows. In Britain it grows best in the sheep-grazed Scottish Highlands.
Creeping juniper grows naturally over a large area of northern North America, from Newfoundland to near the Arctic Ocean, on rocky shores, in the mountains, in nutrient-poor forests and on bogs. It is hardy to heat and cold, enjoys full sun but also tolerates a degree of shade.
The North American species H. arborescens is not particularly attractive and is usually seen only in scientific collections. However, the various forms and named varieties which have been developed from the species, the so-called ball hydrangeas, have long been grown in Finland.
Macedonian pine seeds were first received at Mustila in 1907 from a Bulgarian forester. They had been collected in the Rila Mountains which, despite their southern position, have low average temperatures, and where the snow only melts in June. The species grows in the Balkan mountains as a relict from before the last Ice Age. In addition to Bulgaria and Macedonia, it also grows around Lake Prespa in Albania.
Rocky Mountain juniper grows throughout the mountainous areas of western North America, mainly above 1500 metres elevation. In places it forms large thickets giving a characteristic appearance to the landscape. It can grow into an erect, pillar-shaped or conical tree to 10 metres, or an irregular round shrub with strong branching from the base.
Juniper has the greatest range of any conifer. It grows on all the continents of the Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic tundra to the semi-tropics. This demands great adaptability to varying conditions, and juniper is indeed undemanding as to where it grows: from almost bare rock to nutrient-rich groves.
Juniper’s habit varies: creeper, shrubby or erect, sometimes even tree-like, with other intermediate forms. Particular forms are also selected for production and sale as “varieties”.
Tree aralia, the only species of the genus, is the plant equivalent of the Amur tiger. It has adapted to the freezing winters of the forest zones of north-eastern Asia although it looks more like a plant of the tropical jungle. To Finnish eyes it resembles the indoor plant fatsi (also called Japanese aralia or castor oil plant, Fatsia japonica), to which it is related. In its native habitat it grows into a massive 30-metre tree, whose trunk can exceed a metre in diameter. The trunk it covered in stout prickles, as are the branches.
These weigelas are handsome shrubs when they flower in June. They are crosses between W. florida and W. praecox. The variety ‘Eva Rathke’ has exceptionally dark and showy leaves, and the trumpet-shaped flowers are carmine.
Without snow cover the weigelas are cold tender even in the south of Finland, but usually new growth sprouts from the roots. At Mustila ‘Eva Rathke’ has survived under the snow for decades on the protected Terassi (Terrace).
Schlippenbach’s azalea is one of the commonest shrubs of the open oak and pine forests of the Korean mountains, extending above the tree-line. One of the most beautiful of the azaleas, it is also highly valued even in those countries where many azalea species thrive which are tender in Finland. It also tolerates chalk soils better than most of its relatives.