Previous month:
February 2008
Next month:
April 2008

March 2008

Top Ten New Perennials

Today, I have a piece on the Top Ten New Perennials in the Daily Telegraph.You can read it here. Be sure to click on the In Pictures: Top 10 new perennials link at the top of the page to see a slide show of all ten of my picks.

You can also read my previous article on Clematis cirrhosa here

And my piece for the Telegraph on hellebores here

And my piece for them on winter arums here

And my piece for them on bergenias here

And my piece on winter flowering pansies here

And another piece, on growing your own mistletoe, here

The Daily Telegraph is one of Britain's best-selling daily newspapers and winner of the 2007 Garden Media Guild award for the Gardening Newspaper of the Year.


White Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia_nicolai500cc Yes, yes… I worked in the Palm House at Kew so I should know this plant. Well, perhaps I did water it every day, but that was a long long time ago - perhaps I’ve just forgotten it. But coming across it in the new catalog from Stokes Tropicals that just arrived it really looked amazing. Strelitzia nicolai, it’s called and it’s a huge, 20ft, white-flowered version of the familiar orange Bird of Paradise. Likes the same conditions, too, so shouldn’t be too tricky to grow – if you have a conservatory big enough or if you garden in zone 10… Florida perhaps.

Then I found it on the University of British Columbia’s exceptional Botany Photo of the Day blog – with some startling pictures.

And all I can say is this:
1. Go check it out on Botany Photo of the Day blog here
2. If you’re in the US you can order a plant from Stokes Tropicals here
3. If you’re in the UK, the RHS PlantFinder lists a good number of mail order stockists here

Enough said.

The wrong daffodils

Daffodilshedgerow500I bashed on about this issue last year - here I go again!

As Head Gardeners at Vita Sackville-West’s garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, Pam Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutsberger had a powerful influence on gardening styles in Britain. They are still most insistent that plants must be suited to their surroundings and one of their special hates is the planting of large-flowered, hybrid, trumpet daffodils in hedgerows and in wild places in attempt to “add a bit of colour”. They just look so out of place.

Country villages are especially prone to plant drifts of yellow daffs along roadsides as you enter the village and even villages in areas where wild daffodils are growing naturally nearby plant blowsy hybrids. The example in the picture is from a hedgerow outside a village in Northamptonshire. They may be colourful, but they just don’t fit.

It’s easy enough to buy bulbs of the wild species, Narcissus pseudonarcissus,  these days – bulbs that have been propagated on nurseries and not dug up from the wild – and there are even vigorous hybrid daffodils in a more demure, naturalistic style.

So, please… why not dig up the heavy-headed hybrids and move them in a garden or park in the village? You can do it as soon as they’ve finished flowering, they won’t mind. Then, in the autumn, plant something wild daffodils or varieties that fit into the natural scene harmoniously.

The extraordinary skunk cabbage

Symplocarpus29155500 "The skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is one of the most curious and widespread wild flowers of the midwest and northeast. Its disparaging common name tends to devalue a fascinating flower which, while certainly not a horticultural marvel, is sometimes cheekily referred to as the American hosta – especially for the benefit of overseas visitors. But what makes this relatively demure flower so intriguing?"

So starts my piece on this fascinating plant in in the January-February issue of American Gardener magazine. Members of the American Horticultural Society can read the piece here. If you're not a member, I urge you to join.

There's more on this plant from last April here on Transatlantic Plantsman. Read it here.

Odd new polyanthus

Primulaglamis500 New primulas of one kind or another just keep on coming and in garden centres around the country at the moment are two polyanthus varieties which really are different – whether they have anything else going for them I’m not so sure.

The Royal Oakleaf Series have two distinctly unusual features. Firstly, the leaves are strikingly lobed… which is fine: interesting, not dramatic, but an intriguing departure. Secondly, each flower is slit into five or six slender lobes… interesting, but significantly reducing the impact. There are two forms.: ‘Glamis’ is a red and yellow bicolour – the shade of red varies noticeably - while ‘Balmoral’ is a bright yellow version.

The trouble is that these are more interesting oddities for primula fanatics than significant new garden plants. But they seem to be in quite a few British garden centres just now, so see what you think.

These plants come from – where you can find other new primulas and also new begonias.

Prolific new clematis

Clematisenhamstar500 Evergreen clematis are invaluable garden climbers and at this time of year Clematis armandii, in its various pink- and white-flowered forms is really spectacular.

I’ve been looking at the plant sales areas at garden centres around Britain over the last two or three weeks and one plant I especially noticed was a new form of this excellent plant – ‘Enham Star’. Discovered in the horticulture division of Enham, a national disability charity, the flowers are white with a slight pink blush and ‘Enham Star’ is said to be unusually prolific – and it certainly looks that way from the large plants I saw on sale. Look out for it in the new RHS PlantFinder, out next month.

Oddly, though, go to the Enham website and there’s no mention of the clematis at all.

Must-have hepaticas

Hepaticajaponica500 I’m sorry there’s been a little gap in posts here recently… rushing round England… laid up with the Rice family head-and-chest cold… visiting family and friends… But I’ve spotted a few interesting plants on my travels and the first I’ll mention are hepaticas.

Many of the early woodland flowers are such jewels that the covetous thoughts they elicit can be distinctly uncomfortable. Hepaticas come high on the “Wow” list but you can head to the RHS Garden at Wisley this weekend and admire their impressive collection; it’s on display in the Alpine House until the end of Sunday afternoon.

Sparkling pristine singles in blues, pinks and white, exquisite doubles, prettily marbled foliage – the collection features plants in a vast variety of forms from North America and Asia many of which are easy to grow outside in shady places as well as in pots. They’re great in a shady, unheated greenhouse – not many plants enjoy conditions like that.

So be sure to pick up a copy of the Growing Hepaticas leaflet written by Lucie Rudnicka, who looks after the plants, and you can find out more on hepaticas and see more pictures on the Ashwood Nurseries website.

UPDATE The RHS has a new hepatica collection available to British Gardeners - click here for details.

Winter clematis

This is just to say that you can read my article on Clematis cirrhosa in today's Daily Telegraph here.

You can read last week's piece on hellebores here

And my piece for them on winter arums here

And my piece for them on bergenias here

And my piece on winter flowering pansies here.

And another piece, on growing your own mistletoe, here.

The Daily Telegraph is one of Britain's best-selling daily newspapers and winners of the 2007 award for the Gardening Newspaper of the Year.