Plant Listing for 2018

As Christmas approaches and everything seems to be winding down towards the end of year break, we horticulturalists, being forward-looking and ever optimistic folk, are of course fully focused on the upcoming season, convinced as always that next year will be the best year ever. And what better way to illustrate that than by publishing the Paddock Plants plant listing for 2018, the definitive guide to what we hope to have available over the coming twelve months.

As usual there will be quite a few changes, with 63 plants being ushered out the back entrance and 81 new varieties being given the full red carpet treatment as they make their way into the catalogue. Having been very chuffed to list the fabled Abutilon Red Tiger in 2017 (and having found new homes for significant numbers of said plant), we are introducing several other new abutilons for next season. We have plans for quite a few other varieties which do not appear on the published list, including some rather special ones with a degree of rarity value in the UK, so watch this space. Could this be the beginnings at last of a specialism?

Another plant that seems to multiplying in terms of the varieties that we grow is Echinacea. Odd that, as Rob always used to swear blind that he hated the things. Big Kahuna and Aloha proved  runaway successes in 2017, so we are adding a few new faces, while retaining established favourites such as Pica Bella, Fatal Attraction and Green Jewel.

81 plants are too many to give an individual mention to here, but we will try to feature at least some of them in our posts over the next few months. In the meantime, feel free to peruse the list above and make plans for an exciting 2018. That’s what we are doing.

Rob and Joanna – December 2017

Digitalis Valinii aka Digiplexis

The pre-2012 world was a simpler place. You had Digitalis, known to all as foxglove or fairy thimbles (now that’s a delightfully twee name) and a familiar sight both as a wild and a cultivated plant throughout the UK, and you had Isoplexis, its glamorous cousin from the Canary Islands, an evergreen woody shrub sporting rather haughty looking spires of golden apricot flowers.

And then Thompson and Morgan launched Digitalis Illumination Pink, a new hybrid between these two plants and the result of some years of cross breeding experiments by Charles Valin. A remarkable and beautiful thing, it won the award for Best New Plant at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that year and took the gardening world, as they say, by storm. A couple of other colour variants followed and the name Digiplexis gained currency in identifying these new hybrids.

But in 2015 the RHS reclassified Isoplexis Canariensis  as a Digitalis, rendering the portmanteau name obsolete, and Digiplexis became Digitalis Valinii, honouring the pioneering work of Charles Valin. Which is a nice touch and makes some kind of sense. Isoplexis, as we shall continue to call it for sake of convenience, is on the tender side, but on its introduction T&M billed Illumination PInk as fully hardy. However, that description was fairly quickly modified in the light of winter losses experienced by many new owners, and the series is now generally seen billed as half hardy. Which seems about right to us.

The Illumination series has grown in number to at least five varieties as known to us: Pink, Raspberry, Apricot, Flame and Ruby Slippers. In addition, there is Berry Canary, a hybrid created and patented by the American nursery Walters Gardens, which we are currently growing (and wondering if it might be a tad hardier?).

It’s not often that a really revolutionary and exciting plant comes along that genuinely changes things, but Digitalis Valinii (aka Digiplexis) is, in our book at least, one of those rare plants. And we like it very much.

Digitalis Valinii Berry Canary is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.

You can buy Digitalis (formerly Isoplexis) Canariensis from the Paddock Plants website using this link.

Rob & Joanna – December 2017

 

Unusual Houseplants: Jatropha Podagrica

Now this is certainly one unusual houseplant. If you can’t quite get the hang of the Latin name, you may prefer to use one of Jatropha Podagrica’s various common names, such as Buddha’s Belly plant or bottle plant. Particularly as it’s easy to spot their origins as references to the swollen base of the plant’s trunk-like stem.

Jatropha Podagrica is a tender succulent perennial from Central America and the West Indies so, as you might expect, it doesn’t do cold weather, preferring a temperature that doesn’t fall much below 10C, so it makes an ideal specimen for the conservatory or windowsill. It’s an undemanding plant, too, tolerating a fair degree of neglect, as a bit of a water once a week or so is all it needs in the growing season, with an occasional feed to keep it happy. In winter, when it will drop its shiny lobed leaves but carry on flowering, it can be virtually ignored.

It’s a curiosity, certainly, with that swollen little trunk, but it is possessed of a certain beauty. The leaves are relatively large, glossy and attractively shaped, and they come in succession from the top of the stem, like some strange little palm tree. And the flowers are very striking, a vibrant shade of coral red, held on little stalks that can themselves also have a reddish tinge. Perhaps the best bit is that the flowers are produced pretty much 12 months of the year, even when the plant is leafless in winter. Now that makes for an unusual sight.

In former times the fruits of Jatropha Podagrica were eaten for their laxative effect, hence one of the other common names of purge nut. We suggest you avoid testing their efficacity and stick to more modern medication.

Jatropha Podagrica is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.

Rob & Joanna – November 2017

 

Deer-resistant plants: the list

Yes, there are deer-proof plants, and they are easy to identify. They’re the ones surrounded by tall close mesh fencing. However, those of you with gardens in areas inhabited by deer but without Fort Knox style protection will be more reastically interested in whether there are any deer-resistant plants that you can safely grow.

To which the answer is a qualified yes.

Deer are pretty catholic in their tastes but tend not to graze on plants that are too low or too high for them to comfortably reach. They will also usually avoid those plants that have strongly aromatic foliage or that have some kind of inbuilt defence such as prickles or thorns. That said, if it’s winter and the deer are hungry, they will understandably be less picky and more ready to have a nibble at something they might normally avoid. So there are no real guarantees about deer-resistance, but in the list below you will find suggestions for some perennials, shrubs, ferns and grasses that you might plant in your garden with a degree of hope that they might survive! As always, there will be regional factors and other variables, and you won’t know for certain until you have tried them, but it’s surely worth a go. We will hide smugly behind our tall fencing and wish you the best of luck.

There are couple of websites that might be of interest in this context. The amusingly-named Deer-Departed.com has helpful information and listings, and there is a specialist US nursery whose website might be worth a look. Lastly, there is a US-based list with resistance ratings here.

Rob and Joanna – November 2017

 

Gerbera Garvinea Sweet series

Gerberas go back quite a long way: the father of botanical nomenclature Carolus Linnaeus named the genus in 1737, the name honouring his friend Dr Traugott Gerber. A century and a half later, in 1889, Robert Jameson identified and gave his name to the best known species, Gerbera Jamesonii, discovered in the Barberton area of South Africa, hence the common names of Barberton daisy or Transvaal daisy.

Gerberas make for great cut flowers, so you will see them a lot in florists’ bouquets, and as summer bedding, and they will be seen in serried and colourful  ranks in the garden centres as a result. But, lovely as they are, these gerberas are not hardy enough to take the vicissitudes of the British winter and come back for more the following year. So, back in the early years of the twentyfirst century, the Dutch gerbera specialist nursery Florist Holland set about doing something to change this.

The old favourite Gerbera Jamesonii wasn’t by itself suitable for their purposes, and quite a bit of hybridisation of various species of gerbera went into the development of what was to be named the Garvinea series, which was introduced to the world in 2009. In that year it won the prestigious Hortifair Innovation Award as the first gerbera to prove itself properly hardy and followed that up with the Golden Floral Award in 2010.  The new breed of gerberas was something of a game changer. A number of varieties, mostly carrying girls’ names, were introduced in a range of vibrant colours, including some spider types with that bad hair day look that challenges conventional notions of floral beauty.

More recent breeding saw the introduction of the Garvinea Sweet series which not only promises improved weather resistance but, most importantly, larger bloom size relative to the original Garvinea varieties. As the saying goes, bigger and better. There are now several varieties available in the Sweet series, and this time they aren’t all called after girls.

So how hardy are they in the real world? Well, the breeders, or their marketing department, claim hardiness down to US hardiness zone 7, which correlates to an average winter miniumum of -17C to -12C, so, even given a dose of healthy scepticism, that means you could reasonably expect your little darlings to get through a winter getting down to at least -10C, and that’s most winters for the majority of us here in the UK. I know we are pampered weather-wise here in the deep south of England, but -10C covers a lot of territory and a lot of seasonal variation. The key, however, is to treat them like echinaceas, which means (1) ensuring the soil or medium in which they are planted is well drained, particularly in winter, and (2) planting them what we call ‘crown high’ to make sure the heart of the plant doesn’t get waterlogged, which will quickly cause it to rot. Do that, and your hardy gerberas should prove just that.

As this post is focused on the Garvinea Sweet series, you might expect us to grow and sell some of those. And we do. Currently we have just the two, both of which sold well in 2017, but we may add more to the range in future. Gerbera Sweet Glow is an in your face shade of orange (very apt for a plant bred in the Netherlands) and will give you three seasons of flowering (spring, summer and autumn), which is what we call value for money. We have found Gerbera Sweet Dreams a little slower to get off the mark in terms of flowering, but when it does, it’s an absolute cracker, possessed of a pink as shocking as an electric eel, and forming nice robust plants. We like these new hardy gerberas: treat them right, and they’ll just keep on giving.

Rob and Joanna – November 2017

Show’s over

Given that it’s pretty much two months since our last show of the season, the NCCPG Dorset plant fair at Athelhampton House on 10th September, it’s pretty fair to say that it’s all over for 2017. So, with all that time to reflect on things, a review of this year’s roadshow should be a well considered affair.

It was a less intense roadshow than in the recent past, as we have been scaling back the number of events we attend as a consequence of the demands of increasing internet-based sales. But more of that later.

We kicked off our events season in early April in the splendid quadrangle at Marlborough College and, for once, the weather was relatively benign: sadly, that didn’t seem to make much difference in terms of sales. The mid-April Easter weekend went by without an event, as the Craft & Garden Fairs that Katie used to organise are, alas, no more, so it was back up to Marlborough, right up on to the downs this time, at the end of the month for the Kennet Valley RDA plant fair. The best views of any plant fair location, bar none. And spectacularly good sales too, despite the fact that customers have to brave miles of single track and, in some instances, gravelled roads to get to the event.

May was a relatively relaxed month, with only five events, but each of them – the St John fair at Bishop’s Waltham, the NCCPG events at Stockbridge and Athelhampton, the Rowdeford Garden Fair and the Milford on Sea gardening club fair, held on the village green – was a buzz of non-stop sales activity and meant that the month of May accounted for over 25 per cent of our show income for the year. If May was relaxed, however, June was anything but.

The month opened on a high note at the Solent Gardeners’ Fayre, which provided the best day’s takings of the year and, we think, of any day anywhere ever, which was very nice indeed. But the three weekends that followed were sheer madness, given that we were also trying to keep up with internet sales running at their highest levels ever. The three days at Stansted were, as usual, a crowded blur, and we had only just got over that when we were at Gilbert White’s House in quaint Selborne for the two days of the Unusual Plants Fair. Scarcely time to get our breath back or, indeed, get some plants sorted out before it was off to the 17th century West Woodhay House near Highclere for the West Woodhay Gardeners’ Fair, a new – or, rather, revived – event in the calendar. And a very stylish affair it was, too, with all the stands presented in house style with hessian-covered tables and cream canvas parasols the order of the day. And very good that consistency of presentation looked too, as can be seen in the image below.

On the evening of the opening day (Friday) there was a charity gala which attracted the great and the good from the surrounding area and during which we were obliged to remain on site manning our stands. In the space of rather more than two hours spent observing the guests sip sparkling wine and nibble on their canapes Rob managed to sell all of two plants, which prompted him to leave around 8. 45 pm (with most of the guests still lingering) so that he could get back to base and restock for the following day before the Paddock Plants van turned into a pumpkin. A stroll round the grounds on the Saturday revealed a rather fine specimen of Abutilon Red Tiger in the conservatory, which might explain the popularity of said plant on our stand.

After the madness of June things eased off, thankfully, and there was a breathing space of a month before the three days of the Garden Show at Loseley Park, which turned out to be the best three days we have had at that particular event. It is quite hard to nail down the reason why things were up by quite such a margin: perhaps it was down to pretty decent weather and the arrival of several coachloads of eager punters on each of the three days, Jane’s hard work in promoting the show since it was reborn some seven years ago seems to be paying off.

After that it was downhill all the way, with the usual Ellingham Show and Emsworth Show giving us something to do in August and another trip down into deepest Dorset to Athelhampton to round things off on the second weekend of September. Which marked our 22nd day manning the Paddock Plants display stand during 2017. Now that represents quite a change since the heady days of 2015, when our tally of such days stood at 42, and another reduction on last year’s figure of 35.

Cutting back on the number of days spent away from the nursery has been quite deliberate, as the balance of our sales sheet has tilted in favour of our online business. If you are standing around in the grounds of some stately home or other, you can’t be packing plants into boxes or, indeed, potting on or propagating the next generation of plants. Our show revenue may be down (but not proportionally to the reduction in number of events, as we have kept the best ones on the calendar), but gross turnover continues to grow, so there are certainly changes afoot in the world of plant retailing. Rob’s theory is that the keen and knowledgeable gardeners, perhaps feeling their age a little, are now staying at home and silver surfing on their iPads (other tablets are available) in search of plants rather than going out to plant fairs.

Although they don’t qualify as shows, it is worth mentioning our selling through other outlets. We have been supplying Sunnyfields Farm Shop near Totton since last spring, and this year we have been doing the same for Romsey World of Water and the Kimbridge Farm Shop, on a sale or return basis, which seems to work quite well for both parties.

Looking ahead, Rob is currently working on the show calendar for 2018: chances are it will be around the 20 days mark and hopefully with a month of June less likely to require a health warning. Keep an eye on our events page for further news as things fall into place.

Rob & Joanna – November 2017

New home

Welcome to the new home of the Paddock Plants Update.

Lots of really interesting content coming soon! In particular, we are determined to update this blog a lot more regularly that we have done in the past …..

In the meantime, the old site may be found here.

Rob & Joanna.