Ranunculus asiaticus: Persian Buttercup
I am not sure I have the patience to be a plant breeder, nor the stamina to go hunting for new species in far-flung places, but I am glad other people do. New hybrids and wild-collected rarities fuel the horticultural industry and gardeners’ imagination, a process of natural selection determining which survive in cultivation and which do not. Long years and vast sums of money are spent by professional breeders and plant hunters in pursuit of commercial success and botanical glory. Just occasionally the hybridisers go a little too far in their quest for plants which will capture our imagination, introducing faddy flowers which are too unnatural to be described as attractive. Ultimately the consumer, whether gardener, plant collector or florist, decides if a new cultivar will rise to fame or disappear without trace. The stakes are high.This week at the Christmas World trade fair in Frankfurt the ‘blumen des tages‘ were a new strain of florists’ ranunculus introduced by Italian breeder Biancheri Creations. Now, I love the classic florists’ ranunculus, with their chiffon petals layered like delicate French pastries, but here is something new. Each of the Pop-Pon range (currently 18 in total), possesses flamenco-ruffled petals in fabulous shades, jauntily flushed with bright green. The blooms’ appearance is akin to a zinnia, marigold, or even a peony in the case of the pink varieties ‘Hermione’ and ‘Minerva’. Although simple pearly white or deep aubergine ranunculus can’t be beaten in my opinion, these are fancy blooms which will be manna from heaven for florists and flower arrangers. The hot coloured varieties, such as ‘Merlino’ and ‘Trilly’, are particularly dashing. As you move towards the centre of the flower, the coloured petals have something of an identity crisis, assuming the form of leaves. This is especially pronounced in the variety named ‘Igloo’, which combines pure white and vivid apple-green. There are red, orange and purple variations in the range, offering plenty of choice: Pon-Pon ‘Malva’, which has magenta and lime-green flowers, has already won a prestigious ‘Glass Tulip’ award.
Whether these exciting new ranunculus will make it onto the staging of our local garden centres I don’t know, but I do hope they’ll be arriving on your doorstep in a Valentine’s bouquet on February 14th.