GARDEN NEWCOMERS 6: PERENNIALS

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The Independent Culture
MANY of the newest perennials seem to come from Germany, where they welcome plants that can tough it out with the woods while continuing to flower all summer. Our nurserymen are often impressed enough to import these plants to sell to gardeners here. At the last flower show in London I noticed some aquilegias called "Biedermayer" which I was tempted to try because, as the nurseryman said, if they're German they should be good.

Other German plants that are fairly new to the British Isles are Anaphalis "Sommerschnee" - a paper-white daisy with greyish leaves that prefers a moister soil than most silver plants do. Anemone "Prinz Heinrich" is a good strong dark pink, Japanese anemone which flowers in late summer, and "Knigin Charlotte", another anemone, is paler and almost double. Good bergenias have also been bred in Germany. "Abenglut", "Morgenrote" and "Silberlicht" are all worth growing. Among Michaelmas daisies, the shocking pink "Alma Ptschke" and "Veilchen Knigin", which is mauve, are dependable and bright. It is surprising how many of the best plants do come to us from the same country, so now when I see a new plant with a German name attached, I tend to give it a try because someone must have thought highly of it to bring it over here.

Another indicator of a good plant is the name of a famous garden or gardener. Astrantia "Hadspen Blood" is a wonderful red version of the flower sometimes known as Hattie's Pincushion. Aster lateriflorus "Coombe Fishacre", a starry Michaelmas daisy, was discovered in a Devon National Trust garden, Delphinium "Cliveden" is a pretty, pale blue small-flowered delphinium, and hellebores that bear the name "Blackthorn" come from the Whites, who are specialist growers at their Hampshire nursery. Polemonium "Lambrook Mauve" was a chance seedling in the garden that once belonged to Margery Fish, the writer, and Pulmonaria "Sissinghurst White", a reminder of that greatest of all gardens and as fresh and tidy a plant as you could wish, is out now as I write.

All of these and many others bear famous names because they were found by observant gardeners with an eye for the var-iation that can turn an ordinary plant into something special.

Bressingham nurseries are good at introducing perennials which often carry their name. This year they have a new non-stop hardy geranium, x oxonianum "Bressingham's Delight", which is a pink one that should be in flower all summer. Last year Bressingham introduced a polemonium with variegated leaves, P. Caeruleum "Bris d'Anjou", which is lovely when out of flower but I have reservations about variegated plants with coloured flowers. White I like better, so this Jacob's Ladder is not one for my garden, but others may feel quite differently. They also have a new, almost black, red penstemon, "Blackbird", which has only been around for a couple of years.

Then there are the new plants that carry no brand names to advertise themselves. A pale cream evening primrose Oenethera fruticosa "Cream Form" may not sound enticing, but if you can find it I thoroughly recommend it, as the plants are never out of flower and with luck they should seed themselves.

The place to see new and better forms of hardy perennials is in the catalogues of go-ahead small nurseries, or at the flower shows. They also appear in the gardens that are open to the public, where owners are always on the look out for better and different flowers. The final source for new forms of old favourites may well be your own garden, where if you look hard enough, you may find a chance seedling with paler or darker flowers than its parent. Or a plant with a better habit of growth, or longer flowering season. All variations from the norm are interesting and some may be lucrative, because nurseries probably prefer to find forms of plants nearer to home than Germany.

SUPPLIERS of all these perennials can be found in The Plant Finder (£11.99, obtainable from Moorland Publishing, Airfield Estate, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, D6 1HD, tel: 01335 344486).

Mary Keen

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