Dec 11 – ‘Grow Something Different – Part 2′

FOLLOWING on from last month’s article, this is the second part in our short series highlighting a few of the more unusual and exciting plants that are worth growing in our gardens. All are easy to grow and all a little bit different. Here’s another four;

1.Fascicularia bicolor

If you thought bromeliads only ever grew in tropical forests then you’re in for a surprise. Fascicularia bicolor is a very hardy, terrestrial bromeliad which grows quite happily here in the UK.  We’ve seen many mature plants this year that obviously survived last winter all be it with a little bit of damage to the leaf tips. For much of the time the plant produces a rosette of silver grey spiky leaves with sharp edges. Once established and if grown in full sun in poor well drained soil eventually the base of the innermost leaves turns a fiery red and then in the centre a pad of electric blue flowers develop making the whole plant look like some mad bird of paradise.

It’s a great plant to grow on poor, well-drained soil although we saw a tree in Wales completely colonised by Fascicularia and it was a sight to behold. For a touch of the exotic in your garden, it’s got to be top of your list.

 2. Muehlenbeckia complexa – Maidenhair Vine

If you want to grow a climber or a creeper with a difference then this is one for you. Muehlenbeckia complexa has tiny round or violin shaped leaves growing on a mass of wiry black stems. It will bear greenish white flowers eventually followed by fleshy white fruit.


Originating from New Zealand it will eventually grow to a height of 3 metres and is hardy to about -10c. Great for growing up in between other climbers and shrubs, or up old tree stumps, pergolas etc. It has a very strange almost creepy appeal about it.

 3. Hepatica  japonica ‘Forest hybrids’

Walking around a garden centre you could easily overlook these stunningly beautiful tough perennials. Originating from woodland areas in the northern hemisphere they have very interesting shaped leaves through which the vivid flowers grow up through. In late winter and early spring their vivid flowers in colours of red, purple, pink, blue and white jump out at you on a cold, grey day making you smile. Hepaticas are great for shade and happy in heavy, moist soils. They are quite expensive but well worth it, I purchased one last autumn and it flowered for weeks and weeks, despite frost, snow and heavy rain, you really won’ t believe that such a delicate looking plant could be so tough.

 4. Holboellia coriacea – Sausage vine

Another very interesting climber originating from China and the Himalayas, it’s incredibly hardy and actually survived -12c in our own garden in Bishop’s Stortford last winter. Once established it’s very vigorous with evergreen leaves and produces male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers are greenish white and the female flowers are purple.  It’s self- supporting with a twining habit.

 These are all really great plants to try and quite widely available from larger garden centres, online suppliers or specialist nurseries so there’s no excuse to ‘grow something different’.

 For December gardening jobs check out our website.

Chelsea Chat

On a final note, we are delighted to announce that our Artisan Garden design has been accepted into the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show 2012. Chelsea is the jewel in the crown of all the RHS Shows and the world’s most prestigious. Next year’s design for Plankbridge Ltd, promises to be our best one yet. The design will feature a tranquil wildflower garden, inspired by the beautiful Dorset countryside immortalised by Thomas Hardy in his novel ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. Central to the design is an authentic Dorset-style shepherd’s hut which sits on the banks of a stream in a water meadow.

Six months of sleepless nights start here but we are looking forward to the challenge. We’ll keep you updated on our progress over the next few months leading up to the Show. Fingers crossed.