An 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.
Now 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 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