Thursday, 26 September 2013

Some very Desirable Plants

Kniphofia caulescens 'Oxford Blue' B&V 67: published and offered for the first time. 

A recent arrival has been the Autumn 2013-Spring 2014 mail order catalogue from Desirable Plants, the
specialist nursery in Devon run by my friends Sarah and Julian Sutton. As always it is packed with entries for really good plants - the nursery's name is not hyperbole - at very reasonable prices.

On one of my last days at Colesbourne last year, when I should have been packing frantically, Julian came with an empty car and loaded it up with clumps of good plants from the garden, and pots of things that I wouldn't be able to grow here, or I felt needed a safe home until I could. Being good propagators some of these plants have now appeared in the Suttons' catalogue, with several having been given a formal name for the first time. Others have had their informal names published and thus validated, among them the lovely, late-flowering clone of Kniphofia caulescens shown above, known as 'Oxford Blue' for many years. It was brought back from South Africa  by Ken Burras and Canio Vosa (B&V 67) in (I believe) 1967, having originally been selected by Dr Codd, the monographer of Kniphofia. Ken gave me a piece in 1988 from the clumps that grew in the Oxford Botanic Garden and I have enjoyed growing it ever since, valuing its wonderful glaucous leaves. Although it has been passed around for all this time and latterly as 'Oxford Blue' the name is now formalised and it is at last available 'in the trade'. Three further newly published cultivars from my garden are featured below.

Allium schoenoprasum 'Colesbourne Giant' is a very robust and floriferous selection I made at Colesbourne. Julian measured 30 stems and came to an average height of 63 cm.

This red winter-foliaged Bergenia was selected by Chris Sanders but grown by Margaret Owen, who gave it to me unnamed. She has now named it after her late husband. I found it be an excellent plant for winter effect, combining it with small bulbs such as Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'.

This short, pure yellow poker came from a packet of seed labelled Kniphofia ichopensis, but is evidently a hybrid. It is extremely floriferous and apparently very hardy. I've given it the name 'Jabulani', which means 'rejoice' in Zulu.

A long-term favourite of mine, though not sourced from me, Tulbaghia natalensis B&V 421 clone 1, also features in the Desirable Plants catalogue. It is hardy and charmingly coloured, flowering prolifically in early summer. Another good plant from that expedition to South Africa long ago, now getting the circulation it deserves.

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