Wednesday 26 April 2017

All that glitters ...

Precious things don't have to be valuable things - a shell from the beach or a fossil from the garden can be treasured just as much as objects which have monetary worth. Whilst all plants in the garden are to be nurtured and enjoyed, there are some which are more special than others. Over the last couple of weeks I seem to have picked up more special ones than usual - ones I have been looking for for a long time, or unusual ones which I have been reading about. Sometimes, it is seeing the right plant for a certain place which seems to give it additional value. I bought mine over two trips - one to Harrogate Spring Flower Show, and a second to Stillingfleet Nursery, near York.

Stillingfleet is essentially a nursery growing unusual perennials and well worth a visit if that is what you are interested in, but as they sell little else, it is a little niche. I absolutely loved it, as I was able to buy plants I have been searching for for a long time. There is a comprehensive online plant catalogue so that you can browse it before your visit. I was impressed by the quality of the plants and by the way they are kept. All are watered and weed free - seems pretty basic stuff, but it is surprising how many of the large garden centres can't seem to get that right.

There is an acclaimed garden at Stillingfleet too, but I didn't have time to visit , so will go back later in the season.

One of the main plants I wanted was Podophillum 'Spotty Dotty', a woodland plant with most unusual foliage. I thought my existing plant had failed to survive the winter, as there had been no sign of it coming through - and it is hard to miss! Of course, the day after I bought my new one, I spotted my initial one steadfastly making an appearance. Oh well, you can never have too may!

I once read an entry in a plant catalogue where it was described as having "something of the toad" about it, and that is a perfect summary for both colour and texture, and has stayed with me.

As a woodlander it prefers some shade and also moisture, growing to about 60 cm, with large, mottled leaves.

I also fell for the charms of sibling Podophillum Pefltatum, which is a bit of an unknown quantity for me, but a very handsome chap. Another woodland plant, enjoying partial shade and moist soil. It is described as 'vigorous'.

My next little gem is Euphorbia 'Tiny Tim' growing to a lovely compact 30cm. Euphorbias are some of my favourite plants, and, if they do have a fault, it is that they can be large and rangey. 'Tiny Tim' seems like the perfect solution, and I intend to place my two at the front of a border. Euphorbias will grow in quite difficult conditions, and will tolerate dry shade which would defeat many other plants.

The plant above is new to me, but I fell for the dramatic patterning on the leaves. It is Lunaria 'Chedglow' and leaves start off with this chocolate spotting and gradually become darker and darker until it is a dark purple all over, and nearly black just before it flowers. It is, of course, a variety of the old cottage garden favourite Honesty, but certainly much more interesting than any I have grown before. The flowers appear larger than the norm and are a bright lilac colour. It is a biennial and - joy of joys - it self seeds. The stems are a pleasing dark red, in contrast to the leaves.

Brunnera are just the best plants in the world - they make an appearance early in the year with forget - me - not blue, frothy flowers, and are still there at the end of the season. They give a constant display of the most wonderful, dramatic foliage, whilst the plant itself stays reasonably compact and tidy. I have tried to get some every year to build up my collection, as they are so useful in every area of the garden. Most of mine are 'Jack Frost', 'Hadspen Cream' and 'Seaheart' , and I welcomed the chance to try some new -to -me varieties. The photo above is 'Jack's Gold', with a green gold edging to the leaves, which fades to silver.

'Looking Glass' is a new introduction, and the leaves grow to be totally silver.

The leaves on brunneras start off really small at the beginning of the season, and grow larger and larger as it progresses. They like cool shade/ partial shade and I have found that they will cope with dry shade, and full sun. They are very easy to please actually, and I have yet to lose one.

I also found an interesting Lobelia  'Tania', with variegated, pink flushed foliage and deep crimson flowers, growing to about 3' tall. It is reported to be hardy in it's situation just south of York. Lobelias are another lovely group of plants worthy of further investigation. I have read that it needs damp soil in summer, much like L. Cardinalis, but is prone to rotting over winter. That sounds like a bit of a conundrum, so it may be easier just to overwinter it in a cool greenhouse, ensuring that it is kept drier than in summer.

Last treasure is a giant I have been searching for for a while - Cardiocrinum Gigantium. I have tried growing it from seed with zero success! I snapped this up at the Harrogate Flower show, on the stand of a bulb specialist.

It can grow up to 2.5 m tall and takes around years to flower. It grows in the Himalayas, so can cope with cool temperatures. It is monocarpic, so dies after flowering. Another interesting plant to grow, although the grower assured me that it is easy to look after and very undemanding.

Harrogate Spring Flower Show is held on the Great Yorkshire show ground, which is set in lovely countryside, just off the A1. The show itself is a bit underwhelming as far as the show gardens go, and is more of a showcase for a variety of nurseries and growers, both specialist and main stream. Very enjoyable however, particularly when the sun shines.

New plants are always a learning experience, and one which doesn't always end well! Hopefully I can provide the conditions needed to keep my new additions happy and healthy.