Two essential plant catalogs 1: Plant Delights
Hellebores at the airport

Two essential plant catalogues 2: Cotswold Garden Flowers

Cotswold Garden Flowers,catalog,2011,Bob Brown. Image ©Cotswold Garden Flowers In Britain, one catalogue stands out for its committment to bringing us excellent new introductions, thoughtfully chosen plants from way back – and strong opinions. For in his Cotswold Garden Flowers catalogue, Bob Brown not only releases his own new plants plus those of other top breeders on both sides of the Atlantic, and chooses the best of all the rest, but he rates every plant in the catalogue. He gives each plant marks out of ten!

Now, of course, you won’t find any with only two or three marks, though there’s an elder rated only 3.5. A few plants escape rating but almost everything in the catalogue is rated 7 or more, with quite a few starring at 10 out of 10. “A score of 5 is average – it’s OK,” says Bob, “6 is nice, 7 is good, 8 is very good, etc. I welcome argument.”

The 10-out-of-10s include three agapanthus, two agaves, a bergenia, two brunneras, two cannas, a chrysanthemum, three crocosmias, an echinacea, three hellebores, two heucheras, no hostas, two kniphofias, a meconopsis, an Oriental poppy, three primulas…

Bob loves, and breeds crocosmias; three get top marks and, out of 13, ten get 9, 9.5 or 10. Same goes for kniphofias, two are rated 10. The picture below shows the throwouts from the breeding programme. And his son Edmund’s enthusiasm for elders is revealed in the collection of 46 (yes, you read right, 46 ) different types. Though none rate a 10, there are many specially selected for their fruit production.

Some plants are praised in a single word to go with their 10 out of 10: “amazing” (Helleborus ‘Bob’s Best’), “fabulous” (Papaver orientale ‘Snow Goose’). Others get a sparky phrase: “you (or more likely your spouse/partner) need mental preparation for its irruption” (Clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’).

On the nursery’s website, you’ll not only find the text of the catalogue, but a record of Bob’s ratings for a huge range of plants that did not make it into the catalogue or are still being assessed:
“Small mounds of crinkled dark green glossy foliage as if suffering an aphid attack... Died - unknown reasons’ (Ajuga pyramidalis ‘Metallica Crispa’)
“Destroyed - not good enough.” (Vinca major ‘Jason Hill’)
“Easy. Most visitors are more enthusiastic than I am. (Died of old age).” (Potentilla ‘Melton Fire’)

And although this is all very amusing, it’s important to remember that with Bob’s experience, his fine eye for a good plants, and his inability to prevaricate for the sake of a sale you can trust what he says.

A visit to the nursery is a treat (check the website for details), as is the catalogue (don’t throw away the old ones). Bob Brown’s plants are also on sale at a range of plant fairs.

* Cotswold Garden Flowers will ship plants to the rest of Europe, but not to North America.

Cotswold Garden Flowers,kniphofia,breeding,Bob Brown. Image © (all rights reserved)