Sailors on uncharted seas could expect the legend promising new dangers on medieval maps. I’m making a case, no, a plea for planting unusual stuff in the garden. In these days of Google, Bing et al with image searches and cultivation information, there is a paucity of excuses for buying the usual schmeer from the shops. Please don’t fill your wish list with pansies and heather, simply because they are good doers. Let’s go for something different, remarkable, and even extraordinary.
Clerodendrum bungei (cashmere bouquet)
After badmouthing the flower shows in earlier posts, I have to say that some of my own purchases were informed by plants that I had never seen before. I bought a Clerodendrum bungei (cashmere bouquet) for the front garden, ignoring claims of rampant growth and suckering habit. I don’t go for variegated leaves often but these are striking and will add to the display, not confuse the issue. Allegedly the perfume of the foliage is an acquired taste but as long as it overwhelms the honk of horse shit, I’m happy. The Crinodendron hookeraneum (Chilean lantern bush) is giving me a run for my money. It needs moist, well drained soil, which is to say that it has to be perfect. It requires acidic compost and is not altogether hardy so I’m growing it in a pot for overwintering under cover. It doesn’t particularly like container culture and insists on rainwater but I’m going to persevere. I will plant it out in a sheltered spot when it is more mature, if it survives that long. I saw one blooming in a garden nearby and was rendered speechless. This does not happen often, as those dear to me will attest.
Ammi visnaga (bishop’s weed)
We’re coming up to the time for indoor horticulture, which means choosing seeds for 2015. This is the cheapest way to get your hands on something which blows your skirt up and makes you sweaty under the collar. OK, perhaps that’s just me, then. This year I tried Ammi visnaga (bishop’s weed), a hardy annual belonging to the carrot tribe, which was easy to grow and a spectacular success. The mounded, lacy umbels flowered for months and have been constantly plastered in rowdy crowds of bees and butterflies. The seed heads are heavy with the promise of more of the same for a long time to come, or so I hope. I bought Digitalis (foxglove) “Pam’s Choice” from Thompson & Morgan. Being biennial, I had to wait two years before the plants did their thing and when the blossoms opened, I discovered that none of them resembled the picture on the packet. This does not occur often but currently I am composing a scorching letter to the shysters, demanding the return of my money and recompense for a chunk of my life, wasted by their lack of care.
Rubus (blackberry) ‘Oregon Thornless’
Lots of people have bear’s britches; I wanted a change from Acanthus mollis and failed to heed the warning implicit in A. spinosus. This is a particularly spiky specimen; in bud, the developing blooms are studded with long, hard needles, cunningly disguised as leaves. I found out about this when pushing through the border. I moved the heavy flower head out of my way, only to have it swing back and smack me on the buttock with the slap of a mailed fist. My howl of anguish made dogs bark up to six streets away. It took a week for the marks to fade and made me grateful that it happened to an area of anatomy rarely inspected by strangers. That shows a lack of imagination; I should have explained my funny walk as the calling card of something winged, scaled and breathing fire, which paused briefly in my garden and bit me on the bum.