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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