Perennials

Not yet winter in Pennsylvania

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' seedling with startling fall leaf color. Image ©GardenPhotos.com
National Public Radio reported this week that lilacs were in bloom in Washington, DC. A friend near here in Pennsylvania reports picking salad leaves from the open garden just a few days ago while anther says her spring crocuses are in bloom. It’s been mild back in Britain too.

Here in our garden the mild season has ensured that some plants developing late fall color have lasted and lasted. One young seedling of Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’ has produced some spectacular leaves (above, click to enlarge); the original plant and other seedlings are more of a blotchy yellow.

Hydrangea-quercifolia-Little-Honey-_J037665-700One of my favorite shrubs, Hydrangea Little Honey (‘Brihon’) (right, click to enlarge), a dwarf yellow-leaved form of the oak-leaved hydrangea, always turns burgundy red in the fall but often a couple of sharp frosts reduces the plant to bare stems. Not this year, the leaves have been wine red for weeks with a few just starting to develop fierier tones as they prepare to drop.

The other effect of these unseasonably mild weeks has been that after the first few, relatively gentle, frosts turned everything in the riverside meadows tawny brown – that’s how they stayed. The foxtail grass in the fields where the rudbeckias are such summer stars, I think this is Setaria viridis, has neither been crippled by frost nor battered by rain or snow and still stands out against the leafless escarpment. Lovely.

We’ve gentle frosts forecast for the weekend, with a high of 57F and a low of 39F forecast for Christmas Day. The snowdrops are in bud, but check out the Snowdrops In American Gardens Facebook group for news of plenty of snowdrops blooming merrily all over the country.

Oh, and a friend in Downeast Maine reports that the grass is growing and needs a trim. But I don’t care how long it gets here we’re not cutting the grass in December.

Foxtail grass, Setaria, still looking lovely on the Delaware River flood plain. Image ©GardenPhotos.com


New varieties of the easy and elegant primula

746_primula_flamenco-1000x750_0
In recent years, Barnhaven Primroses, originally from Oregon and now in France (via England) have been branching out. Nothing dramatic, but alongside primroses they’ve been expanding their choice of other primulas and also added hellebores to their range.

One exceptional, and much underrated, plant they’ve been championing is Primula sieboldii and they’ve recently announced the availability of some lovely forms from Japan, including the double-flowered ‘Flamenco’ (above). They’ve been quietly been building up stock for some time.

This is an exceptional species, with fresh looking, bright, divided leaves and a flurry of up to ten spring flowers held on upright stems. Sound like a polyanthus? Yes, but so much more delicate and stylish.

In the wild, it’s a woodlander creeping through wet woods in Japan, Korea, China, Russia and, as the canopy closes, the foliage fades away. In summer I find it will take drought, although it’s worth remembering that the plants dislike lime. And it’s very hardy: USDA Z4, RHS H7.

The only problem is that with no sign of it above ground from late summer until mid or late spring, it’s easy to forget precisely where you planted it and attempt to plant something else in its space.

Our plants here in Pennsylvania came from the late and much lamented Seneca Hill Nursery in upstate NY and I always pick a few stems to bring indoors from the expanding clumps. Some of the clumps have expanded so much that they’ve escaped the borders, meandered under the boards supporting the raised bed and emerged on the path.

764-sieboldii-Trade-Winds-1000x750_0Lazy’s Farm now seems to have the best choice in the US but, in Europe, always start at Barnhaven. They have seventeen varieties of their own raising, including ‘Trade Winds’ (right, click to enlarge) and twelve Japanese varieties available as plants, including the lovely ‘Flamenco’ (top) and some delightful forms with white picotee edges to the flowers. Nine more varieties are available as seed. 

Barnhaven will send seeds, and also plants, to the US, with a phytosanitary certificate at a cost of 11.43 euros. If customers have a small seed lots permit there is no phyto charge for sending seeds. [After six months I'm still waiting for my small seed lots permit...]

Perhaps people are disconcerted by the fact that the plants disappear for much of the year, or perhaps the intolerance of too much lime puts people off. But considering how easy they are to grow, we really don’t see them enough. They’re much easier to keep over the long term than the special varieties of primroses and polyanthus which so often seem to fade away after a few years.

In Japan, the heyday of Primula sieboldii was from the beginning of the 17th century to the mid 19th century but now Barnhaven and others are re-inventing them after so many varieties have been lost over the centuries. And it’s not as if they need careful cossetting and conditions it’s tough to provide. They’re easy… give them a go.


New heuchera that's quietly different

Heuchera 'Berry Timeless' is a container in partial shade. Image © GardenPhotos.comIn the first waves of enthusiasm for heucheras, back in the 1930s and then the 1950s, it was the flowers that were key and in fact many varieties were developed specifically as commercial cut flowers.

More recently, of course, foliage has been the thing and an astonishing range of foliage colors and patterns has been developed although many have poor flowers which are best snipped away.

So, obviously, the next thing was to bring the two features together. ‘Rave On’ is pretty good in combining good foliage with good flowers, but flowering tails off as spring passes. But, so far, ‘Berry Timeless’ (left, click to enlarge) really does look the part - even if the name is a bit corny.

OK, this is its first season on trial here but it’s clear that its bright silver foliage with minty green veins makes a lovely low dense mound. The flowers open in pale pink and fade to richer tones and, unlike the flowers many heucheras, they don’t fall off. Even while the little green seed capsules are developing the dusky reddish pink flowers are still colorful.

Old and new flowers on Heuchera 'Berry Timeless'. Image © GardenPhotos.comIt’s now August and there’s plenty of old flowers, new flowers and buds still on the plants (right, click to enlarge). And there’s another thing about the flowers: the length of bare stem below the flowers is relatively short so the flowers sit just above the leaves without a long length of bare stem in between. That’s a feature that really improves the look of the plant.

Developed by Walters Gardens in Michigan rather than the heuchera hatchery that is Terra Nova Nurseries, where most new heucheras originate; look out for more from them in the future.

Heuchera ‘Berry Timeless' is available in Canada from Canning Perennials and in the USA from Garden Crossings. It’s not yet available in Britain, but should be soon.


Slug resistant hostas?

Slug resistant hostas? Yes, well, maybe…

Slug resistant(!) Hosta 'Brother Ronald' destroyed by slugs. mage ©GardenPhotos.com

Anyone who writes anything about hostas usually ends up saying that some varieties are slug resistant. But let’s stop right there: what do we mean by “resistant”? Well, we don’t mean immune, that’s for sure. What we mean is that they’re far less likely to be eaten than other hostas, that’s all.

These are varieties that have unusually thick and heavily textured leaves that the slugs struggle to munch through. They’re often related to the old favorite H. sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ and many of them have blue foliage.

Now, I was looking for a hosta for my daughter Lizzie’s small town garden recently. And slugs are definitely a problem. So, I took a look at the huge range on sale at the Plant Centre at the RHS garden at Wisley near London and picked out one I didn't know, ‘Brother Ronald’. The foliage is really tough and leathery, it’s a lovely puckered blue color and it doesn’t get too big. Ideal.

It turned out that it was raised by Britain’s only notable hosta breeder, Eric Smith, who also raised ‘Halcyon’, ‘Hadspen Blue’ and others that often hold their own against slugs. What’s more, I discovered that hosta wizard Mark Zilis marks it as “slug-resistant” in his superb Hosta Handbook.

Well, a couple of days later I had an email from Lizzie. You can see what happened (above). Too many starving slugs.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have not one slug bite on a hosta this year, in spite of the wet season. – although last night’s roof rattling thunderstorm has punched a few holes in one or two. But of course we have frogs and snakes around to help keep the slugs under control.

Hosta 'Blue Mammoth'- no slug damage. Image ©GardenPhotos.com

‘Blue Mammoth’ (above) is majestic as usual, ‘June’ (below), a sport of another Eric Smith variety, ‘Halcyon’, is also pristine as is ‘Great Expectations’.

Diana Grenfell published a list of ten slug resistant hostas in her excellent book, A Gardeners Guide to Growing Hostas. She recommended: ‘Blue Umbrellas’, ‘Fragrant Gold’, ‘Green Sheen’, H. hypoleuca, ‘Invincible’, ‘Krossa Regal’, ‘Leather Sheen’, H. sieboldiana forms, ‘Silvery Slugproof’ and ‘Sum and Substance’. A good choice.

In my Encyclopedia of Perennials, I included a longer list of slug-resistant hostas that I and Mark Zilis put together. It included most of Diana Grenfell’s list plus: ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’, ‘Big Daddy’, ‘Blue Angel’, ‘Blue Dimples’, ‘Blue Mammoth’(above, good with us), ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Blue Wedgewood’, ‘Dorset Blue’, ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Gold Edger’, ‘Gold Regal’, ‘Great Expectations’ (great for us in PA), ‘Hadspen Blue’, ‘Halcyon’ (good with us), ‘June’ (below, good with us), ‘Love Pat’, ‘Northern Exposure’, ‘Sagae’, ‘Sea Lotus Leaf’, ‘Spilt Milk’, H. tokudama forms and ‘Zounds’.

I wonder if any of these recommended hostas can take the pressure that finished off ‘Brother Ronald’?

Hosta 'June' - no slug damage. Image ©GardenPhotos.com

Order the Gardeners’ Guide to Growing Hostas in North America
.

Order the Gardeners’ Guide to Growing Hostas in Britain.

Order my American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Perennials in North America.

Order my Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Perennials in Britain.

Order The Hosta Handbook by Mark R. Zilis in North America.

Order The Hosta Handbook by Mark R. Zilis in Britain.


The Welsh poppy gets a change of name

Meconopsis cambrica. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
As I mentioned here recently, there’s a plan to change the classic botanical name of the Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica. Chris Grey-Wilson, the world’s leading expert on Meconopsis, first proposed the idea of restricting the name Meconopsis to the Himalayan poppies in the botanical journal Taxon in 2012. He repeats the suggestion in his stunning new monograph on Meconopsis, which was published recently, and proposes a new botanical name for the Welsh poppy.

Actually, what he says, basically, is this: if you apply all the legitimate and agreed botanical rules, the Welsh poppy is in fact the only true Meconopsis. All the Himalayan blue poppies that have captured our imagination for so long are, botanically, so very different that they need a genus of their own. Fair enough.

But, because all the blue poppies are so fabulous and so well known to gardeners, we should call them Meconopsis and call the Welsh poppy something else. Technically, the Welsh poppy should probably be put back into the genus Papaver, where our old friend Carl Linnaeus first assigned it back in 1753. But, for various botanical reasons I needn’t go into, that would mess up the taxonomy of the seventy or so other species of Papaver. So Christopher suggests creating a new generic name: Parameconopsis. The Welsh poppy would become Parameconopsis cambrica.

He says that continuing to call the Welsh poppy Meconopsis cambrica and creating a new name for all the others “would be widely deplored in the botanical and horticultural worlds”. I wonder…

I’m entirely happy to accept that the two need to be separated. But, frankly, it sounds to me as if he simply wants to give the everyday, easy-to-grow, self-sows-everywhere plant a new name and retain the well known name for the tricky-to-grow ones with all the exotic and romantic Himalayan associations.

So I thought it would be interesting to see what the Welsh thought about all this and I asked Simon Goodenough, Curator of Horticulture at The National Botanic Garden of Wales.

“The Meconopsis debate has begun here in Wales,” he told me, “and there are a number of people who disagree with the idea of changing the botanical name of the Welsh poppy. However, I think changing its name will be a great opportunity to raise its status as a unique plant and one which Welsh botanists, gardeners and the people of Wales can be proud of. The National Botanic Garden of Wales will celebrate this change, however it plays out.” So, “always look on the bright side” is the message. Rather clever, actually…

Meconopsis aambrica - double flowered orange. Image ©Plant World SeedsAs I said, it’s not the first time the Welsh poppy has had a change of name. Our old friend Carl Linnaeus named it Papaver cambricum back in 1753, but then in 1814 a botanist called Louis Viguier separated it out into a genus of its own. You see why here. It’s also been classified as an Argemone, a Cerastites and a Stylophorum – but let’s not dig all that up. Now, it’s going to be Parameconopsis cambrica. But I have the feeling that when someone finally takes a good long look at the whole poppy family it might be on the move again.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… Gardeners in Britain and in North America can order seven different forms of the Welsh poppy, whatever its botanical name, from Plant World Seeds - including this double orange.


A Tale of Two Corydalis

Corydalis solida 'Blushing Girl' Image @GardenPhotos.com
This is a tale of two corydalis. One spreads steadily, but very slowly, the other is worrying the invasive plants people.

Corydalis solida ‘Blushing Girl’ (above) is a spring ephemeral for woodland conditions, at its peak today. It comes and goes relatively quickly in spring, then its little tubers sit and wait to do it all again the following year. The soft pink of its crowded flower heads is lovely, but it spreads only slowly.

Corydalis solida has a wide European distribution and this form originates from the great Latvian plantsman Janis Ruskans. It was available in the US from the late lamented Seneca Hill Nursery but no one, not even Odyssey Bulbs who list a huge range, seems to list it. In the UK, there are three stockists.

Since I’ve started feeding my clump with Miracle-Gro it’s spreading; I split it last year and it’s increasing noticeably. However, no seedlings. This is because individual clones of Corydalis solida are self incompatible – they will not set seed when fertilized with their own pollen. I’ve been tempted to buy one or two different ones, so they’ll cross and I’ll get seedlings. Now I wish I had, but I'd been trying to be sure that the lovely ‘Blushing Girl’ stayed true.

By contrast, there’s Corydalis incisa. This is an annual or biennial from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China  described as “startling” by the authors of the excellent book Bleeding, Hearts, Corydalis and Their Relatives (Available in Britain from amazon.co.uk and available in North America from amazon.com). They also say that they’ve seen it naturalized along the Bronx River in New York City.

As you’ll have guessed, no incompatability problems here and it now seems to Corydalis incisabe spreading in the City sufficiently to have alerted The New York Botanical Garden. It’s also been spotted elsewhere on the east coast: Maryland, DC, and Virginia.

This is not a plant that’s widely grown in gardens, it’s stocked by four UK nurseries and by Sunshine Farm & Gardens in the US so, I have to say, it’s entirely possible that it escaped from one of the City’s botanical gardens!

But let’s not get carried away. Of course, we don't want another plant smothering our natives along river banks and in flood plains. But it It’s only been seen as an escape for a few years – which, in ecological time, is just a moment– and, as we know, sometimes plants that seem threatening just fade away. In the meantime, enjoy ‘Blushing Girl’ and the many other forms of Corydalis solida. I’m going to keep pouring on the Miracle-Gro and take a closer look at those listed by Odyssey Bulbs.


Himalayan blue poppies: A stupendous new book

The Genus Meconopsis by Christopher Grey-WilsonThe blue poppies are amongst the most tantalizing plants we grow – or try to grow, at least. These exotic relatives of the corn poppy and Oriental poppy instantly attract visitors in any gardens where they’re in bloom. The Himalayan blue poppy… the very name is exciting. We’re almost in Indiana Jones country…

But there’s no doubt that not only are many species difficult to grow but their classification and naming has all been more than a little baffling. So the arrival of this fat – nay, enormous – new book from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the expert on Meconopsis, Christopher (Kit) Grey-Wilson, is very welcome.

So, first of all: 300 pages, 300 color pictures, large format (almost 12in x 10in/30cm x 25cmm), spectacularly thorough (except see below) and amazingly detailed. The photographs are superb, many of plants are seen in their wild Himalayan home which is not only a treat in itself, but also helps inform us on how to grow them. The writing is admirably lucid (as we would expect from Mr. G-W), especially considering some of the difficult botanical issues that he discusses. It’s such a relief to have all the classification and naming set out in a way we can all grasp.

But, to be clear: This is primarily a work of botany, and not a work of horticulture. Based on the latest field, herbarium and laboratory studies Kit has completely revised the classification of the whole genus, given us detailed new descriptions of all the wild forms and published many new names for the first time. Garden hybrids and garden cultivars are not usuallly discussed and even some that have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in recent years are not mentioned. As I say, this is not a book for gardeners.

There are many striking results of all this, but two stand out. Firstly, the name Meconopsis baileyi is now, again, the correct name for what we all finally got used to calling M. betonicifolia – the blue poppy most often seen and the easiest to grow. Secondly, our old friend the lovely yellow Welsh poppy, so familiar as Meconopsis cambrica, and native not only to Wales but Ireland and parts of south west England, and naturalized all over Britain, is now Parameconopsis cambrica. (More on that another time…)

So. This a very impressive work, and the culmination of many decades of dedicated and insightful study in the field, in the herbarium and in the laboratory. It’s an amazing achievement. But, as with The Genus Erythronium that I discussed here in December, it’s expensive: $112/£68. Isn't it time these books were published as ebooks for a third (a quarter?) of the price?

Kit taught me taxonomy when I studied at Kew many decades ago and he was mad about meconopsis then. This book is the triumphant culmination of a lifetime of study. Perhaps, next, he’ll give us a book for gardeners.

The Genus Meconopsis by Christopher Grey-Wilson is published by Kew Publishing in Britain and by The University of Chicago Press in North America.

                 


Erythroniums: Impressive new monograph from Kew

The Genus Erythronium by Chris Clennet. © Royal Botanic Gardens, KewBotanical science is the basis for all serious discussion of garden plants, the foundation for everything we know about the plants we grow. By classifying and describing our garden plants in an impartial scientific way, science provides a dependable basis for discussing and growing the plants. And the public expression of this fundamental research is the botanical monograph.

For more than twenty five years the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the greatest botanical institution in the world, has been publishing a series of monographs in association with the venerable Curtis’s Botanical magazine, founded in 1787. The latest title has recently appeared.

The Genus Erythronium (cover left, click to enlarge) continues in the style of its predecessors. The simple and elegant design of the pages entices us into the depth of the comprehensive content while the fourteen paintings, shared mainly between two fine, artists Christabel King and Pandora Sellars, combine the beauty of the individual species with botanical accuracy. These are augmented by more than sixty photographs, and 30 color distribution maps (below, click to enlarge).

The text by Chris Clennet, the Gardens Manager at Kew’s satellite garden at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, covers the 29 species with the thoroughness we expect although it’s only fair to be clear that the language of the descriptions is necessarily botanical. The natural distribution and ecology is discussed thoroughly and there are very helpful notes on the cultivation of each species are the result of years of experience and research. Erythronium californicum, painting by Christabel King and distribution map

There’s also an invaluable descriptive list of 49 garden hybrids and selections, the plants that are most widely available from nurseries and which most non-specialist gardeners actually grow. Included are useful notes on the distinctive features that separate similar plants.

The book is not intended for the occasional gardener. But for serious enthusiasts and growers, and for people like me helping everyday gardeners choose good plants and grow them well, books like this are indispensible.

I was fortunate to be involved in the publication of the very first books in this series, back in the late 1980s, and it’s heartening to see that the tradition is thriving. However, my admiration and appreciation of these books is tempered a little by one important point: the price. In spite of support from the Finnis Scott Foundation established on behalf of my old friend, the legendary plantswoman Valerie Finnis, this 148 page book is listed at £52.00/$85.00, which puts it beyond the range of many who would appreciate it. But it’s made me want to plant more erythroniums.

Look out for the latest in the series - Meconopsis. Out in the UK now, due in the US in January.

The Genus Erythronium by Chris Clennet is published by Kew Books and distributed in North America by the University of Chicago Press.


                

For more on erythroniums, see my blog post from back in 2006.


Four plant books from Timber Press: Dahlias, Snowdrops, Salvias and Sedums

Plant Lover's Guide To Dahlias by Andy Vernon. ISBN: 9781604694161A new series of books for gardeners on individual plants is a big deal. In recent years we've seen fewer specialist plant books published and, as the market for books on many plants is limited, publishers will rarely sanction a new book on a subject even if an earlier one is not up to scratch.

Neither will publishers produce different editions for the British and American markets. So the one book on a specific plant has to provide good information for both British and American gardeners – and this is a definite challenge when the gardening conditions and techniques are so different, tastes are so different, and the plants grown are often very different.

The first four titles in the new Plant Lover’s Guides series from Timber Press came out earlier this year. I’ve been using them, let’s see how they stand up. There are four titles: Dahlias and Snowdrops are written by Brits, Salvias and Sedums by Americans. Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops by Naomi Slade. ISBN: 9781604694352All the books share the same structure though, oddly, the book on salvias has the fewest pages in spite of the fact that there are at least twice as many salvias grown as there are snowdrops. All four are attractively designed, accessible, with excellent photography and clear typography. The authors clearly know their stuff, and write well.

The individual entries are similar in their structure, although organized differently, and each book includes 150 main entries – a tiny proportion of the more than 1500 salvias grown in gardens, and around 700 sedums for example. Clearly, many are excluded. In fact there's no entry for the first sedum I look up, the very widely grown ‘Iceberg’.

This prompts the question: are these books intended to highlight the author’s recommend plants, or for gardeners to find information about plants in which they’re interested? It’s definitely the former and of course an expert’s guidance is always valuable but these are books of inspiration not books of reference.

Plant Lover's Guide To Salvias by John Whittlesey. ISBN: 9781604694192A big issue that these four books fail to address adequately is hardiness. In two of the books, Snowdrops and Dahlias, the USDA hardiness ratings of the plants are not given at all; a significant omission. None of the four provide plant-by-plant hardiness information for British gardeners; the Royal Horticultural Society’s system of hardiness ratings is not included. The publisher tells me it would be “too confusing” to include both the British and the North American hardiness zones. Gardens Illustrated magazine, which sells well on both sides of the Atlantic, don't agree: they include both. The battle to persuade the RHS to adopt the American system (I fought hard!) was lost. The RHS now has its own system for Britain; the RHS zones should be there.

Another thing that puzzles me is awards. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Award Of Garden Merit (AGM) is well known and widely used in Britain and, perhaps unexpectedly, often quoted in North America as well. In the Snowdrops and Dahlia books plants with the AGM are noted, in the Salvia book not only are award-winners not marked but only half the salvias awarded the AGM are included. Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ is not noted as the US Perennial Plant Of The Year for 1997. In the Sedums book, some AGM plants are marked and others are not.

Plant Lover's Guide To Sedums by Brent Horvath. ISBN: 9781604693928It’s great to see this new series of plant books. OK, there are problems. It’s not easy to ensure that plant books work well on both sides of the Atlantic. And, of course, the individual requirements of these different plants should not be forced screaming into a rigid structure. What’s more, the economics of publishing are not at all what they once were and it’s tough for publishers to make a fair return on specialist plant books (tough for authors, too) and these books are issued at a fair price: $24.95/£17.99 before discounts, less for the Kindle editions although the Kindle versions are not available in Britain. Books on tulips, asters, epimediums and ferns on the way.

But it’s unfortunate that the value of so much good information, elegantly and attractively presented and brought to us by wise and experienced plantspeople, has not been matched by a consistent appreciation of the needs of gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, for gardeners not looking for exhaustive references, these books serve as a wide view into narrow subjects in an engaging and atractive way.

The Plant Lover’s Guides to Dahlias, Snowdrops, Salvias and Sedums are published by Timber Press.

Plant Lover's Guide To Dahlias by Andy Vernon. 9781604694161Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias by Andy Vernon in North America from amazon.com in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias by Andy Vernon in Britain and Ireland from amazon.co.uk

Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops by Naomi Slade. 9781604694352Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade in North America from amazon.com in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade in Britain and Ireland from amazon.co.uk

Plant Lover's Guide To Salvias by John Whittlesey. 9781604694192Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias by John Whittlesey in North America from amazon.com in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias by John Whittlesey in Britain and Ireland from amazon.co.uk

Plant Lover's Guide To Sedums by Brent Horvath. 9781604693928Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums by Brent Horvath in North America from amazon.com in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums by Brent Horvath in Britain and Ireland from amazon.co.uk




Hostas for late season leaf color

HopstaPaulsGloryFallThis is not the time of year when we usually think of hostas turning on the color but look at this ‘Paul’s Glory’ outside my window here in Pennsylvania. All summer the golden leaves with their narrow blue-green edges have made an impressive clump but now, as the edges turn yellow and the centers fade to white (as they tend to do in shade), ‘Paul’s Glory’ takes on a whole new look. And it’s not the only one.

Years ago in my garden in Northamptonshire I grew that old favorite ‘Halcyon’ in a terracotta pot (below right, click to enlarge). And every year it turned this lovely biscuit brown in the autumn. The little hardy geranium in amongst it is a self sown Geranium thunbergii. I grew some from seed collected in China but it proved to be a small-flowered weedy ground cover although its autumn leaves take on these attractive tones. Hosta-Halcyon-2UP-700

The other hosta I especially like for its autumn display is the oddly named ‘Christmas Tree’ (below, click to enlarge) whose bold puckered leaves are turning a lovely soft yellow now.

Regular readers will appreciate that these all fall in a group of plants for which I have a special enthusiasm - individual varieties which have two different seasons of display. Powerhouse Plants, my publisher insisted on calling them for the book in which over five hundred such plants are covered – some of which actually have four or five different seasons of interest.

And after all, what's not to like about hostas that look wonderful all summer – and then turn a different shade of wonderful in the fall?!
HostaChristmasTreeHoriz-700