Exciting plants for every type of garden
By Graham Rice
I’ve been looking over the show carefully for the past two or three days and I’ve noticed some intriguing perennials which, while mostly not new, all have an interesting feature or an interesting story.
Rougham Hall Nurseries often show new asters. These are modern versions of the old Michaelmas Daisies but many of these recent introductions were originally intended to be commercial cut flowers. Rougham Hall have discovered that many of these are also good garden plants and I was especially taken with Aster ‘Cassandra’, with cone-shaped heads of pale lilac flowers.
In recent years we’ve seen some interesting new hybrids of the Japanese painted fern and the most recent of these is ‘Ocean’s Fury’, which was shown by Fernatix. Raised in North Carolina by Thomas Maness, who also raised some splendid perennial lobelias, it features silvery leaves held on red stems and many of the fronds are tipped with little silvery petticoats.
Chelsea saw the launch of a new foxglove with the flowers split into individual segments – the same thing has happened with Campanula ‘Pink Octopus’, shown on the Celebrating British Horticulture exhibit. Each pink flower, which would normally be bell-shaped, is split into six slender segments which are white on the inside and speckled in pink. It’s a fascinating plant – but mine has proved to be very vigorous so I’m pleased I sited it in a confined space. It has been recommended for green roofs.
When Jooles Burton of Heucheraholics was looking over some plants of Heuchera ‘Sashay’ a few years back, she noticed that one had developed an odd feature. ‘Sashay’ has heavily ruffled green leaves but one plant was partly green and partly purple; in fact even some of the individual leaves were both colours. Informally known as Heuchera 'Fifty Fifty', the plant has been intriguing visitors on the Celebrating British Horticulture exhibit.
It’s always possible to find interesting perennials on the Hopleys Plants exhibit and one I was especially pleased to see is the very hardy perennial Mimulus ringens. So many mimulus are rather tender but I’ve often seen this growing wild in colder parts of the USA (much colder than here), where its upright growth and delicate lavender flowers are real treat in damp places. It should be grown more widely.
I’m certain that the vast variety of long term hardy perennial violas are now becoming overlooked as the many short term bedding violas are seen so widely in garden centres. Redressing the balance, Victorian Violas showed a lovely new Viola cornuta ‘Tinkerbell’. The dainty flowers opened in cream and were then transformed to pale blue so that flowers in both shades covered the plants at the same time. The effect was delightful.
Alongside the revival in dahlias, Chrysanthemums Direct is fuelling a similar revival of interest in chrysanths. ‘Stallion’ featured on their exhibit, a slightly surprising name for a delicate, white, late spray chrysanth which starts with creamy, button-like buds and opens to a mass of small fluffily domed white flowers. It’s absolutely lovely but needs a place sheltered from early frosts.
Geranium 'Rozanne' (‘Gerwat’) has been in the law courts recently. It was decided that Rozanne, displayed at the show by Botanic Nursery, and the later, but similar, ‘Jolly Bee’ were in fact so similar that to all intents and purposes they were the same thing. So ‘Jolly Bee’ can no longer be sold. It’s come to something, hasn’t it, when the identity of a plant has to be decided in court!
In recent years Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ has become one of our best-loved hostas. It’s a small blue-leaved variety with noticeably cupped foliage. Bowden Hostas showed it – along with three other varieties all derived from it. ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ has a creamy edge to a green leaf; ‘Snow Mouse’ has a cream flash through the centre of its green leaf; ‘Holy Mouse Ears’ has blue-green leaves with a creamy centre. It was fascinating to see the original and its offspring. I have to say, I want them all!
On the Culm View Nursery exhibit, the focal point at one end was a planting of two ornamental clovers: the red Trifolium rubens and white T. pannonicum. Both are very upright in growth, very hardy and have strong green foliage. Trifolium rubens features flowers like red rabbit tails while the white flower heads of T. pannonicum are more spidery. Both are well worth growing.