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Gardens Blog

Special Plants

My mother used to say there was nothing she liked more than a packet of seeds and the endless possibilities that they contained. And so I think of her every time I come across a seed specialist which I think she would enjoy. One such site is Derry Watkins ‘Special Plants’.

I discovered the website quite by accident while I was searching for something else and, having become distracted by all the jewels on offer, I completely forgot what I was originally looking for – indeed I still haven’t remembered!

There have been a number of mentions in the gardening press recently about Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’. We all know the classic white form of Honesty and I was intrigued by the thought of a blue one, so having Googled it, I found it on the Special Plants site and from there it was a very short step to the slippery downward slope into a rather full on-line basket.

My order arrived today and I am gazing at a pile of well-labelled packets in joyful anticipation. What did I buy? Well, I have a weakness for poppies so first of all there is Argemone grandiflora, the Prickly Poppy which produces big 3-4 inch wide single white poppies on blue grey prickly leaves. I am designing a seaside garden for a client at the moment and these will work well in her garden.  In addition, I have a pack of Glaucium corniculatum, the Red Horned Poppy which, the label informs me, produces 9 inch long seedpods (the horns), which will doubtless set seed very satisfactorily in a gravel garden I am also designing.

I am always fond of white flowers so Nigella ‘African Bride’ with its shiny black horned seedpods will be put to good use.  On the same theme, I grow Lychnis coronaria at home and the obliging magenta flowers over silver felted foliage are very useful as they will flourish in different situations, but now I have seed of Lychnis coronaria ‘Oculata’, also known as ‘Angel’s Blush’, which will give me white flowers which develop pink centres and will be easier to place than their more brightly coloured sisters. Finally, a packet of Aquilegia clematiflora Alba, large pure white granny bonnets with no spurs and flowers that look like clematis proved irresistible.

In addition to the blue Lunaria are a very blue dwarf Catmint, Nepeta nervosa Blue Carpet, and Viola Corsica which will give me bright purple flowers from spring to autumn frosts if I keep them trimmed and dead-headed.

Two others caught my eye: Digitalis mertonensis is a perennial foxglove with fat, strawberry pink bells seen in a number of show gardens last year at Chelsea, and Calendula ‘Bronze Beauty’, with pale cream narrow petals tipped with red.  Last year I grew Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ from seed which I bought from Sarah Raven, which have golden orange petals with red backs and are charming.  Bronze Beauty will balance Indian Prince in a rather cool way and I can’t wait to see them together.

And, oh joy, having bought my ten packets of seeds I found I qualified for one free packet so I searched amongst all the wonderful names and chose Echium fastuosum, sometimes seen as ‘Pride of Madeira’.  The catalogue image shows an impressive, silver-grey plant with upward curling branches and large panicles of blue flowers.  I have a very hot and dry area at the front of the garden and I plan to try this there.  Photographs will follow in due course….

Echium fastuosum (=E. candicans)

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