Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Salvia nipponica

Salvia nipponica
Extremely late flowering - this woodland species produces flowers of the palest softest yellow on short stems just above the rich green arrow-head-shaped leaves in November.
Salvia nipponica
Easy and hardy in part shade and not too dry, but should be sheltered as much as possible from autumn frosts which would curtail flowering. I would suggest trying it at the foot of the north wall of the house.
2L pots ~ £8




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




Friday, 26 September 2014

Salvia azurea

Salvia azurea
A tall slender late-flowering herbaceous perennial with narrow greyish foliage.
Salvia azurea
From north-eastern North America so should be very hardy, and plays well with other prairie plants like Asclepias or Helianthus, and grasses in particular. Mesic conditions in full sun.
3L pots ~ £8




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




Hedychiums


Two species raised from wild collected seed.

Hedychium yunnanense
Hedychium yunnanense
A lovely species with lightly scented flowers in August. Forms a relatively low (3-4ft) but very lush clump with broad fresh green leaves.
Hedychium yunnanense
Best in sun on a rich moist soil but good in part shade. A thick mulch will protect the rhizomes from frost in colder conditions. A good hardy species.
3L pots ~ £10



Hedychium spicatum - wild collected seed from Ciaojiang
Hedychium spicatum Ciaojiang
Very similar to the above but taller and with narrower foliage, and flowering later. 
3L pots ~ £10



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




Sunday, 29 June 2014

Wyethia

White mule ears (wyethia helianthoides)
The Wyethias are a group of stemless sunflowers from the mountains of Western North America. In the wild they form magnificent colonies in meadows and forest clearings. The large rosettes of leaves (known locally as mule's ears) are very striking in themselves as they emerge in spring and the white or yellow flowers, which are held on short stems just above the leaves, are of excellent size and quality. It seems that they are used to plentiful water in spring, from snow-melt, but tend to dry out in summer and may die back as the season progresses.
Mount Diablo, China Wall & Mule Ears
In cultivation however they are rare and seem to be regarded as almost impossible to grow. I'm not sure why. I've raised a several species from seed and although they are sensitive and I have only a few mature plants they don't seem especially more difficult to manage than many other mountain plants.

Wyethia angustifolia
Wyethia angustifolia
Narrow Leaf Mule’s Ears. In this species the leaves are plain green and about 2ins wide. The flowers are golden yellow on short leafless stems just above the foliage. Easy and hardy here so far.
3L pots ~ £8



Wyethia helenioides
Not flowered yet but looking very good - the Grey Mule’s Ears is similar to the above but with bolder, grey leaves and even larger golden flowers. A very choice large alpine.
1L pots ~ £8



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Cobaea pringlei

Cobaea pringlei
A hardy herbaceous perennial relative of the familiar half-hardy cup-and-saucer vine, C.scandens. Having white flowers it's not as spectacular as its tender relative but still a lovely thing. I grow it in a sunny spot on a well-drained but rich soil, with a thick strawy mulch in winter just to be on the safe side. It dies down completely in winter.
Cobaea pringlei
The only down side is perhaps its vigour - once it gets going it's a big plant capable of covering about 10-12ft in a single season so make sure you put it somewhere where it can roam free. It tends to start late and flower late too so provide warmth and shelter.
Always in short supply - I wish I could find a way to produce more of it. I always sell out by the autumn and start some new ones in the spring.
sold out

Monday, 9 June 2014

Potentilla atrosanguinea Sundermannii

Potentilla atrosanguinea Sundermannii
I've never been a huge fan of the border Potentillas which can look a bit coarse but P.atrosanguinea and its kind are saved by their intensely silver-backed strawberry foliage which looks good even without the flowers. P.atrosanguinea is best known in its dark red forms and I normally would not rate a yellow version but Sundermannii, with its deep golden yellow and red centres, really stands out.
A splendid and easy front-of-the-border plant for any half decent soil in sun or semi shade.
1L pots ~ £6




Friday, 6 June 2014

Galega orientalis

Galega orientalis
A gorgeous species - so much better (in my humble opinion) than the more commonly available G.officinalis types and sometimes mistaken for some sort of herbaceous Wistaria. The combination of intense violet blue and fresh green is just stunning. There is the slight down-side in that it runs underground but I've never found it rampant and the foliage works in so well with other plants it's hard to object. Any soil in sun.
field grown ~ £8




Friday, 30 May 2014

Tritonia disticha rubrolucens

Tritonia disticha rubrolucens
A dainty relative of Crocosmia, looking like a small Dierama, with dangling rosy bell flowers on fine stems. Well-behaved and hardy in any well-drained garden soil in sun.
1L pots ~ £8




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.