Friday, 17 October 2014

Cirsium oleraceum

Cirsium oleraceum
Cirsium oleraceum

A big lush green non-spiky thistle from the mountain woods of central Europe. The flowers appear on tall upright stems in late summer/autumn and are relatively small and white but held among pale green bracts which makes them rather striking.
Cirsium oleraceum
For cool damp and/or semi shady sites. The young stems and leaves are a good edible vegetable apparently, especially if blanched.
5L pots ~ £12




Thursday, 25 September 2014

Acer buergerianum


Acer buergerianum
Acer buergerianum
The Trident Maple. A very pretty small tree or large shrub known for its small glossy three-lobed (hence 'trident') leaves which are coppery when young and colour up well in autumn but don't usually drop until early winter.
Acer buergerianum
Easy and adaptable in mesic and woodland conditions.
3L pots ~ £12




Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seseli montanum and/or hippomarathrum

Seseli montanum or hippomarathrum
As with the Athamantas I offered before, I'm not totally sure of the id of this. I seem to have had the same thing under two names - S.montanum and S.hippomarathrum. Either way it's a lovely small umbellifer with a compact cluster of finely divided green foliage at the base but fairly tall flowering stems. 
Seseli montanum or hippomarathrum
The buds are reddish, opening white. Easy in any well drained sunny spot. Long lived but seeds about mildly and easy to control.
3in pots ~ £5



Carex baccans

Carex baccans
A typical tussock-forming sedge in many ways except that (surprise surprise!) it makes shiny red berry-like fruits in autumn instead of the usual greenish seeds. Unaccountably hard to come by.
Carex baccans
Not a great shot, but you get the idea. It probably needs more space to make a nice big tussock.
Cool and moist woodsy conditions are recommended. 
1L pots ~ £8



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Philadelphus coulteri

Philadelphus coulteri
This is one of those highly sought-after Mexican 'Rose Syringas' with heavily scented waxy nodding bowl-shaped flowers, reddish toward the centre. Almost evergreen, of arching/weeping habit, and not too big, this can be grown against a wall or allowed to grow through other shrubs, as it does in the wild.
Philadelphus coulteri
Being Mexican and evergreen, this is almost certainly best in a sheltered spot. It has a reputation for not being free flowering in the UK but I've not found this to be the case. In any case it flowers over a much longer period than the more familiar mock oranges, and of course, the scent is wonderful.
Aka P.mexicanus coulteri.
3L pots ~ £12




Monday, 28 July 2014

Cissus striata

Cissus striata
There are not that many evergreen climbers hardy in the UK, and this South American vine is decidedly borderline but worth considering for sheltered sites, especially in shady spots. It's a close relative of the Virginia Creepers and Boston Ivies (Parthenocissus sp) but with neat glossy leaves and far less rampageous and being evergreen of course, it does not colour up in the Autumn. The plant in the picture grows on the front of the house where it is a bit too exposed. In this situation it behaves as a herbaceous climber, being more or less cut to the ground in hard winters. Even so it has always come back in spring and clothes the porch wall very nicely every summer. In warmer climates it gets a lot bigger and makes pale flowers and black berries. It can also be grown as a house plant.
3L pots ~ £12




Sunday, 20 July 2014

Philadelphus aff. delavayi

Philadelphus aff. calvescens
Philadelphus are sometimes unfairly dismissed as rather coarse and unwieldy, mainly after experience with the common Mock Orange, P.coronarius but there are many good choice species out there with good foliage and more manageable habit. They flower relatively briefly in late spring/early summer but with that fragrance they are highly desirable.
I can't even remember where I got the cuttings of this one. It's clearly one of the delavayi calvescens or melanocalyx types with their strongly textured foliage and contrasting dark calyx (remarkable how much difference that makes to the look of the flower) but in this case the flowers are unusually elegant with pure white filaments. The fragrance is just as good.
This is an easy adaptable, medium sized arching shrub for sun or semi shade.
3L pots ~£12




Sunday, 13 July 2014

Habranthus tubispathus texensis

Habranthus tubispathus texensis
A pretty and resilient species with simple Amaryllis style flowers at intervals through the summer, golden yellow inside, red out. They have thrived and seeded about in the tunnel for the last five years, unprotected from the cold and subject to my somewhat sporadic watering. I've not tried them outside yet.
These came to me as seed from a seed exchange labelled Zephyranthes atamasco which they clearly weren't. I've only this year found out what they really are. Aka H.texanus.
10cm pots ~ £5




Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Coming of Age?

nursery
It's looking like being a big year here at Brighton Plants. First up is the big box of plant labels sitting beside me here all printed up and ready to go. We've invested in a label printer (a Labelstation Pro 200. Thanks mum!) so no more frantically hand-writing labels as customers gather up their goodies at the nursery gate.
Secondly I've got us a card reader (Streamline) so I can take debit and credit card payments too. It was very exciting last Saturday when my first card transaction went through without a glitch. The customer seemed as excited as I was when the little receipts came out with our name on them. So all in all it's looking a lot more business-like around here.

The weather's been the big story for all us horticultural folk of course. No frost to speak of but way too much wind and rain has taken its toll on all of us. The nursery though is on high ground so the water drains away quickly. Generally the damage was minimal and I'm glad to say the tunnel is well-anchored enough to withstand the gales. It is leaning at a funny angle now though.

It's been a big year for the Hoards of Mollusca too and I'm having to take pest control a lot more seriously now they've found me. I'm particularly disgusted with the species of slug that likes to fell Iris flower stems just before the flowers open. I can't believe that tiny bit of stem is worth the trouble so I assume the resulting wilted buds are easier to eat in some way. At any rate it's incredibly infuriating. The culprits appear to be the juveniles of the common big yellow slug (Arion sp.)
Arion rufus
I'd always maintained that the adults were relatively harmless compared to some of the others, feeding mainly on dead and dying matter but the newly hatched offspring seem to be among the worst of the lot, and in a wet year like this their activity has been devastating. I've also had a lot more garden snails than before. Sigh...

I was probably being a little over-optimistic when I said I thought the peat-free composts were unattractive to vine-weevils as I've certainly had a few this season, along with the leather-jackets (crane fly larvae) both of which destroy the roots of plants. Still I'm trying to avoid chemicals and am going for biological control as much as possible - Nematodes for both insect larvae and slug and snail control. The one pest I haven't yet worked out how to control effectively is capsid bugs which make a mess of the new foliage of several species but which are quick active insects, not hanging around to be squished or sprayed or parasitised as aphids do. I don't want to have to just spray everything with poison so if anybody knows a good biological control I'd be very interested.

As for the plants, which, after all, is the bit you're interested in, I'm continuing to add more rare but gorgeous items from all over the world.

Erinacea anthyllis Link subsp. anthyllis –asiento de pastor, piorno azul, rascaculos–
Continuing my efforts to bring in more of the strangely untapped Mediterranean goodies for those of us trying to find interesting things to grow on impoverished and especially chalky soils, I have small quantities of the gorgeous Spanish Erinacea anthyllis (aka E.pungens, above) a low incredibly spiky broom which covers itself in violet pea flowers in spring.
And speaking of brooms I'm offering Genista aetnensis and two species of Retama (aka Lygos) - sphaerocarpa and monosperma - which are wiry silvery weeping brooms and not at all garish. The former has mustard yellow flowers, the latter has white. Both are generally considered on the tender side but these are from seed collected in central Spain which, if you've been there in winter, you'll know can be bitter.Primavera en el Parque Nacional del Teide
I also have a few plants of Spartocytisus supranubius (above) which is a broom from the mountains of Tenerife which makes dense upright clusters of rather thick silvery grey leafless shoots covered in fragrant rosy white pea flowers in spring. Hillier's manual of trees and shrubs says "remained uninjured by snow and wind for several years in our relatively cold area" so definitely worth a try in a sunny dry spot over here.

I also have the feeling that thistles could be the new Euphorbias (yes, I did say 'thistles'). As far as I can tell, before Beth Chatto went on and on about them hardly anyone thought much of spurges as ornamentals, but now look at them. The thistle group (tribe Cynarae) includes the cardoons and globe artichokes (Cynara) as well as the Centaureas and their brethren. Besides these the Mediterranean region has more than its fair share of thistles and many are dramatic and exciting plants and there are some magnificent Asian species. 'But aren't they likely to be weeds?' I hear you cry. No more than any other group I think. It's hard to think of a group of plants that doesn't include at least one major weed. Think of Rhododendron... 'But aren't they nasty spiky things?' No more than Eryngium, which are another of Beth Chattos big contributions to popular gardening. And less so than roses, which always seem to catch me out...
Cynara humilis
As yet I only have a few on offer but those have sold out remarkably quickly - in particular the (relatively) small Cynara humilis (above), both in its natural violet and also the white flowered forms, but I also have a crop of C.baetica maroccana ready to go - a stunning dwarf cardoon with a shocking pink involucre (the spiky scaly thing that holds the flower) and violet florets. Also on the way are Carduus defloratus and Cirsium oleraceum (both alpines), not to mention Staehelina dubia - a Mediterranean sub shrub with very pale foliage a bit like the curry plant, and delicate pink Centaurea flowers above, plus Leuzea centauroides and Carduncellus dianius. (Please excuse the possibly out of date nomenclature - the group seems to be under revision at the moment.)

What else? I am persevering with the species Penstemon and Asclepias. Both have proved challenging but I have made some discoveries.
Of the former, I've developed a bit of a collection of more unusual species from the easier procerus and serrulatus groups, such as whippleanus and rydbergii, richardsonii and venustus which are all very lovely but I can't seem to resist trying again with the gorgeous vivid blue flowering species of the habroanthus group such as mensarum (below) and hallii.
Penstemon mensarum (Grand Mesa penstemon)
These have proved short lived and part of the problem seems to be that they get into difficulties after flowering. As the new basal growth develops the rhizomes seem to become exposed and wither, but I've discovered that potting them on into bigger pots a little lower than they were so the basal growth is covered with grit or gritty compost seems to prolong their life considerably. In the wild they are often found as pioneer plants on shifting soils and road sides where they get half buried in shifting soil and in the garden, giving them a gritty mulch could have the same effect.
I should point out here that they also hate drying out in their pots. This may come as a surprise - being among the most drought tolerant things I grow. The problem is that plants can be drought tolerant in different ways. Some simply store water (eg. cacti) or have other ways to reduce water loss (eg. bromeliads) but many cope by sending their roots down deep where there is always some moisture, and these, as you might expect, do not cope with drying out in their pots at all well and that includes my Penstemon. Potting them on each year helps a lot.

Asclepias speciosa
Asclepias - especially the more western arid growing ones have been succumbing to some horrible black lurgy and I have nothing much to sell at the moment. Something Barry Clarke (the national collection holder) said made me think that they dislike being in small containers so I've potted my remaining plants on into really big pots and already they look happier. Getting them out into the open garden would be even better.

California buckeye - Aesculus californica
Other things coming along swiftly but not yet listed include Aesculus californica - the Californian Buckeye (that's Horse Chestnut to us Brits) a phenomenal large shrub with good foliage and pale bark and fat white scented 'candles'. Hardly ever available in the UK except sometimes grafted onto A.hippocastanum, I imported a lot of conkers last autumn, got almost 100% germination and they're already about 8ins high. This will be an excellent opportunity to get this fabulous plant more widely grown over here. Completely hardy given a sunny well-drained site by the way.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Brimeura amethystina

Brimeura amethystina
An extremely charming small relative of the bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) with flowers of a particularly delicate shade of pale blue (not amethyst!)
Brimeura amethystina
Very easy to grow and seems to especially like the same conditions as the bluebell, with some shade and not too dry.
10cm pot-fulls ~ £5




Bupleurum longifolium Bronze

Bupleurum angulosum ex Copper
A very unusual umbellifer, the umbels of flowers being condensed into a head surrounded by coloured bracts - in this case the whole inflorescence and the leaves immediately below it being heavily tinted with a rich reddish brown, which contrasts gorgeously with the soft green oval leaves.

Bupleurum angulosum ex Copper
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the name of this plant. I've seen it offered as angulosum and perfoliatum, and called Copper form. The name used here seems like the best fit though.
Bupleurum angulosum Copper
As time goes on it just gets better and better.
An easy perennial for a rich moist soil in sun or part shade.
1L pots ~ £8




Derwentia (Parahebe) perfoliata

Derwentia perfoliata
A most peculiar plant (known in its native land as Digger's Speedwell I understand) totally unlike any of the related Veronicas and Hebes - striking for both flowers and foliage. Also one of the very few Australian mainland plants that can genuinely be relied upon the grow almost anywhere.
Derwentia perfoliata
I've grown it successfully on chalk near Lewes and heavy soils that flood periodically at Pool Meadow (where these pictures were taken). An easy evergreen perennial, best in sun. Runs a bit.
10cm pots - £7




Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Rubus Rubus Rubus Rubus!

Rubus acuminatus
Another much underestimated group of plants. I'd been aware that there are some good ones but didn't know quite how many, or how varied they were until, last summer I visited Barry Clarke - the national collection holder. I went to look at his Asclepias collection and came away raving about Rubus. He was incredibly generous not only with his time but also with plants and cutting material so this year I already have plants to sell. Thanks Barry.
A word of reassurance - people are understandably wary of introducing Rubus to their gardens - there are undoubtedly some out-and-out monsters among them (our native blackberry most obviously) but there are also some very choice and well-behaved species too. Gardeners who have come to regret planting R.spectabilis (a good-looking but irrepressible suckerer) or tricolor (one of the most invasive ground-covers I know of) or taiwanicola (looks so cute in its little pot until you let it loose on your rockery!) needn't fear.
One of those I mention below does sucker but modestly, and a couple of others creep about, rooting at the tips if they get the chance, but are easily cropped back. Most benefit from being given space so as not to have to trim them back too hard all the time. All do best in shade - even quite deep shade and can be grown under evergreens as long as it's not too dry under there.
Mainly these are grown for their foliage but the flowers, though subtle, are worth looking out for too, and if they produce fruit they won't be poisonous and some might be worth harvesting.

Rubus lineatus
Rubus lineatus
A very choice species with foliage good enough for almost all of us to forgive its tendency to sucker. Not being completely hardy in any case dampens its vigour. In my experience it tends to pop up here and there among other plants but not to the extent that it becomes a pest. Probably not one for the very tidy-minded gardener however.
Sold out

Rubus Rushbrook Red Leaf
Rubus Rushbrook Red Leaf
Grown mainly for the richly coloured and textured new leaves.
The red and white buds are especially striking.
Rubus Rushbrook Red Leaf
This is an 'informal' rambling species best grown either as a sort of mound, allowed to scramble about among other shrubs, or trained in as a climber. Potentially quite big but by no means uncontrollable. Thanks to Barry for this one.
4L pots ~ £12




Rubus formosensis
Rubus formosensis
Very much a ground-covering species, reminiscent of some of the more rampant types sometimes offered but much choicer in every way - especially the soft felted new growth.
Rubus formosensis
Excellent in moist shade. Rather pretty nodding white flowers too. Another of Barry's gifts.
sold out


Rubus pectinellus trilobus
Rubus pectinellus trilobus
Another ground-cover - this time with small, rounded, attractively black-marked leaves - especially in deep moist shade. This one is entirely prostrate and can cover quite a large area but does not run underground like some, so can easily be cut back if it moves into areas you'd rather it didn't.
Rubus pectinellus trilobus
Again not entirely hardy so give shelter.
sold out


Rubus acuminatus
Rubus acuminatus
Surely the most un-bramble-like bramble you've ever seen, and one of my absolute favourite shrubs of any kind. A small evergreen shrub that neither scrambles nor suckers. To me it looks a lot like Ribes laurifolium, but the nodding white flowers are typical Rubus.
Rubus acuminatus
Adaptable but best in woodland shade with shelter and moisture. Many thanks to Barry Clarke for letting me have cuttings of this one.
£14