New Plants At The Watch House: August 2019

Both gardens were overflowing with plants long before August arrived. There was a point at which getting from the garden gate to the front door was such an ordeal that even The Beau started to lose patience with me. At the end of July I reluctantly declared that I was going on plant diet, or, to be more precise, an outdoor plant diet since there was still a little space available indoors (this has subsequently been filled, as if you hadn’t guessed already). Like most diets, this course of action failed before it even got underway: new acquisitions veritably poured in following visits to various gardens and garden centres. I’m over the diet idea already. Storm and pestilence will soon manage the overstock situation back down, either that or I’ll go bankrupt.

In the meantime, here are eight new plants that I am especially excited about.

1) Impatiens bicaudata

I’m fascinated by this exotic-looking busy-Lizzie from Amber Mountain on the island of Madagascar, a place I once visited to marvel its extraordinary biodiversity. It was a very generous gift from Steven Edney at The Salutation in Sandwich following our visit last week. We spotted it at the back of a greenhouse and were immediately taken with the apricot and yellow flowers, which to me resemble little goldfish. I potted the plant up and put it outside immediately we returned home. Over the course of a couple of days the flowers became a much darker coral-orange, a natural response to cooler conditions which cause flower colour to strengthen in some plants. Although not frost hardy, Impatiens bicaudata is well accustomed to cool weather and it should grow nicely in the Jungle Garden for the remainder of the summer and autumn. Unusually for an impatiens, the main stems develops a thickened, woody ‘trunk’ over time, supporting a plant which could ultimately reach 6ft. Needless to say I’ve taken cuttings so that I have more of these next year.

The RHS website lists The Salutation, Plantbase and Special Plants as suppliers of this rare and unusual plant.

2) Impatiens kilimanjari x pseudoviola dark pink, low growing form

At the other end of the impatiens size scale lies Impatiens kilimanjari x pseudoviola, a plant which scrambles along the ground, rooting as it goes and flowering incessantly. As the name suggests, this diminutive busy-Lizzie can be found on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I’ve had the white version for many years, so I was delighted to discover that there was another colour to collect. Each tiny flower is a good, light magenta or dark pink, depending on your perspective, and they are produced in huge numbers all year round. Given how freely this plant roots I am amazed it’s not more commonly grown. Sadly Impatiens kilimanjari x pseudoviola is not quite frost hardy, but easily overwintered on a windowsill or in a cool greenhouse where it will flower its little socks off through the darker days. Pictured above with Solenostemon ‘Lord Falmouth’, one of my favourite coleus.

Recently purchased from Farmyard Nurseries.

3) Begonia shepherdii

I know a desirable plant when I see it. According to Steve Edney, the Plant Heritage ‘Plant Custodian’ for Begonia shepherdii, he’s offered only five of these lovelies for sale this year. For some reason Begonia shepherdii has become extremely rare in cultivation and now requires people like Steve to ensure it does not disappear altogether. Whilst prone to getting a little leggy (more material for cuttings I say!) This begonia is the prettiest little thing. Each apple-green, ivy-shaped leaf is covered with sparkling white blotches, creating the illusion of recent snowfall. And then there are single white flowers at the end of each stem. The overall impression is light and delicate, in total contrast to the bigger, beefier hybrid begonias I keep in my garden room. If more widely available I can’t see why Begonia shepherdii wouldn’t be a huge hit with the many houseplants aficionados out there.

Listed by Dibleys Nurseries in addition to The Salutation, where plants may be offered for sale when stocks allow.

4) Dahlia ‘Love Of My Life’

I’d resolved to reduce the number of dahlias in the garden as they don’t especially like the ‘packed in’ pot arrangements I specialise in. In truth I’d like nothing better than to have space to grown dahlias as they should be grown, with ample space and light, but that’s not an option at The Watch House. Then along came ‘Love Of My Life’ and all my good intentions went out of the window. I can’t find any information about this dahlia online, so wonder if it might be a new introduction. Based on first impressions I imagine it will be popular with the public. The plant is stocky, with deep green leaves on black stems and neat, copper-coloured flowers. If the snails don’t get it, I expect to be enjoying this dahlia well into the autumn.

Purchased from Canterbury Garden Centre so no doubt available there and across the land about now!

5) Persicaria virginiana ‘Guizhou Bronze’

Following our open weekend I decided that we needed to grow more persicarias. They are so easy going and yet so impressive when grown well. I currently have P. ‘Painter’s Palette’ and P. ‘Purple Fantasy’, both of which command attention despite having no showy flowers and requiring little effort to grow. A good foliage plant is worth ten flowering plants so I leapt at the chance of purchasing a pot of P. ‘Guizhou Bronze’ from The Salutation. I was not convinced at first. The dark, brush-stroke markings arranged in a V formation appeared very faint on younger plants offered for sale. Then I found it growing in the garden where I could appreciate the quiet appeal of the large, slightly felted leaves with their smudgy dark green markings. One to watch, rather than to be stopped in one’s tracks by, but a garden full of plants screaming for attention is not what I aiming for.

Available from The Salutation when stocks allow.

6) Strobilanthes dyeriana (Persian Shield) AGM

Goodness knows how long I have been waiting to get my hands on this beauty. When I have seen it for sale it’s always been at a hefty price, so I’ve held back for the right moment. Happily I’ve now been gifted a cutting, which I shall nurture until it’s large enough to survive outside next summer. Commonly referred to as Persian shield, Strobilanthes dyeriana is, in fact, from Myanmar (Burma), hence it prefers a warmer climate than we have in the UK and will not flourish in temperatures below 10ºC. Strobilanthes dyeriana is a plant which is more beautiful in youth than in old age, so it requires regular rejuvenation via cuttings. The foliage is nothing short of spectacular; intensely purple with dark-green venation and edging. As a plant it stands out among the greens and creates striking contrasts with gold foliage and yellow, orange or red flowers. The purple colour seems clearer and more intense in light shade than in bright summer sun, as illustrated by the photograph above, which is unadulterated.

Available from The Salutation when stocks allow.

7) Colocasia ‘White Lava’

I quite literally crossed the road for this plant. I saw three of them being unloaded from a van and could not resist dashing over for a closer look. Apparently they’d been languishing at the back of a polytunnel on our local nursery and were being offered for sale to ‘selected’ plant nuts like myself. Thank goodness I’ve made a name for myself. I chose two and decided to leave one for another plantaholic.

As a young plant the butter-yellow variegation is restricted to the midrib of each leaf, but this later extends along the side veins to create a skeletal ivory ribcage. A purple blotch where the leaf meets the stem also becomes significantly more pronounced with maturity. A striking plant indeed. Unfortunately I am not very good at overwintering and restarting colocasias so this is something I need to work on …. fast.

Available from Farmer Gracy in spring.

8) Fuchsia ‘Firecracker’ PBR

Last but not least, a complete phantasmagoria of a fuchsia, though probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Fuchsia ‘Firecracker’ is a newish introduction and protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights. It is a ‘triphylla’ type fuchsia, making it a strong, vigorous plant with large leaves and long, slender flowers. However, what’s truly striking about this fuchsia is the kaleidoscopic colouration of the foliage which spans shades of olive green, cream and blush pink with a mulberry-red venation and undersides. Clusters of tubular flowers, flaring at the tip, are a stronger coral pink. This is a not a plant designed to fade into the background so position it somewhere it will get noticed. I’ve gone full-on and arranged it next to coleus and aeoniums by the outdoor kitchen sink. TFG.

Available from Van Meuwen at the time of writing.

Canna ‘Nirvana’ and Colocasia ‘White Lava’