Marvellous Michigan
Variegated pinellia - RIP

Speaking at Heronswood

Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart'. Image © A few days ago I was speaking at the open days for Heronswood Nursery, a two and a half hour drive south of here and just outside Philadelphia. I’d have told you about it sooner if I hadn’t got so many plants that I needed to get in the ground before we head off to England for the Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow. In particular, I was delighted to be planting a new pink hybrid hellebore, ‘Rosemary’, which should be available here soon. Anyway…

Heronswood was founded on the west coast by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones and is now part of the Burpee group on the east coast, and it’s clearly getting into gear in its new incarnation. Ros Creasy was also on the bill, with her inspiring presentation on her edible landscapes, and I discussed plants for small gardens – plants that give the extra value needed in small spaces.

But as well as making my presentations and talking to the many visitors to Fordhook Farm for the event, I had a chance to take a look at the developments in the gardens. It was a little late for their hellebores, which are a Heronswood specialty: Dan Hinkley began their hellebore breeding using stock sourced in England, Grace Romero continues the program with some splendid new introductions and more on the way. In fact the Heronswood hellebores were amongst the plants I had to get planted today.

But as I took a little time to explore the expanding plantings, there were two plants which caught my eye – one a universally admired perennial from England, and one viewed here in the US with rather more mixed feelings.

We all love Dicentra spectabilis, the tall Asian bleeding heart, but the gold-leaved version, ‘Gold Heart’, adds a whole new dimension to the shade garden – selected at Hadspen House garden in England buy Canadians Nori and Sandra Pope, it was a standout feature at Heronswood. Its foliage is golden yellow from the moment it peeps through the soil in spring and as the plant expands it lights up the landscape. Then the familiar long strings of bleeding hearts, in a paler shade than the usual green-leaved version, arch outwards. The result is a spectacular shade plant.

Pinellia ternata. Image © Another shade plant I came across in the Heronswood garden – well, let’s be fair, my wife judy spotted it first - is one of the classiest weeds you’ll ever find: Pinellia ternata, also known for some unfathomable reason as crowdipper.

This member of the Arum family (Araceae), a relative of the native Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), with its green cowl and slender black tongue, seemed to have arrived in clumps of a variegated agapanthus and was spreading from there. It’s not at all flamboyant but this demure perennial is perhaps just too captivating for the gardeners’ own good. It's rarely offered by American nurseries, in Britain it's offered by these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

With no cares about upsetting the anti-alien, native plant enthusiasts – I should have asked for some to take home. If it should escape outside the deer fence – it would be gone, so no danger. The Scott Arboretum would not agree.

Anyway… all in all it was a fascinating couple of days at Heronswood.