Acanthus - Athyrium
Plant names highlighted in green have images attached, click to view.
Acanthus dioscoridis perringii £4.50
A compact beauty, around 50cm tall in flower. Dark green spiny leaves; pink flowers. Once well established, it forms a tight, dense clump and flowers freely: we have it at eye level on top of a steep bank. Definitely for full sun, but thrives on heavy ground.
Acanthus eminens £6
A second (see below) and even less well known subshrubby Ethiopian species. Not only are the leaves glossy, spiny and white-veined, the stipules are long and wickedly pointed. The flowers, near the tops of 1m+ stems, are deep blue. Far less tested in the UK than sennii, and perhaps less hardy, it’s easy in a pot, protected with only a little light frost, as long as you give it a wide berth (and wear eye protection when sweeping the conservatory floor.) Perhaps hardy (but purely for foliage) in a warm, well drained sennii-type position. We expected to be able to propagate it from root cuttings, but Gary Fisher (the taciturn horticultural hero behind the scenes at Cotswold Garden Flowers) discovered that it roots easily from short sections of stem, in early spring.
Acanthus sennii £5.50
Very different to the familiar herbaceous ones. In our climate, this makes beautiful clumps of stiff, spiny leaves, more like a greyish herbaceous holly than any other Acanthus, and reaching 1m or so. On a warm south wall you can get the wonderful dark red flowers, in early November. The plant in the urban warmth of the Chelsea Physic is well known, although Olive Mason proves it can flower well even in the rural Midlands. But it cuts the mustard purely as a foliage plant.
Acis autumnalis AGM £4
A rampant little bulb we’d never be without. Ultra fine leaves, with nodding ivory bells on 10cm stems over a long season in summer and early autumn. For rock garden, sink etc. If the name Acis is unfamiliar, these are the former Leucojum species with fine leaves and small bell-like flowers, without green tips.
Acis nicaeensis AGM £3.75
Pure opaque white bells, 1-3 per 10cm stem, in April. Very easy in a little pot and perfectly do-able in a trough or rock garden.
Acis trichophylla f. purpurascens £3.75
Soft pink bells, several per short stem, in spring. Grow like the others, but best on acidic soil.
Aconitum ‘Blue Opal’ £5
Large blue flowers, stiff dark stems, late August to September. 1.5m tall. Very fine.
Aconitum nagarum KR 7589 £4.50
Rather short and stout, almost fleshy and consequently a bit brittle. Rather big, rather dark flowers. Interesting and different.
Aconitum ‘Stainless Steel’ AGM £4.50
A sturdy, medium height variety with pearly grey-blue flowers and notably finely dissected leaves. Height 75cm. Straightforwardly beautiful.
Actaea asiatica £4
Attractive, finely divided foliage like the rest of these easy woodlanders. It’s the glossy black (and toxic) berries that set it apart.
Actaea (Cimicifuga) simplex Atropurpurea group £5
Deep purple, almost black, divided leaves perfectly offsetting 1.5m spikes of fragrant white flowers in late summer. Colours best in full sun if you can keep it moist, otherwise part shade. Divisions of our fine dark clone.
Actaea simplex variegated £6
Green leaves irregularly splashed white, with white flowers. Does not seem to revert. A plant brought to the West from Japanese cultivation by Dan Hinkley. Very hard to obtain
Adoxa moschatellina £4
Town Hall Clock is an unmistakeable native woodlander with its flowers arranged as five faces of a cube. Tiny and pale green in all its parts, it’s also a dense and lusty spreader. Dormant from summer to early spring, and favouring moister woodsy conditions, you find it either endearing or utterly uninteresting.
The African lilies are sun-lovers, which flower freely when left to bulk up undisturbed. Most of these should be hardy in the open ground, except in cold parts of the UK. All look good in large pots, perhaps given protection in severe weather. The evergreen praecox forms are hardy in a sunny position in southern England, and can flower well outside, but a little winter protection helps them look their best
Agapanthus ‘Buckingham Palace’ £5
A tall Lewis Palmer hybrid, to 1.5m or more. Globular flower heads of deepish blue. Scarce and slow to propagate.
Agapanthus campanulatus ssp. patens ‘Rosie Palmer’ £8 NEW CULTIVAR NAME
This subspecies of a classic hardy deciduous species is distinguished by its flowers which flare widely and attractively. This clone is reputed to have extraordinary lilac-pink flowers under some conditions; with us it’s more a pale grey-lilac, still very different and attractive.
Agapanthus inapertus ssp. inapertus white flowered £6
Clean white flowered form of a deciduous species. The modestly sized heads have tubular flowers, upstanding in bud, nodding once open.
Agapanthus ‘Phantom’ £10
Very large heads of white flowers stained with a clear light blue towards the edges. Tall (1.5m), stout, hardy and very slow to propagate. Fabulous.
Agapanthus ‘Flore Pleno’ £6
Extraordinary and large deep blue double flowers. Evergreen, and of the praecox persuasion.
Agapanthus ‘Sandringham’ £5
Short, blue and reliable, flowering from slender shoots. Deciduous.
Agapanthus ‘Windsor Grey’ £8
Big round heads of delicate grey-white flowers, with a faint hint of lilac, on stems to 1.2m or so. Deciduous and very hardy. Beautiful, uncommon, and in great demand.
Ageratina altissima (Eupatorium rugosum) ‘Chocolate’ AGM £5
Copious brown-purple foliage makes a lovely effect in the sunny border. Harmless white flowers. Hardy, winter dormant.
Ajuga incisa 'Bikun' £4.50
Sharply white-variegated toothed leaves and small heads of dark blue flowers make this quite unlike your typical Ajuga. Japanese, and not for hot sun where the white bits will discolour.
Albuca nelsonii £5
A monster among albucas, large bulbs producing flowering stems to 1.5m or more, the tepals being white with a reddish vein. Seems hardier to us than it’s often given credit for. Winter dormant.
Albuca shawii £3.75
Many, relatively small flowers which hang nicely from an upright 30-50cm inflorescence. They are clear yellow with a fruity fragrance. Very nice indeed. Winter dormant.
Albuca sp. aff. setosa G&L 13 £5
To 40cm tall with big large white upward facing flowers, lined green on the back. Much like a seriously enlarged version of the more familiar A. humilis. Collected in the Drakensberg, and winter dormant.
Albuca sp. G&L 171 £4
Another species with upfacing white flowers, but rather shorter and with narrow but very glaucous leaves with a plump U-profile. I don’t know where to begin with naming this.
Albuca sp. aff. acuminata £3.75
Finally, a lovely winter growing, summer dormant species from a collection made in the Western Cape, growing on sand. The lightly fragrant flowers, open here in spring, are nodding, yellow with green midveins but looking overall a sort of warm khaki. Grown in a pot of free-draining compost, with unheated winter protection it’s easy, compact and to our minds most desirable.
X Alcalthaea suffruticosa (all £5)
Three original Hungarian clones of this very satisfactory soundly perennial hollyhock/marsh mallow hybrid (mallowhock?), with rather woody stems to 1.5m and lots of medium sized flowers. The flowers are semi-double to a varying degree. They seem somewhat resistant to hollyhock rust, but are not immune. For the full story see The Plantsman for December 2007. Do remember to tell us which one you’d like!
‘Parkallee’ – soft creamy yellow, ocassionally with a faint pink flush.
‘Parkfrieden’ – pale pink petals, deeper towards the base.
‘Parkrondell’ – a deeper purple-pink.
Allium beesianum £3.75
The classic sky blue allium. Heads of drooping flowers on 20cm stems at the end of the summer. Rock garden or similar. Long flowering, lovely and usually replaced by something else in the nursery trade.
Allium callimischon ssp. haemostictum £3.75
A dinky summer dormant Cretan with an odd phenology: the flower stem grows with the leaves in spring, seems to wither with them in the height of summer (don’t tidy them away), only for the flowers to open in autumn on the leafless plants. The flowers are white, spotted and veined dark red, and are one of the subtle joys of autumn. Pot or sunny raised bed, etc.
Allium insubricum £4
Nodding clusters of purple flowers, only 10-15cm high, in early summer again. Extremely pretty.
Allium meteoricum £3.75
A very small Eastern Mediterranean species for a dry sunny place in rock garden or trough; rather dense heads of slightly drooping delicate pink flowers in summer.
Allium (Caloscordum) neriniflorum £3.75
This little summer grower from N. China / Mongolia / SE Siberia (you get the idea) suits rock garden conditions, flowering in July. The starry pink flowers are in an umbel which seems to have exploded, with great long pedicels.
Allium olympicum - of gardens £3.75
A tiny, thin leaved species (perhaps having something to do with stamineum) with plenty of pretty pink flower heads in summer. For pot or rock garden with sun and good drainage, but tolerant of winter wet and high rainfall. Lovely, and rarely seen.
Allium paradoxum var. normale £4
The Snowdrop Allium. Nodding, pure white fls look really big on 10cm stems in spring. Broad, bright green leaves. Forms tight clumps, ideal in a sink. Stunning and safe, unlike the dreaded var. paradoxum on both counts.
Allium schoenoprasum ‘Black Isle Blush’ £4
Particularly attractive chives. The flower heads start a rather ordinary light mauve and you wonder what the fuss is about. Then a very distinct pink blush appears in the centre and spreads out through the head over a couple of days.
Allium schoenoprasum ‘Colesbourne Giant’ £4.50 NEW CULTIVAR NAME
Ordinary mauve flowered chives, but tall, really tall. Found at Colesbourne by John Grimshaw. I measured the heights of a sample of flowering stems on a clump grown in full sun on their lean Cotswold limestone soil last summer: mean and 95% confidence limits: 63 ± 2cm (n=30). As I say, really, really tall. Two foot plus, in old money.
Allium schoenoprasum ‘Silver Chimes’ £3.75
A miniature, with flowers a very attractive silvery white.
Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’ £4
A small, easy, gently clumping species with tight little clusters of bright pink-purple flowers, with long protruding stamens, among ultrafine dark green leaves. At home in the rock garden, a safe little front-of-border corner, or on the AGS showbench for that matter. One of the plants that helps make September my happiest month.
Allium virgunculae £3.75
Another little evergreen from Japan, on the lines of thunbergii. The flowers are a diaphanous pale pink. Flowering, as it does here, in early November, it is quite the starlet.
Allium wallichii CLD1500 £4.50
From a variable species, distributed widely in western China and the Himalayas comes this stonking onion. It’s a summer grower which relishes fertile soil and plenty of moisture through the growing season. The foliage makes dense, dark green clumps, wine red on the backs of the sheathing bases (very visible). The flowers are in hemispherical heads, light purple and surrounded by big papery bracts in bud. Flowering at about 75cm after the wet start to the summer of 2012, I kept glimpsing it and thinking ‘which Agapanthus is that?’ Deciduous in winter, with thick perennial roots and the bulbs-on-a-rhizome type of construction. Neither the tallest onion, nor the one with the largest flower heads, this particular collection is, for my money, the meatiest.
Alonsoa meridionalis £3.75
Whilst bordering on the half-hardy, this Chilean scroph is such a cheerful LOUD plant we have to include it. Branched, stiffly upright stems 50-100cm tall have a very long succession of zingy orange red flowers (definitely not salmony in this form). You can treat it as a seed-raised annual, or give it some winter protection and keep rooted cuttings in the greenhouse, Diascia-fashion. For full sun with good drainage.
X Amarcrinum memoria-corsii ‘Howardii’ £6
Big long-necked bulbs produce umbels of large, clear pink flowers which are so cheering in an unheated conservatory in autumn. Grow it either as a winter grower with protection, and a dry summer, or as a borderline hardy summer grower. Two harsh winters have trained ours onto the latter cycle, and they’re thriving on it.
Amaryllis belladonna white flowered £7
Just what it says, but the real thing for once, not X Amarygia parkeri ‘Alba’ which usually passes for it in the trade. Smaller bulbs than the latter and much more reliably flowering for us. A special thing – thanks to Kevin Hughes.
Amorphophallus konjac £5
Reputedly the hardiest of these big, arisaema-like aroids. Spathe purple-brown. Leaves lobed in a wonderfully complex way, and recall a big shuttlecock. Dark petiole, blotched cream.
Anemonella thalictroides large single white flower £4
You know the delicate woodland species – this is simply a form with rather impressive flowers.
Angelica gigas £4
Classic biennial monolithic umbellifer. Dark purple flower heads on dark stems. Easy from saved seed.
Angelica sylvestris ‘Vicar’s Mead’ £4.50
An umbellifer with dark brown-purple foliage and pink flowers in summer. Not for dry soil. Sometimes dies after flowering, so save seed.
Anisodontea sp. £5
Woody mallows are not our thing, of course, but this so closely approaches the concept of the woody-basedperennial that we thought we’d include it. It has good sized warm pink flowers with deeper centres over an amazingly long season from late spring right through to late autumn, on upright, rather sparsely leafy stems exceeding 1m in height. Rooted cuttings brought into the cool greenhouse over winter were in flower at New Year. We were given it by Grace Officer, who has it against a south wall in Surrey. The name is another matter. Grace had it as capensis – which it may yet be – but it has larger flowers, and leaves which are larger, sparser, less green and mealier textured than what usually passes for capensis in this country. I suspect it belongs to the hybrid x hypomadara, but the whole group seems confused. I like this better than the usual ones, anyway. So cheerful.
Anthericum liliago ‘Major’ AGM £4
Rather substantial spikes of white flowers, relatively early on a short plant make this for me the finest Anthericum.
Anthericum ramosum £4
Airy branched spikes of starry white flowers in early summer.
Aquilegia 'Fruit and Nut Chocolate' £4
Thanks to Bob Brown for a peculiarly interesting and gardenworthy hybrid. He tells me the parents were viridiflora and something obscure which came to him as brevistyla but wasn’t, so it’s far and away from the usual kinds. Still with me? The greeny-browny flower colour comes from viridiflora, but it’s a much bigger plant and flowers ridiculously early in spring. Oddly, comes absolutely true from seed.
Aralia cordata BSWJ 5511 £5
With herbaceous aralias, you know you’re going to get fantastically bold deciduous foliage, little round heads of ivy-like flowers followed by berries, and SIZE. This Japanese collection is no exception. The bipinnate leaves have big rounded leaflets, the flowers are white, followed by black fruit, and the size – well, not as big as most, under 2m. For rich, not over-dry soil.
Arctotheca calendula £4
Thanks to Doug Smith for this South African daisy, which runs here and there in his Hampshire garden (you haven’t been? worth a September yellow-book visit even if the National Collection of gum trees isn’t your bag) with dazzling yellow Gazania-type flowers in summer. In warmer climates it can be an invasive thug, but in southern England summer advance and winter retreat seem to give a pleasing equilibrium.
Argemone hispida £3.75
By way of experiment, young plants of one of the lesser known species of these wonderful white flowered North American poppy relatives. Give it very good drainage in sun, and save the seed if you get any! Collected on the High Plains (think warm dry summers, bitter snowy winters, pronghorn dashing across the empty roads, flying dust abrading your windshield), in south eastern Wyoming, we think it could just be the ultimate Argemone for the garden. But there again it might not...
Armeria ‘Brutus’ £6.50
Our own monster-thrift, a selected hybrid of A. pseudarmeria, with a long succession of very large white heads on 50cm stems, surrounded in bud by smart bracts, fragrant in a carnation/garlic sort of a way, forming a very stout taprooted clump with broad leaves, so a devil to divide. Propagated very slowly by division and basal cuttings. For a sunny, well drained place. We’re excessively proud of this plant, a single clone, and are horrified to see seed appearing as ‘Brutus’ in seed exchanges where doubtless over a few generations it will turn into some depauperate runt, full of genes from boring old maritima. Brian at Avondale, bless him, has taken us seriously and propagates it by basal cuttings. If you see any other nursery offering it, ask if it’s from seed and give them what for if it is. Rant, rant, grumble, gripe.
Artemisia lactiflora ‘Jim Russell’ £5
We think this more elegant than the well known Guizho group. The foliage isn’t quite as dark, but the flowers are properly white, not a dirty off white, and the habit is rather more arching. Still a sound 1.5m clumper.
Arum italicum ‘Angelique’ £4
One of the white-veined ‘Marmoratum’ types, with particularly crisp markings. It’s not the extent of the whiteness, nor its intensity that’s so distinctive: it’s the definition, the contrast. Thanks to Joe Sharman.
Arum italicum 'Chameleon' £4.50
A gentle, comely plant in leaf through the winter and spring. The large central part of the leaf is a misty blend of small areas of dark, pale and silvery grey greens. Easy in light shade.
Arum italicum 'Tiny' £4
Anoth of the ‘Marmoratum’ persuasion, with white-veined leaves, but smaller. Not exactly tiny, though…
Arum italicum 'White Winter' £4.50
Very very bold creamy white veins. See Graham Rice’s piece on the many forms of A. italicum in The Plantsman, December 2010.
Arum pictum veined leaf form £5
Forget the familiar Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ (‘Marmoratum’ now, anyway): this is a completely different, low growing species which goes strongly dormant in the summer, flowering stinkily (smart purple-brown spathes) with the glossy dark green new leaves in September. There are rare plain green forms for inverted snobs (yes, we do have one); this has the veins picked out in silvery grey. It’s exceedingly like the clone called ‘Primrose Warburg’, but one can’t be certain. Hardy in a place that dries out in summer, perhaps at the sunny base of a tree.
Aruncus dioicus ‘Kneiffii’ £5
While the normal Goat’s Beard is wonderful in a monolithic way, this form is much more delicate. Only 1m tall in flower, the leaves are ultra-finely divided, giving a sort of ferny look.
Aruncus ‘Johannifest’ £4.50
Interesting German hybrid. Fuzzy spikes of white flowers age pinkish; leaves finely divided. 60cm.
Aruncus ‘Perlehuhn’ £4.50
A little taller than ‘Johannifest’, with an indefinably different garden presence, and red tints in the foliage. The name means guinea fowl. I can’t imagine why.
Asarum maximum ‘Silver Panda’ £6
Large evergreen, silver-marked leaves and lovely thick textured black and white flowers make this one of the coolest species. Few.
We persist in the folly of listing a few unfashionable favourites from our garden in autumn. If we still have to mention the m-word, let’s just say that we’ve never seen mildew on any of these, although if you treated them horribly enough for long enough you might be able to prove a point...
Aster ‘Fellowship’ £5
A big shaggy double lilac-pink michaelmas daisy. Julian’s Mum uses it as a very effective cut flower. 1.2m.
Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Stäfa’ AGM £5
Reaching 90cm, with good sized pale lavender daisies. Tough, robust, long flowering: a stalwart.
Aster 'Glow in the Dark' £5
Lilac pink daisies shine out from among dark tinted leaves and stems. Introduced by Brian ‘Avondale’ Ellis who says it’s ‘Calliope’ x ‘Fellowship’. It has the leaf colour of the former without the daunting height, being rather under1m tall. Different and good.
Aster ‘Little Carlow’ AGM £5
Heaps of medium sized really blue flowers in September, all over a bushy plant. Bred in Devizes. ‘Creating large clumps of colour year in year out [it] is a first-class, ‘no-fuss’ hybrid’ writes Paul Picton, who really should know. 1.2m.
Aster ‘Ochtendgloren’ AGM £5
Another floriferous hybrid, with slightly smaller pink flowers. Good bushy habit and strong constitution. 1.2m.
Aster ‘Pixie Dark Eye’ £4.50
Lots of medium sized rich purple, yellow eyed flowers on a compact (60cm for us) plant. Quite out of the ordinary.
Aster ‘Sunhelene’ £5
A recent one, with semidouble soft blue flowers at the top of stout 1m stems. Somehow the buds are conspicuous and attractive. ‘‘Marie Ballard’ without the mildew’, as Bob Brown perceptively puts it.
The Masterworts are classic perennials for heavy ground, thriving in sun or part shade. All have dense umbels of tiny flowers, surrounded by a conspicuous collar of bracts and looking for all the world like a large, single flower. All reach around 60cm. Divisions.
Astrantia ‘Buckland’ £4
Very attractive hybrid, with large pink and green flower heads - like all Masterworts, great on heavy ground.
Astrantia major Gill Richardson group £4.50
Dark red flowers on dark red stems. Divisions of a good form (I admit we’ve seen even better) in this sadly varied group, the result of seed raising by a nursery we shall not name here.
Astrantia major involucrata ‘Snape Cottage’ £5
Divisions from Angela Whinfield’s ‘super-shaggy’, which stopped me in my tracks when in flower in Ruth Boundy’s Somerset garden. Like all these large bracted forms, it needs to settle down in good soil in order to look special. Thanks to the ever-generous Ruth and Angela.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Minutissimum’ £4
Adorable little Lady Fern, less than 20cm tall, but perfectly formed, and making a dense, spreading clump. Ignore Martin Rickard’s disparaging comments - these are not dodgy Dutch imports which end up tall but divisions of the plant we’ve cherished throughout our gardening career, originally from Washfield. The epitome of mini-ferniness.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Victoriae’ £7
One of the classic rarities, we offer divisions of established tissue-cultured plants, close to the ultra-slowly splitting original (which was found by someone named Cosh - just thought I’d share that with you). It is both cruciate and cristate. The fronds are quite short, with the pinnae close together (the idea that the real thing has long fronds with well spaced pinnae is quite erroneous, and I fear perpetuated by those who have a plant like that.) Undoubtedly weird, but peculiarly attractive.
Athyrium ‘Ghost’ £6
On the same lines as ‘Branford Beauty’, but the metallic grey is more pronounced - stunning.
Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Cristatoflabellatum’ £4.50
This variant on the classic silvery-grey-flushed-purple-red Japanese Painted Fern has the tips of the fronds, and of some pinnae crested. Actually rather pretty.
Athyrium otophorum var. okanum £5.50
The dark red rachis and creamy yellow tint to the pinnae give a unique look. Deciduous, but retaining its colour long into autumn. For reasonably moist shade.
For all those interested in South African plants we've also put all our listings of South African
bulbs and plants onto one website we've called South African Bulbs at Desirable Plants.
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