New Plants 2014 Part 6

Callistemon Perth PinkEpisode six of what’s coming this season has got two nice shrubs and a grass for your delectation. We do like bottlebrushes (the shrubs, not necessarily the cleaning implements, though they have their merits too) so are pleased to be growing some Callistemon Perth Pink, which is a rather lovely variety of bottlebrush native to Australia, with a nicely rounded, slightly arching habit and willow-like evergreen leaves. The striking flowers, which appear in late spring into summer, are a refreshingly original shade of soft pink. The park superintendent of Perth named it after the city, which seems a good move on his part. A sunny sheltered spot will suit it best, but, as it is a sport from Callistemon Salignus, Perth Pink should be pretty hardy, only requiring protection in the harshest of winter conditions.

Chasmanthium_LatifoliumChasmanthium Latifolium is returning to our lists after a temporary absence, and about time too.We call this grass the mini-bamboo because of the appearance of its stems and leaves. The flower/seed heads are large and oat-like, hence the common name of Sea Oats. It’s also known as Spangle Grass, which is just a wonderful name. This grass looks terrific in a tall pot in which it will stand proud and not flop all over the place, which is very obliging and well behaved of it. We do like it and find it pretty much trouble free. The leaves turn golden yellow in winter, after which you can cut it back, which is pretty much all it will demand of you.

Clethra_Ruby_SpiceOne of the best bits of news for this coming season is that we are listing Clethra Ruby Spice. From the United States, where it is known as the sweet pepper bush, this delightful variety is an absolute stunner of a shrub. The glossy green foliage is nice, but its big moment is those 6 weeks in mid to late summer when it is covered in dark pink flower spikes like so many clove-scented candles. We have grown Hummingbird, the white-flowered variety, for some years but have not until this year been able to offer Ruby Spice other than on an occasional basis. It’s lovely! Exquisite in appearance and in its scent when in full flower. It is puzzling to us why you don’t see Clethras on a more widespread basis in this country: we’ll just keep on doing our bit for them, anyway.

New Plants 2014 Part 5

Astrantia_Major_ClaretAn astrantia, a begonia and two brunneras feature in our fifth preview of plants joining (or rejoining our list for 2014.  First up is Astrantia Major Claret. Dried (and non-dried!) flower arrangers will like this one for its clusters of saucer shaped deep red blooms, actually umbels of tiny flowers surrounded by papery bracts, borne over a long period in summer. There are a number of dark red varieties of which this is definitely one of the very best, although we still have a soft spot for good old Astrantia Major Rubra, which is a fine garden performer if not a fashionable plant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow Begonia Luxurians is not your common or garden begonia, but a truly luxuriant specimen grown for its spectacular palm-like foliage – each individual umbrella-like leaf can be 12 inches across and is made up of to 16 fingered leaflets. As a bonus, there are clusters of lightly scented yellowish white flowers. It is – surprise, surprise – tender, so needs to be kept indoors in winter. We have a potted specimen at the entrance to our sales area which occupies a corner of a greenhouse in the colder months.  It is certainly a prime candidate for a big pot so you can enjoy it out of doors in the summer and indoors in the winter. Being evergreen, it will look good whatever the season.

Brunnera_Silver_HeartBrunnera Looking Glass is one of the comeback kids on this year’s list and is joined on it by newbie Brunnera Silver Heart. It’s the leaves that catch your eye in both cases, large and heart-shaped, their silvery surface almost mirror-like. That will do for starters, indeed for most of the year, but in early summer you also sprays of bright blue flowers in the style of forget-me-nots. Silver Heart is a newly introduced variety, reputedly tougher than Looking Glass. It’s probably best to avoid a spot that’s in the sun all day, as that can burn the gorgeous leaves, though Silver Heart is probably a bit more prepared to put up with this kind of position. Slugs do rather like them but are generally not a major problem. Both are lovely and will fill a shady nook rather well.

Rob & Joanna – January 2014

Top ten searched plants 2013

It’s always interesting to check the stats on the Paddock Plants website just to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and we tend to do so on a regular basis. Visitor, numbers, visitor origins, page views, search terms, that kind of thing. And particularly interesting to do a check at the year’s end just to see how the previous twelve months have been out on the wonderful world-wide web. So how was 2013?

Scabiosa_Clive_Greaves_PP1Well, visitor-wise, the website attracted in excess of 25000 visitors, which is an attractively big number. Now, of course, a significant proportion of those visits will be web bots and other assorted oddities, but there must be quite a few real people and, hopefully, real gardeners included in that figure. Which is nice. And how did they find us? The real people, that is. Well, it has to be said that most of them were searching for us directly, ie using the search term Paddock Plants, or for a nursery or garden centre in the Southampton area. But a lot of people got to us by searching for a particular plant. So we thought it would be fun to see what the top ten plants were that instigated a visit to our website. Admittedly in some cases they must have been pretty determined, as we did not always feature on the first page of a Google search result. But get to us they did, and here is the top ten plants that achieved that.

1.  Scabiosa Clive GreavesKniphofia_Orange_Vanilla_Popsicle_PP1
2.  Kniphofia Vanilla Orange Popsicle
3.  Spiraea Joseph’s Coat
4.  Drimys Lanceolata
5.  Beschorneria Septentrionalis
6.  Sidalcea Purpetta
7.  Hypericum Golden Beacon
8.  Centaurea Cara Mia
9.  Alcalthaea Parkrondell
10. Heuchera Emperor’s Cloak

What an interesting list that is, containing a seemingly random mix of old and newer varieties, of common and less common plants. Clive Greaves is a plant that always does well for us and we sell a lot of it – not sure why, other than the possibility that fewer nurseries grow it these days but gardeners still want to plant it. The Kniphofia and the Centaurea are relatively recent introductions, of course – in the case of the latter, we insist on using two words for the varietal name, Hypericum_Golden_Beacon_PP3as making it a single word doesn’t make sense to us, except perhaps as a given name. Drimys Lanceolata saw a surge in its popularity this year, largely thanks to James Wong extolling its merits in his book James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution, which clearly inspired people. The Spiraea is a long-standing favourite: we use the rather charming Joseph’s Coat moniker rather than call it Shirobana or Shiburi, which may explain why we got those hits. Great shrub, whatever you call it.

Why Sidalcea Purpetta should be such a popular search eludes us, but it’s a puzzling fact and a pretty plant. The Beschorneria is a bit of an oddball plant, as is the Hypericum Golden Beacon – we were pleased to sell some of those to Hilliers, who are putting it forward in trials. The newish Alcea x Althaea crosses are lovely things and looked especially wonderful at the end of last season, when they just sold on sight when we took them to shows. And isn’t it nice to see a good old-Alcalthaea_Parkrondell_PPfashioned seed strain of Heuchera make the top ten, swimming against the tide of all those fancy new varieties which have arrived on the scene in recent years?

So there it is – our top ten most searched plants of 2013. It will be interesting to see how different the list might look in twelve months’ time and whether Clive retains his position at the top of the charts.

Rob & Joanna – January 2014

New Plants 2014 Part 4

Happy New Year! Just to celebrate, here are tasters of three more plants we are offering for the first time in 2014. We are very partial to aquilegias and always try to have a number of varieties available each season: next year sees two new additions to the roster. We also have a liking for astelias and are pleased to be growing one of the best recent introductions.

Aquilegia_CanadensisAquilegia Canadensis is, well of course it is,  the Canadian columbine, though it also grows in the United States, enjoying a setting among woodland or on rocky slopes. It is an elegant and airy plant with divided  ferny foliage and, in late spring and early summer, nodding flowers with yellow petals surrounded by crimson sepals with upward facing spurs. It will grow in sun or semi-shade and tolerates most soils. A few years ago we grew A. Little Lanterns, which is a bijou little version of the species, but we though we would give the full blown version a go this time round.

Aquilegia_ClematifloraAquilegia Clematiflora is a distinctive and rather different form of columbine, as the characteristic spurs are absent on the flowers which are more open and semi or fully double, hence the comparison with clematis. The flowers are usually pink, though coloration may vary, which makes it all the more exciting. We do like our aquilegias and this one is quite unlike most of the others. Whether clematis is the best comparison is another matter; perhaps it’s best to just enjoy it for what it is.

Astelia_Silver_Shadow_PP1Astelias are feature plants with their dramatic evergreen sword-like leaves; those of Silver Shadow have a striking silvery tinge – in fact, it’s the best silver form yet (better than the more usually seen Silver Spear) and a good vigorous one, to boot, so will eventually form a spectacular clump. Stylish in a patio pot. It needs a sheltered sunny spot in fertile well drained soil and dislikes winter wet and extreme cold. If in doubt, protect in the worst weather or grow in a pot so you can enjoy it indoors in the darker months.

Rob & Joanna – January 2014