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

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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