A visit to the Demonstration Garden will reveal a mass of strawberry flowers. Fragaria ‘Pink Panda’ is a carpet of pink bloom. This vigorous herbaceous member of Rosaceae covers ground through stolon production. A simple and effective means of vegetative propagation, these overground runners radiate away from the mother plant, rooting to stabilise at a node then continuing to arch over the soil, forming second and third plantlets. Decorative rather than productive, few fruits result from this prolific flowering.
Heading further west to the areas of calcareous grassland reveals Fragaria vesca, the wild strawberry, a native of the temperate northern hemisphere. These plants were growing and seeding one mile north of Loch Achall near Ullapool in the vicinity of a limestone quarry overlying granite rock, on a north-facing slope of grazed grassland among rock outcrops growing with Thymus, Alchemilla, Sedum, Blechnum and Gramineae. The plants were brought to the Garden in 1997 when the area of quarry was extended, leading to destruction of habitat.
This white-petalled species of wild strawberry was the basis of strawberry production in Europe. Cultivated since the 1300s, initially in France, production was prolific at the gardens of the Louvre in Paris. When travel and exploration extended the boundaries of knowledge, larger fruited species from North America were collected and shipped to Europe. Thus the soft fruit industry bred and refined selected forms for fruit production.