Abelia floribunda is just one of approximately 30 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs native to East Asia and Mexico. Originally named and described by French botanist Joseph Decaisne (1807 – 1882), the discovery of Abelia floribunda for western science was first published in  'Flore des serres et des jardins de l'Europe'. While there is evidence to confirm that the introduction of Abelia floribunda to English gardens was in 1841, the first print of 'Flore des serres et des jardins de l'Europe' did not appear until 1845!

The genus name commemorates Dr Clarke-Abel, a British naturalist and surgeon for the celebrated Amherst mission to China in the early 19th century.

How to grow Abelia floribunda

Native to Mexico, Abelia floribunda is a tender, evergreen shrub (semi-evergreen where light frosts are experienced) which will require the protection of a sheltered south wall in even the mildest regions of Great Britain. Under favorable conditions you can expect it to reach a height and spread of between 2.5-4 metres. The glossy, mid green leaves are broadly ovate.

The blooms appear from July to October in dense, cerise clusters throughout the plant. Each flower is tubular in shape and approximately 5 cm long.

Abelia floribunda will perform best in a sunny position but will cope with semi-shade if need be. Provide a south facing position out of strong winds. It will be happy growing in most garden soils, however make sure that it is well-drained before planting. Avoid waterlogged soils.

Specimens that have outgrown their space or just need shaping can be trimmed back immediately after flowering. In all areas prone to frost, Abelia floribunda will require the protection of horticultural fleece in late autumn which can then be removed in late spring.


Abelia chinensis 
Abelia chinensis is believed to be the first species within the genus to be described. The genus name commemorates Dr Clarke-Abel, surgeon to the celebrated Amherst mission to China in 1816. Dr Clarke-Abel acquired seeds of the species, but lost them along with his other collections when the HMS Alceste was shipwrecked off the island of Lee-Chew (modern day Okinawa). Fortunately, he had given a plant to a friend, though it was another 26 years before the abelia was brought under cultivation and introduced to the British gardening public (1844). Luckily it is one of the most cold-resistant species within the genus

Abelia chinensis was named and described by the Scottish botanist Robert Brown (1773 – 1858), and published in 'Narrative of a Journey in the Interior of Chinathe' in 1818.

Commonly known as the Chinese abelia, it is commonly found across central and eastern China, Taiwan and Japan. It is a compact semi-evergreen to deciduous shrub (depending on how cold it gets), capable of a height and spread of between 1-1.5 metres. It has reddish stems and neat, oval, dark green leaves which turn reddish-brown before autumn. Clusters of slightly fragrant, white flowers with pink sepals which are freely produced from July to October.

When planting it will require a sheltered, south or east-facing aspect in full sun. It will be happy growing in most garden soils so long as they are moist, yet well drained.

Abelia chinensis received the Award of Merit(AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1976.

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Abelia triflora
Native to east Asia and the north-western Himalayas, Abelia triflora is a large erect shrub with a graceful, ornamental habit. First described by botanists Robert Brown (1773–1858) and Nathaniel Wallich (1786–1854), it was introduced to western science in 1847.

Commonly known as the Indian abelia, it is a large deciduous shrub, which to some could even be considered as being a small, multi-stemmed tree. Under favourable conditions, it can grow to a respective height and spread of 3.5 m and 3 m. It has an upright, bushy habit, with dull-green, lanceolate leaves.

Abelia triflora will bloom in June, producing sweet-scented, white-tinged flowers in groups of three, and in large clusters. The flowers are hermaphrodite having both male and female organs.

In its native habitat, Abelia triflora is usually found growing amongst dry scrub and rocky slopes, and prefers calcareous (chalk or limestone) soils. Under garden conditions it will require light, sandy and medium loamy soils. It will not be suitable for acidic soils although it will tolerate neutral soils. As you would expect it is idea for alkaline soils and will also grow in very alkaline soils.

It will perform best in full sun but will tolerate semi-shade. It is hardy in (light woodland) or no shade. It has proven hardy in Great Britain.

Abelia triflora received the Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural show in 1959.

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How to grow Abeliophyllum distichum

Abeliophyllum distichum is a small, slow-growing shrub native to Korea, and the only species within the genus (monotypic). It was first described by Japanese botanist Takenoshin Nakai (1882–1952), and subsequently published in the Botanical Magazine, Tokyo (Shokubutsu-gaku zasshi) in 1919.

How to grow Abeliophyllum distichum

Abeliophyllum distichum was introduced to western science in 1924, however it is now endangered in the wild, occurring at only seven, undisclosed, sites.

It is a deciduous species, which under favourable growing conditions can be expected to reach 1–2 metres in height. The mid-green leaves are formed in opposites on the stem and can turn purple in the autumn before leaf drop.

The fragrant, white, pink-tinged blooms are produced in February, as or before the new foliage emerges. This timing is dependent on seasonal conditions. Each flower is approximately 1 cm long and is followed by a dry, winged fruit.

It is closely related to the genus Forsytha, and has proven to be a particularly hardy species. Be that as it may it needs a position that receive full sun to truly thrive.

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How to grow Abeliophyllum distichum



Commonly known as the 'Santa Lucia fir' or 'Bristlecone fir', Abies bracteata is a rare, evergreen tree, and arguably one of the most outstanding and beautiful of all species within the genus. Native to the central coast of California, USA, it was first described and named for western science as Pinus venusta in 1836 by Scottish botanist David Douglas (1799–1834). It was then reclassified and renamed several times before being given its current accepted name by David Don (1799 – 1841), also a Scottish botanist. The first plants were introduced to English gardens in 1852 by Cornish plant collector William Lobb (1809–1864).

Under favourable conditions Abies bracteata will reach an approximate height of 15 metres, with a spread of 3-4 metres.  On mature specimens, the wrinkled bark is reddish-brown with resin vesicles. It is considered tender when young and will require frost protection against late spring frosts until it has grown to about 1.5-2 metres.The crown is conical in shape with a narrow-spired top. The lower branches have a characteristic droop.

Abies bracteata is particularly noted for its pale-brown, spindle-shaped winter buds which can be up to 2.5 cm long. The dark-green, needle-like leaves are rigid, tipped with spines, and have bright silver bands underneath. Each leaf is 3.5-5 cm long and occur on the branchlets in two ranks.

The cones are remarkable for having 5 cm long spines protruding from the bracts giving them a remarkable whiskery appearance.

In its native habitat Abies bracteata is found, and generally confined, to the slopes and bases of rocky canyons in the Santa Lucia Mountains. When grown as a landscape plant, it will perform best in full sun on deep soil over chalk.

Sadly, Abies bracteata is now listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as it only exists in the wild as a small remnant community on the highest northern slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains.

Abies bracteata was awarded the First Class Certificate (FCC) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1915.

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How to grow Abies balsamea

Commonly known as the 'Balsam Fir' or 'Balm of Gilead', Abies balsamea is a medium-sized, evergreen tree native to North America, and extending into the Arctic regions. In its native habitat, it will be usually found growing in forests, swamps and wetland margins.

Abies balsamea was introduced to western gardens in 1696, and first described by English botanist Philip Miller (1691–1718). It is now widely used as a Christmas tree and for seasonal wreaths.

The winter buds are particularly resinous which is why it is one of the species from which Canadian balsam is obtained, hence the common names. Abies balsamea is seldom cultivated in Great Britain as it doesn't adapt well to the strongly seasonal climate and late frosts. Be that as it may, this species has given rise to the hardy, dwarf form - Abies balsamea 'Hudsonia'.

Under favourable conditions Abies balsamea will reach a height of between 14–20 metres, occasionally taller, with a narrow conic crown. The glossy, mid-green, flat needle-like leaves are between, 1.5-3 cm long and strongly scented of balsam. There is a small batch of glaucous stomata at the tip, and with 2 narrow greyish bands beneath which spreading upwards on the upper sides of the branchlets, and parted beneath. The cones are 6-10 cm long, borne on the upper sides of the branches and violet-purple when young. They ripen to brown and release the winged seeds in September.

Be aware that when planting Abies balsamea, it will require a lime-free or neutral soil, and will not tolerate alkaline or chalky soils.

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The 'Colorado White Fir', Abies concolor in mountain habitat
The 'Colorado White Fir' - Abies concolor

Commonly known as the 'Colorado White Fir', Abies concolor is a medium to large evergreen coniferous tree native to the mountains of western North America. Introduced to English gardens in 1873, it was discovered by William Lobb on his expedition to California of 1849–1853, and originally named Picea concolor by botanist George Gordon (1801–1893). Its current accepted name was given by English botanist and orchidologist John Lindley (1799–1865).

It is a species of variable growth. As a young specimen they are symmetrical, branched in whorls with an open sparse, conic crown.

Under favourable conditions Abies concolor can be expected to reach a height of between 25–60 metres and with a trunk diameter of up to 2 metres. It has smooth, grey bark, often with resin blisters,  which becomes grooved and scaly with age. The thick, needle-like leaves are up to 5.5 cm long and almost round in cross-section. They are an attractive blue-green or grey-green in colour, arranged mainly in two ranks, but standing proud of the shoot. The cones are 8-14 cm, and pale-green (sometimes with a purple bloom) when young, ripening to a pale brown.

Abies concolor is a relatively adaptable plant compared to other species within the genus. It will tolerate more shade, poorer drainage and more alkaline soil pH conditions than most other firs. However these tolerances are relative as Abies concolor will not do well in heavy clay or in standing water.

Abies concolor received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from The Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

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How to grow Tetrapanax papyrifera
How to grow Tetrapanax papyrifer

Tetrapanax papyrifer first came to the attention to western science during the 1920's, but not as a plant. It arrived instead as 'rice-paper,' upon which were painted luminous watercolour scenes of everyday life in China. Rice-paper soon came to the attention of botanists who recognised that it was neither made of rice, nor was it the typical paper imported at the time from China. However in 1830, Dr. John Livingstone (brother of the famous African Explorer Dr. David Livingstone) acquired a piece of the stem, and gave it to William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865), then Regius Professor of
Botany at Glasgow University, for identification.

Hooker then contacted Thomas Hardwicke (1756–1835), the eminent naturalist of India, for advice in identifying the plant, who suggested the sola plant - Aeschynomene paludosa. The confusion between the rice-paper plant and the sola plant was perpetuated in subsequent literature, and it was not until 1852, while Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, that Hooker was able to correctly identify the rice-paper plant as Tetrapanax papyrifer.

Large leaved specimen
How to grow Tetrapanax papyrifera
Native to Taiwan, Tetrapanax papyrifer is an evergreen shrub and, the sole species within the genus. However it the naturally occurring 'Rex' variety, originally collected from the Shei-Pa area of the Central Mountains, that is now commonly found under cultivation.

Under favourable conditions Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex' will form a thicket of stems to 3 metres wide or more. The tall upright stems can reach 2 metres in height. It is noted for its impressive, palmately-lobed leaves which can grow between 60-120cm across. New growth and the under-sides of the leaves are covered with a beige indumentum (woolly hairs).

Small creamy-white flowers appear from October to September in globose clusters. Once pollinated these are followed by tiny black fruits

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ will be happy positioned in full sun to part shade in a rich, free-draining soil. Although evergreen in its native habitat, in cooler, temperate regions it is considered deciduous. It will however be cut back in hard winters, but established plants will re-shoot from the ground level. Consider protecting with horticultural fleece to reduce cold damage.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex' can produce suckers so avoid planting in sensitive areas. Alternatively grow in large containers.

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Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' flowers and foliage
Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum'

Arguably the most ornamental of all Abutilon species and selected cultivars, Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' is stunning yellow-mottled leaf form of the popular trailing abutilon, with slender, arching shoots. . The original species is a native to Brazil and was introduced to English gardens in 1804. Unfortunately there is little information on the introduction of the 'Variegatum' cultivar.

Despite its subtropical origins Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' is surprisingly resilient in the United Kingdom. It has proven hardy in the coastal and relatively mild parts of the country, except when severe winters are experienced. New growth is also at risk from late frosts, although it will grow through this damage once spring in full swing. It can survive temperatures down to -5°C (23°F), so when growing further north, cold protection will need to be in place. Alternatively, consider growing  Abelia megapotamicum 'Variegatum' as a conservatory or greenhouse specimen.

It is an evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub, although generally deciduous in northern European climates. Given favorable condition you can expect Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' to grow to around 1.5-2 metres (4-6 ft) in height (which would translate as spread if grown unsupported). The lance-shaped to ovate leaves are shallowly lobed and heart-shaped at the base and will grow to 12 cm (5 in) long once mature. The pendent, bell-shaped blooms are orange-yellow with a red base, with five petals and are approximately 4 cm (1.6 in) long.

When grown outside it will require a sunny position, although it will also tolerate semi and dappled shade. Provide a sheltered position, fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid soils prone to water-logging. The further north you go you will need the protection of a south facing wall. To achieve the best effect, grow Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' as a wall shrub. This will also make it simpler to provide horticultural fleece for overwintering.

Pot grown specimens will do well in a good quality loam-based compost such as John Innes 'No 2'

Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum' received the Award of Merit in 1988 and the  Award of Garden Merit in 2012 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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Gladiolus murielae white flower
Gladiolus murielae

Formerly placed in the genus Acidanthera, Gladiolus murielae is native to eastern Africa (notably Abyssinia)  and was first described by German botanist Christian Hochstetter in 1844. While hardy through most of Europe, it will not survive outdoors where frost can penetrate through the soil, and damage the corms. 

Commonly known as the Abyssinian gladiolus or fragrant gladiolus, it produces mid-green, sword-shaped leaves that can be up to 3 ft in height. The fragrant, star-shaped flowers are 2 inches wide and 6-8 blooms can emerge from a single stem. Each flower is white with a purple centre, appearing in August and September.

Gladiolus murielae will flower in almost any type of soil, provided that it is not prone to water-logging. Corms are usually purchased alongside pre-packed bulbs in the spring, but you should wait until April or May before planting out. Plant 4-5 inches deep in groups of about a dozen in a south-facing position. In colder regions consider planting amongst shrubs or perennials or close to a south-facing wall.

In colder, northern European climates, wait until after the plants have flowered before lifting the corms, but do do before the first hard frosts. Lift the plants whole and dry them off thoroughly in a warm room or greenhouse. Remove the cormlets and discard any dead wood, stems or scales. Store the corms and corm-lets in a dry, warm position  until the following spring.

You can grow Gladiolus murielae in pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No.1' at a rate of approximately 5 or 6 corms in a 6 inch pot.

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Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' in red autumn colour
Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' is one of the most commonly grown of all the Japanese Maples. It is a member of the 'Elegans Group', home to a selection of cultivars notable for their larger and usually seven-lobed leaves. The lobes are finely double serrate and broadest around the middle.

Native to Japan, Central China and Korea, the type species Acer palmatum was discovered and described for western science in 1820 by Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743–1828).

It is a large deciduous shrub of rounded habit, which under favourable conditions will grow to a height and spread of approximately 2.5-4 metres. The leaves are green, turning in autumn to an intense fiery scarlet, and is arguably the most brilliant of all Japanese maples at this time of year. Both the flowers and subsequent winged fruits are small and red.

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' will perform best in a neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained yet moist soil. It will require a sheltered position to reduce wind-scorch, in either full-sun or dappled shade. To help improve the intensity of the autumn colour applying an annual dressing of sulphur granules.

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden merit in 1984.

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Lapageria rosea red bell shaped blooms
Lapageria rosea

Commonly known as the Chilean bellflower or copihue,  Lapageria rosea is an attractive, evergreen twining climbing plant noted for its exotic bell-shaped blooms. It is a native to temperate rainforests on the west coast of southern South America, lying mostly in Chile and extending into a small part of Argentina.

It was discovered and first described Spanish botanists Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez and subsequently introduced to Europe by Cornish plant collector William Lobb (1809–1864) during his 1845–1848 plant collecting expedition. There are even records of it growing at Royal Kew gardens in 1847!

Lapageria rosea seeds in glas bowl of water
Lapageria rosea seeds
In 1977 Lapageria rosea was given legal protection in Chile, having become rare through over-collection and forest clearance. Prior to this, the roots were collected and used as a substitute for sarsaparilla, while the fruits (known as kopiw) were sold in local markets.

The pendant, red, waxy flowers have six thick, tepals which are spotted with white dots. They appear singly or in clusters over a long period from late summer through to the autumn. Once pollinated, tough-skinned, elongated fruits appear which contain  numerous small seeds

In its natural habitat Lapageria rosea is pollinated by hummingbirds which are attracted by sweet nectar held in specialized sacs inside the flowers. However with the introduction of non-native species they are also pollinated by several species of honey bee.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Lapageria rosea to exceed a height of 5 metres in. although 10 metres is not uncommon in the Chilean rainforests. The leaves are leathery, lanceolate and feature three to seven prominent parallel veins.

Lapageria rosea enjoys a sheltered, shady position in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil rich in organic matter. Protect from cold drying winds and provide suitable support. Due to its subtropical origins it is only suitable for growing outside where only light frosts are experienced.

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Mature soecimen of black leaved Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop'
Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop'

If you are looking to add drama into the garden then you will be hard pressed to find a plant that can compete with stunning Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop'. It is a clump-forming evergreen succulent with a shrubby habit and noted for it rosettes of succulent, deep blackish-purple leaves, and large panicles of small, starry, bright yellow flowers. Commonly known as the tree aeonium or tree houseleek, the type species is a native to the hillsides of the Canary Islands.

It is an excellent plant for coastal gardens and there is some evidence to believe that it is resistant to damage from deer.

Close up of black leaved Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop'
Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop'
Under favourable conditions you can expect Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop' to achieve an overall height and spread of approximately 1-1.5 metres. On the top of grey-brown stems it bears rosettes of leaves, of which each leaf can be up to 15 cm. In cooler. northern European climates it will need to be grown under glass, however it can be kept outside in a sunny position so long as it is brought in under protection once temperatures begin to drop below 7 degrees Celsius. If conditions are warm and bright enough then large pyramidal panicles of bright yellow flowers will appear in the spring. Flower bearing stems will die back to ground level.

Container grown species can be planted in a good quality, well-drained nutrient poor compost such as John Innes 'Seed and cutting', or a specifically blended cacti and succulent compost. Over the summer, allow to dry out before watering. Water very sparingly over the winter.

Plants grown outside will perform best in full sun in a well-drained, sandy loams. Only water during periods of extended drought and avoid water logging at all times.

Aeonium arboretum 'Zwartkop' received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

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Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' shrub in garden
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' is a popular, hardy, evergreen shrub, noted for its robust constitution and ornamental foliage. The type species was first brought the attention of European gardens by German botanist and nurseryman John Graefer (1746–1802), gardener to the King of Naples at the Palace of Caserta. Incidentally, Graefer was previously a pupil of the celebrated English botanist Philip Miller, chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, and one of the most prominent botanical gardens of Europe during the 18th century.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' close up
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'
The genus was named by Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743–1828), an apostle of Carl Linnaeus who was considered to be the father of modern taxonomy.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' has proven to be extremely tough under garden conditions, thriving in city air pollution, dry shade, and salt-laden coastal winds.

The glossy leathery leaves are between 15-20 cm long, narrowly ovate and widely toothed towards the apex. Aucuba japonica species and their cultivars are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' is male which, unlike the popular 'Variegata' cultivar, means that it will not produce blooms of the attractive, ornamental red berries.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' to reach an overall height of 2-4 metres and width of 2-3 metres. While the type species natural habitat includes rich forest soils of moist valleys, thickets, by streams and near shaded moist rocks, garden specimens will be happy growing in full sun to partial shade, in most moist but well-drained soils.

As well as the garden, it is suitable for growing in urns or other containers in a shady courtyard, and may even be grown as houseplant in well-lit halls and patio gardens.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

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TEASEL - Dipsacus fullonum

Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum seed heads in winter
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum, otherwise known as wild teasel or Fuller's teasel is an ornamental herbaceous plant with an upright habit grown for its ability to attract seed eating birds. However its is perhaps best known for its ornamental dried flower heads which are used in floristry. Fuller's teasel differs from wild teasel having stouter, and somewhat recurved spines on the seed heads. It is actually a cultivated variety which was once widely used in textile processing. The dried flower heads were employed as  a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool.

Native England, and also found to a lesser extent in Eurasia and North Africa, teasel is a herbaceous biennial with prickly stems and leaves, but it is best known for its large, ovoid flower heads which can be between 4–10 cm long and 3–5 cm wide on top of a basal whorl of spiny bracts. Under favourable conditions teasel can reach an overall height of between 1–2.5 metres.  The first true flowers appear in July and August, emerging in a belt around the middle of the oval flowerhead, and then open sequentially toward the top and bottom of the flower head. This then creates two narrow belts of blooms as flowering progresses. Small seeds 4–6 mm long maturing in mid-autumn and are an important winter food resource for a number of seed-eating birds, notably the European goldfinch.

It is a robust species capable of surviving in a wide variety of habitats, and commonly found in damp grassland and field edges, or on disturbed ground, such as roadside verges and waste grounds. Unfortunately this has also caused it became a pest species in the Americas, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand where it is often considered to be a noxious weed. For best effect grow teasel in moist or moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However it will tolerate shade and heavy clay, and chalky soils. Once established it will self-seed readily.

Image credit - Eaden horticulture

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Aconitum napellus - Monkshood blue flowers
Aconitum napellus - Monkshood

Commonly known as 'Monkshood' in reference to the shape of its unusual blooms, Aconitum napellus is a hardy, herbaceous perennial plant, and a popular, although some may say misguided, choice for the garden. The reason why it can be misguided is because all parts of this rather beautiful plant are poisonous, deadly even to those particularly sensitive to the aconitine toxin, hence its other common name of 'Wolfsbane'.

Native to western and central Europe, Aconitum napellus is noted for its deeply cut foliage and intensely blue flowers. Under favourable condition you can expect it to grow to 1-1.5 metre tall and with an approximate spread of 0.1-0.5 metres. The dark-green, palmate leaves are rounded, between 5–10 cm diameter and five to seven deeply lobed segments. The blooms are dark purple to bluish-purple in colour, and are produced in July and August. Each narrow, oblong, helmet-shaped flower is approximately 1–2 cm long.

Plant Aconitum napellus between October and March in a moist, deep soil. They will perform best in partial shade but will tolerate full sun if soil conditions remain moist throughout the growing season. After their second year, mulch annually in the spring.

 Aconitum napellus can be cut back after flowering to encourage bushier growth. Cut down the flowering stems of all specimens in October.

The Aconitum napellus cultivar 'Spark's Variety' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Warning. Always wear gloves when handling as the aconitine toxin is absorbed easily through the skin.

Image credit - Jean-Pol GRANDMONT licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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ACER GRISEUM - Paperbark Maple

Peeling bark from the paperbark Maple' - Acer griseum
The paperbark Maple' - Acer griseum

Commonly know as the 'Paperbark Maple'. Acer griseum, is arguably one of the most beautiful of all small trees - let alone all acer species and cultivars! Native to the central Chinese provinces of Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shaanxi and Sichuan, Acer griseum was first collected by French missionary Père Paul Farges and the Irish plantsman Augustine Henry.

It is a deciduous species with a spreading habit, originally described by Adrien Franchet in 1894 as a variety of Acer nikoense. It was subsequently recollected and introduced to cultivation in Europe in 1901 by notable English plant collector Ernest Henry 'Chinese' Wilson (1876–1930). Its present name was attributed by German botanist Ferdinand Albin Pax (1858–1942) in 1902.

In its native habitat Acer griseum can reach a height of up to approximately 20 metres. However this is considerably less in European cultivation, where you can be expected to achieve a height of 6–9 metres with a canopy width of 5–6 metres. The leaves are trifoliate, dark green above and a bright glaucous blue-green beneath. Depending on conditions, they will often display an attractive red and scarlet autumn colour before leaf-drop in the autumn.

The yellow flowers are produced on pendulous downy stalks in the spring and are few and far between. Pale-brown, paired, winged-fruits (known as samaras) follow.

Acer griseum is best noted for its ornamental reddish-brown bark which on mature specimens will peel away in small sheets to reveal a cinnamon-coloured under-bark.

It will be happy grown in either full sun or semi-shade on most moist, but well-drained soils.

Acer griseum received the Award of Merit in 1922 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Main image credit - By Photo by and (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Co-attribution must be given to the Chanticleer Garden. - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' with dark pink bell-like blooms
Arbutus unedo 'Rubra'

Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' is a large bushy evergreen shrub or small tree with rough bark and dark green leathery leaves. Commonly known as the 'pink strawberry tree', it is a naturally occurring variety which was first discovered by Scottish botanist William Aiton (1731–1793) in 1785. The type species was named and described by Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) in Volume One of his landmark 1753 work Species Plantarum. William Aiton was responsible for naming the variety. The first recording of this natural variant growing in the wild in Ireland was in 1835, which is also the earliest known date of its cultivation.

Under favourable conditions, Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' will reach a height and spread of approximately 6 metres  It has attractive glossy evergreen leaves

It is noted for it rosy-pink urn-shaped flowers which are produced in panicles in the autumn. Red, strawberry-like fruits will ripen at the same time, although a result of the previous years blooms.

 Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' will be happy growing in any non alkaline, fertile, moist but free draining soil. Yet despite its Ericaceae family classification, it has been proven to be one of the most tolerant of all the genus of alkaline conditions, even growing on chalk. When planting into heavy or poorly drained soils, dig in plenty of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost beforehand.

Young specimens are less resilient from the cold than mature plants and are prone to damage in freezing conditions. With that in mind, provide a sunny, sheltered position that will protect your Arbutus unedo 'Rubra from cold northerly and easterly winds. Other than in the mildest regions of the United Kingdom, provide additional winter protection for the first few years. Mulch in the spring, but avid it touching the trunk.

Arbutus unedo 'Rubra' gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984, the Award of Merit in (1925).

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Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' with flower bud
Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' 

Skimmia japonica, along with its various cultivars, is a popular, mound-forming, evergreen garden plant. Native to Japan, the Ryukyu Islands the Philippines, China and Formosa, it has been under cultivation at Royal Kew gardens as far back as 1838. However, it wasn't until 1861 that it came to the prominent attention of professional gardeners and horticulturists after it was re-introduced from Japan by well known Scottish botanist and plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880).

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' is usually the plant of choice' for most gardeners, but as this particular species is dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants) and the Rubella form is male, it will not produce the spectacular berries associated with this genus. This is where the female clone Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' makes sense.

Described in 1874 by Paris based, French botanist Élie-Abel Carrière (1818 – 1896), Skimmia japonica 'Veitchii' is believed to have been introduced by John Gould Veitch (1839 – 1870), horticulturist and traveller, and one of the first Victorian plant hunters to visit Japan. Veitch was in Japan at the same time as Fortune, however there is no reference to him bringing back this specific introduction. Neither has any authentic plant been documented.

Skimmia japonica ‘Veitchii’ is a vigorous female clone with distinctly broad-ovate, aromatic leaves. Small but dense clusters of white star shaped flowers appear in mid and late spring. These are followed by large bunches of long lasting brilliant red, waxy fruits which appear from mid-autumn onwards.

Under favourable condition you can expect Skimmia japonica ‘Veitchii’ to reach a height and spread of between 1-1.5 metres. Plant in a moist, well-drained soil in a  right position but one which is protected from the midday sun. Full sun can cause the top-most leaves to bleach yellow.

It will perform best in slightly acidic soils, however it will also tolerate chalk if plenty of organic matter has been previously dug in.

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Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Commonly known as the 'Trumpet Creeper', Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen' is arguably the hardiest and most attractive of all species and cultivars within the Campsis genus. It is a selected cultivar of the hybrid Campsis grandiflora x Campsis radicans which first entered cultivation in 1889. The hybrid name 'tagliabuana' commemorates the 19th-century Italian nurseryman, Carlo Ausonio Tagliabue.

Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen'
Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen is a vigorous climber which under favourable conditions can reach a height of between 8-12 metres and a width of approximately 2.5-4 metres. It has light-green pinnate leaves which can be comprised of up to 15 small leaflets. They are usually grown on walls, upon which they cling to using aerial roots.

It is noted for it exotic, trumpet-shaped, orange to red blooms. Each flower can be up to 8 cm long that appear in loose clusters of 6 to 12.

Although Campsis are fully hardy, they will always perform better when grown against the protection of a warm, sunny wall. Plant into a moist, but well-drained soil. If you want to grow Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen' as a patio plant then us as large a container as you can safely handle, filled with a good quality soil based compost such as John Innes No.2. It is generally worth add extra horticultural grade grit for better drainage.

Prune back overgrown specimens in February or March.

Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madam Galen received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1959

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Clematis tangutica in yellow flower
Clematis tangutica

Commonly known as the 'Orange Peel Clematis' or 'Golden Clematis', Clematis tangutica is dense-growing, deciduous climber noted for its thick, rich-yellow, lantern-like blooms.

It was discovered for western science in 1872 by Russian geographer Nikolay Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky (1839–1888), a renowned explorer of Central and East Asia. Collected from the Gansu province (then known as 'Terra Tanguturu' to Europeans) in China only herbarium specimens had made it back to Royal Kew gardens, received from St Petersburg in 1898. It wasn't until 1890 that the first living specimens arrived in the United Kingdom and Clematis tangutica rendered cultivation. The British plant explorer William Purdom (1880–1921) reintroduced the species in 1911. This form was raised at Wisley and the subsequent seeds were widely distributed from 1919 onwards.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Clematis tangutica to grow to approximately 3 to 5 metres high. It is an easily grown species with attractive divided, sea-green foliage, and slightly downy stems. The flowers are 4-5 cm long, nodding at first and produced on long downy stalks during the autumn. Late blooms arrive at the same time as the first, silky seed heads form.

Clematis tangutica can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Plant with the crown 5-8 cm deep (to encourage new shoots to grow from below ground level) in a moisture-retentive, well-drained soil, preferably with an alkaline or neutral pH. Keep the roots and base of the plant cool and shaded by other plants or a layer of pebbles at the base.

Pruning is relatively easy. The flowers appear on the current year's growth so cut back the stems to a pair of strong buds 15-20 cm above ground level before new growth emerges in early spring.

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Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Commonly known as the 'Japanese Angelica Tree, Aralia elata is a considered to be either a tall, suckering shrub or small, sparsely-branched tree.

Native to Japan, China, S. Sakhalin, and S. Korea, it was introduced to western science in approximately 1830, and first named as Aralia grandis in 1840 by the Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel (1811–1871). The name Aralia elata var. elata is now the accepted name, as described by German botanist Berthold Carl Seemann (1825–1871).

Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Aralia elata - Japanese Angelica Tree
Under favourable conditions, you can expect Aralia elata to growing up to 10 m in height. The bark is rough and gray with prickles, while the large, double-pinnate leaves are approximately 60–120 cm long. The leaves are gathered mainly in a ruff-like arrangement towards the tips of the stems and will often turn an attractive pale-yellow to reddish-purple colour in the autumn.

The small, white flowers appear in late summer and are produced in large umbels. The subsequent fruit is a small black drupe (stone fruit).

Aralia elata will perform best in deep loamy soils, in partial shade, however it will grow in poorer soils and in full sun. Provide a sheltered position away from strong winds to prevent damage to the leaves.

Despite its exotic appearance, Aralia elata is both tolerate of drought and many urban pollutants.

Be aware that handling bark and roots can cause allergic skin reactions.

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Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Commonly known as the 'Smoke Tree' due to the wispy, 'smoke-like' appearance of its feathery plumes, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is a popular, multiple-branching, deciduous ornamental shrub. The genus name derives from the Greek word 'kotinus' meaning olive.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' was a selected cultivar raised at Lombarts Nursery in Boskoop, Holland, and introduced into the United States in 1953.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
The true species is native to a large area from southern Europe, east across central Asia and the Himalayas to northern China and has been grown in Britain since 1656

Noted for its velvety, dark-purple foliage and flowers, under favourable conditions it will mature over time to reach an approximate height of between 3-5 metres. Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is generally as tall as it is wide.The ovate to obovate leaves are up to 7 cm long and emerge a rich maroon red in spring. They will turn their characteristically dark purplish-red to purplish-black later on in the summer. Small purple flowers are produced in July borne on loose, feathery panicles of blooms.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is surprisingly easy to grow and will perform well in most ordinary, well-drained garden soils. Provide a position of full sun to achieve the darkest colour,

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

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rosebay willowherb
rosebay willowherb
Known as 'Fireweed' in the United States as it is often the first plant to grow following the ravages of fire, rosebay willowherb - Chamerion angustifolium is a perennial herbaceous plant native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Although rarely heard now, it was also known as bomb weed due to its rapid colonization of bomb craters during the second world war.

Rosebay willowherb
Botanical illustration of rosebay willowherb
Once considered a British  rarity, rosebay willowherb was originally confined to just a few locations with damp, gravelly soils. Today it is a common sight in many British gardens due to the expansion of the railway network, and the associated soil disturbance. However it is usually considered to be little more than an invasive weed.

Growing to approximately 2 metres tall, it has a strongly spreading habit due to its creeping underground stems and can easily produce clumps of around 1.5 metres. The leaves are uniquely unusual and easily identified during all stages of its lifecycle. This is because the leaf veins do not terminate on the edges of the leaf like other genera, instead they form circular loops which join together inside the outer leaf margins.

Flowering from July to September, the 4-petalled 2 cm wide pink blooms appear in terminal racemes, followed by reddish-brown linear seed capsules. The seeds have silky hairs which aids wind dispersal.

Ornamental form of rosebay willowherb can be grow in most moist but well-drained, humus-rich soils in full sun or partial shade.

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Buddleja globosa
Commonly known as the 'Orange Ball Buddleja', Buddleja globosa is a deciduous ornamental shrub noted for its deep-yellow to orange blooms. native to both dry and moist forests of the Andes in Peru, Chile and Argentina. It has a long history of cultivation, first introduced to British gardeners by the firm of Kennedy and Lee (two families of prominent Scottish nurserymen at the Vineyard Nursery in Hammersmith, west of London) in 1774. It was subsequently described and named by Scottish botanist Professor John Hope (10 May 1725 – 10 November 1786) in 1782.

Buddleja globosa
Botanical illustration of Buddleja globosa
Buddleja globosa is an erect, medium-sized shrub which under favourable conditions can attain a height and width of approximately 3-5 metres. In the milder regions of northern Europe it can almost be considered as an evergreen species. The large lanceolate leaves are tawny beneath with a wrinkled surface. The scented blooms are borne in globular heads, arranged in terminal, tapering clusters 12-20 cm long. The flowers appear in May and June, borne on the previous season's wood.

Plant Buddleja globosa in October and November or in May and April. They will be happy in a good loamy soil, and will even tolerate lime. They will perform best in full sun.

As this species flowers on the previous seasons growth, they should be lightly pruned after the blooms have faded by removing them along with approximately 5 to 10 cm of stem.

Buddleja globosa received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society's in 1993.

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Buddleja globosa


Weigela florida
Weigela florida
Originally classified as Weigela rosea by English botanist John Lindley (1799 – 1865), Weigela florida was the first species within the genus to be collected for Western gardens. Names in honour of German scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel (1748 – 1831), it was first discovered for western science by Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880) who sent back the first specimens to England in 1845. It was renamed as Weigela rosea by Russian-German botanist Alexander Georg von Bunge (1803 – 1890), and published in the Annales des Sciences Naturelles; Botanique in 1839.

 Weigela florida
Botanical illustration of Weigela florida 
Native to north China, Korea and Manchuria, Weigela florida is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach a height and spread of approximately 2 metres. It has a wide spreading habit and arching branches with ovate-oblong to ovate, acuminate leaves. Each leaf is finely wrinkled with prominent veins.

The blooms are funnel-shaped, reddish or rose-pink on the outside, but paler within. Typically the flowers appear in May and June along all of the shoots produced the previous year. Occasionally a second crop of blooms can appear later on in the summer to early autumn.

Plant Weigela florida from October to March in any good, moist but well-drained soil.It will thrive in full sun or semi-shade.

This is arguably the most commonly seen species in production although there are a number of ornamental cultivars that are worthy of garden space. Both Weigela florida 'Foliis Purpureis' and Weigela florida 'Variegata' have received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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The Elephant hawk moth
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor is a large, impressive species with an adult wingspan of between 58-70mm. It is widespread in the England and Wales, scarcer in Scotland and only found in isolated pockets in Ireland.

It is arguably one of the most attractive of our native moths with olive-green patterned pink forewings and body. The hind wings are marked pink and black.

The Elephant hawk moth
Elephant hawk moth caterpillar - Deilephila elpenor
The juvenile caterpillars are green in colour, and appear from July to September, when they pupate. As the caterpillars mature will either remain this colour turn brown and heavily marked. They also have large eye-spots on the 4th and 5th body segments. The thick body tapers to an end with a backward facing, curved 'horn'.

Like the majority of moths, it's a nocturnal species with the adults emerging in May and August. It can sometimes been seen at dusk feeding on nectar-rich blooms, and resting during the day.

The Elephant hawk-moth usually only produces one generation per year which overwinters as a pupae. The common name reflects the trunk-like front of the body, which along with the eye spot will swell up when alarmed to scare off predators. The 'trunk' is also raised up in a snake pose in order (it is believed) to protect the head of the caterpillar.

Honeysuckle is a particular favourite as well as other tubular flowered plant species such as petunias and the Fuchsia triphylla cultivars. The caterpillar feeds on Rosebay Willowherb, Great Willowherb, Bedstraw and various garden fuchsia species and hybrids.

Main image credit - nick goodrum licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Although believed to be a British native, as it is one of the last butterflies to be seen before winter sets in, the Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta natural habitat actually ranges throughout temperate Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America which makes it a migrant species.

It is a striking black species with bands of red on its forewings and hindwings, and white spots near the tops of the forewings. Look carefully and you will also see some small blue spots at the bottom-most tip of the hind wings. The undersides of the wings are mostly black, but with a dull repeat of the upper wing patterns. There is no colour or pattern distinction distinction between male and females. The eggs are green  but turn darker as they age.

Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
Red Admiral butterfly - Vanessa atalanta
There is a certain amount of variability with the caterpillars, although they will always have a black head. The most usual form is black-ish, with a freckling of white spots. There is also a series of yellow marks down each side which form a wavy line. On each segment there are black or yellow spines. Each segment will have a red ring at the base. Pales versions of the caterpillar can occur with a greenish or yellowish body and pale spines. The pupa is grey with gold marks.

Red Admirals arrive in the UK from North Africa and southern Europe in the early summer onwards. They eggs singularly on the undersides of leaves, which will hatch after just a week. The solitary caterpillar will then live inside a 'tent' make from curled leaves, and will be ready to pupate after a month or so. The pupa will hang head down from a line of silk

Main image credit - By ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΖΑΧΑΡΑΚΗΣ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In text image credit - By Charles J Sharp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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