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December 2010

November 2010

Summer and fall meet winter and spring

We’re in that odd interlude where summer and autumn meet winter and spring. So the last of summer and fall, meets the first of winter and spring.

Arum italicum forms have been dormant all summer but now are developing their finest foliage just before they endure that unpredictable wait under winter’s snow – or, worse, without its protection. Below (click to enlarge) is Arum italicum ‘Eco Framed Picture’, from fabled Georgia plantsman Don Jacobs.

Alongside is one of the finest foliage perennials of recent years, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’. In its brightest and best color in summer, it keeps its color all year and has always emerged unscathed after winter’s snow to provide a patch of bright spring sunshine.

Heuchera,Citronelle,Arum,italicum,Eco Framed Picture. Image © (all rights reserved)

For three weeks now, Helleborus niger ‘HGC Joshua’ (below, click to enlarge) has been flinging up flowers which are highlighted so well by the rich dark foliage. And although the first frosts and the occasional deluge have combined to take the refinement out of these early flowers they’re welcome none the less. No other forms even show buds, many won't flower till March or April.

helleborus,niger,Joshua. Image © (all rights reserved)

A few yards away, from the other extreme if you like, the golden brown coloring on Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Princess Susan’ (below, click to enlarge) has passed from bright butter yellow a few weeks ago but still stands out in spite of a weevil or some such creature taking little bites out of the edges of too many leaves. In spring its masses of pink and white flowers make it one of the best of all epimediums – and with the bonus of this fall foliage it really is a star. And E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum ‘Thunderbolt’ is only just starting to show hints of its purple fall foliage color, following its yellow spring flowers. Both these are from Darrell Probst.

Epimedium,grandiflorum,Princess Susan. Image © (all rights reserved)

With a few unexpected foxglove flowers, fall color hanging on with the last of the physocarpus, dogwoods and viburnums, pink ‘Mei-kyo’ and yellow ‘Nantyderry Sunshine’ pompon chrysanthemums still in color and the last of two or three months of pink flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium over its bright silver foliage – the seasons continue to mingle. But regular nightly frosts are forecast to start soon…

• Look out for my article on Arum italicum forms in the December issue of the RHS magazine, The Plantsman.

• For more on ‘HGC Joshua’ and other selections and hybrids of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, take a look at my article in the December 2009 issue of The Garden.

Choisya Sundance - origins and abuses

Choisya ternata Sundance was a pioneering plant. One of the first shrubs to be protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights in Britain, it was also one of the first to benefit from the kind of intense marketing that now propels so many plants into garden centres and into gardens.
Choisya,Sundance,Lich,Peter Catt, Image © (all rights reserved)

Discovered by British nurseryman Peter Catt, it’s a yellow-leaved form of the familiar evergreen shrub Choisya ternata with the same fragrant white flowers. You now see it in front gardens, in particular, all over the Britain. It’s interesting to know how it originated. Peter explains.

"This very popular plant started its life when, in 1978, I spotted a very small leaf, low down on an old Choisya ternata from which I was taking cuttings. I took the cutting on which this small leaf was and rooted it. When it came into growth I removed the shoot from the top, which encouraged the side shoots. These I also removed. This forced a growth from the leaf that I had spotted which was about the size of my small fingernail and had a white edge. I had envisaged a white edged variegation. To my amazement out came a golden shoot and having cleaned it up in a micro-prop lab, the plant was launched at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1986."

So from one leaf the size of a fingernail came one of the most popular of garden shrubs.

But it’s not perfect. It sometimes reverts to plain green and, as can be seen in the picture, the green shoots outgrow the yellow ones so must be removed. It also sometimes bleaches and scorches in full sun, especially on dry soils and in dry summers. And it’s not happy in drying winds.
Choisya,Sundance,Lich,Peter Catt, revert. Image © (all rights reserved)

It also suffers from misguided pruning – quite what’s behind clipping it into a rectangular box is a mystery: it may be a two minute job with the hedge trimmer, but it’s not exactly elegant.
Choisya,Sundance,Lich,Peter Catt, revert. Image © (all rights reserved)

But Choisya ternata Sundance (‘Lich’), to give it its full and proper name, is also a pioneer in another way. Nurseries that propagate protected plants must pay a royalty to the breeder for each plant they sell. But Peter Catt became increasingly incensed that growers were selling his plant without paying up, and sometimes under a different name, that he could take it no more.

The British trade magazine Horticulture Week reported: “A pioneering grower has snapped after years of trademark abuse of a showcase plant by threatening court action for those who flout rules on Plant Breeders’ Rights. Peter Catt became so angry over “plagiarism” of his Choisya ternata Sundance (‘Lich’) that he took out adverts in the horticultural press to remind growers they needed permission to grow the plant and had to pay royalties.

“It’s been going on for years and I’m so fed up,” said Peter, the managing director of Liss Forest Nursery, Hampshire. “I wish I knew exactly how many growers are involved, but it’s many thousands. If I can stem the flow by making garden centres and other buyers realise they are at fault, hopefully European growers will come round to paying royalties.”

The discovery and success of Choisya Sundance ('Lich') set Peter off on the road to raising and introducing many other fine new shrubs; Caryopteris Sterling Silver (‘Lissilv’) is one of the latest.

His plants, and those of other breeders, are still pirated but there is now an acceptance amongst growers of the need to pay royalties. But of course we still can’t prevent gardeners clipping them into boxes. I even once saw Choisya Sundance ('Lich') trained into a leaning and lopsided standard. Let’s hope a storm put it, and us, out of our misery.

Recent plants and gardens articles online

Chelsea New Plants Report by Graham Rice Here’s a quick guide to my work which has appeared online since my last update six weeks ago. Quite a variety, I hope you find something interesting.

The Plantsman magazine

My report on the first year of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Plant of The Year award can be found in The Plantsman magazine.

The Guardian newspaper

My choice of ten fragrant plants for winter gardens appeared in the gardening pages of The Guardian newspaper

Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit plants

Continuing my choices from plants awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:

Ten autumn colour garden trees which have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

10 AGM Evergreens by Graham Rice Ten variegated evergreen shrubs for winter which have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Be sure to take a look at all my selections of AGM plants

Continuing my choices of plants recently award the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Kniphofia ‘Bees Sunset’

Chrysanthemum ‘Perry’s Peach’

Be sure to take a look at all the latest AGM winners I've written up.

Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog

Over on my my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog I’ve posted about these plants:

Echinacea ‘Magic Box’: New from Thompson & Morgan

Coreopsis ‘Unbelievable’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

Anemone Pretty Lady Series: new dwarf Japanese anemones

Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’: New from Plants of Distinction

Potato ‘Sunrise’: New from D. T. Brown

Petunia ‘Black Velvet’: New for 2011

Petunia ‘Phantom’: New from Thompson & Morgan

Two new variegated hebes

Transatlantic Plantsman blog

And here on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog, these are my recent posts:

Guest post: judywhite goes nuts for nuts

Mad planting ideas for our country town

£40 (that’s more than $60) - for a fescue!!

Victory over the plant police – for now at least

Blueberries in fall color

Witch hazels at RareFind Nursery