Gardening: Cuttings

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AMICIA ZYGOMERIS. It looks like a coded message, and in a way it is. Wandering in the garden at Dartington Hall, Devon, last week, two visitors asked me the name of a showy plant growing in the south- facing border of the walled courtyard.

I couldn't remember it, though shamingly, I knew I had it in my own garden. I planted it only last autumn. Perhaps that's the problem: we haven't had a long enough acquaintance for me to be on Christian name terms with it. Anyway, I promised that I'd send them the answer via this column.

Amicia (pictured) is a woody kind of perennial, not reliably hardy. But in the right season, the stems will grow to seven feet, clothed in pairs of leaves, roughly heart-shaped. Its foliage alone would earn the plant border space, but Amicia also has odd papery, purplish bracts where the leaves meet the main stems. In late summer and autumn, dangling racemes of yellow pea flowers sprout from the leaf axils.

Introduced from Mexico in 1826, it needs as sheltered a spot as you can give it. Mulching helps protect the crown through winter. In cold areas it can be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory. It will also be happy in a large pot, where it can spend the summer outside and the winter indoors. In spring, protect the emerging shoots from slugs and snails. They love it.

Amicia zygomeris is available from Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, Abbotsbury, Dorset DT3 4LA Tel: 01305 871344 or The Botanic Nursery, Bath Rd, Atworth, nr Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 8NU Tel: 01225 706597. Both do mail order.

IS ANYONE planting tree acrostics for the millennium? When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Elliot Till of Eynsford in Kent used trees to spell out a line from Tennyson's poem in her praise. "She wrought her people lasting good" was planted out in sycamore, hazel, elm, walnut, robinia etc. Unfortunately, only the sycamore remains. The rest were felled to make way for school playing fields. The trees that Till planted in Eynsford's main street have been luckier. To commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Till planted a line of 52 trees stretching from the railway station to the village centre. Browning supplied the words, a line from Rabbi Ben Ezra: "The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made." The enfilade started with a Turkish hazel (now gone) but the horse chestnut and the elm which made up the rest of the first word are still there. So are many others.

The Tree Register of the British Isles works to look after important trees, such as these. It also measures and records "champions", such as the Queen Elizabeth oak in Cowdray Park, nr Midhurst, West Sussex and the King oak at Irton, nr Wastwater in Cumbria. It needs money to continue its work. For further information contact the secretary Pamela Stevenson on 01234 768884, e-mail trobi@aol.com

Anna Pavord

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