Plant of the Month: October 2021


by Judith Ladley

I suppose strictly speaking the dahlia does not fall into the category of a hardy plant but for the purpose of this article I am claiming “horticultural licence”

The garden dahlia, Dahlia x variabilis, is a cultivated plant derived from wild relatives found growing in Mexico.  As far back as 1651 reports were published in Rome, originally in Latin, from a Spaniard who had spent several years in Mexico.   

The first seeds to arrive in Spain were sent by the Director of the Mexican Botanical Gardens to the Madrid Botanic Gardens, these being grown and named as D.pinnata, D.coccinea and D.rosea (possibly Merckii).


For many years it was believed that the dahlia had been introduced into Britain in 1789.  The story of how this came about is complicated, involving Lady Bute, wife of the then Ambassador from England to the Court of Spain. (See ‘The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Dahlias’ by Gareth Rowlands – well worth reading and available from the RHS library at Harlow Carr.)

The advent of the double dahlia is thought to have occurred when the explorer Alexander von Humboldt sent seeds from Mexico to Paris and Berlin in 1804.  It is thought that these seeds were not collected in the wild but came from garden plants grown by the Aztecs, who were great gardeners.

The development of decorative dahlias

During the early part of the nineteenth century regular consignments of tubers arrived in England from France and English nurserymen had started to develop new types.  By 1836 the Royal Horticultural Society published the Dahlia Register, listing more than 700 varieties.   The dahlia had become a popular flower with the wealthy and tubers of new varieties were known to change hands at a guinea a time, a lot of money in those days.   A total of 45 Dahlia Shows were held in England in 1835 (a far cry from today’s shows, although it was good to see the flowers exhibited at the “Autumn Chelsea”).

Dahlia Classifications at Newby Show, 2021

Propagation and Cultivation (The words ‘Grandmother’ and ‘Eggs’ spring to mind)

Dahlias are grown from seed (as originally) and from tubers.  Young seedlings develop a mass of fibrous roots which will eventually become the tubers that overwinter.

Many amateur growers prefer to leave their plants to overwinter outside and as our climate appears to be changing the tubers will often survive.  I find the setback to this method is that new growth does not appear until quite late in the season and the grower needs to be watchful for the ever-present pests that eat the new young shoots.    I prefer to dig up my tubers and dry them off to enable me to store them in a frost-free place.   Over time the tubers become quite large and this is the time to obtain new plants by taking cuttings from the old tuber.

Another method of growing dahlias is to raise them from seed, which usually germinates very easily.   I particularly enjoy growing ‘Bishop’s Children’ seeds and waiting to see which colours arise.

Some of my favourite dahlias

D. ‘Murdoch’

D. ‘Murdoch’ This dahlia came into my possession via Pat Clarke, a much liked and respected Chairman of our Group.  It is a very strong grower and I always think of Pat when I see it in bloom.

D. ‘Flaxton’

My gardening friends have named this dahlia ‘Flaxton’.  Pat bought it many years ago at a little nursery in Flaxton, near York.  It had belonged to the owner’s mother but the name had been lost. 

D. ‘Totally Tangerine’
  • D. Totally Tangerine  I particularly like the anemone-flowered dahlias and orange is one of my go-to colours.
D. ‘Blue Bayou’
  • D. ‘Blue Bayou‘ Of course it is not blue – there are no blue dahlias, but I love purple so it definitely gets a place in my garden.

Images courtesy of Judith Ladley and the HPS Image Library

Judith Ladley

Covid-19 Safety Procedures for Paxton Hall Meetings

by Sue Gray

We want everybody who comes to not only be safe, but feel safe, so with this in mind the following are the procedures we will be following for the time being:

1)     It is assumed that everyone will be double vaccinated unless there is medical exemption.

2)     Masks should please be worn from entering the building until you are seated.

3)     It is important that we have a note of everyone who has been present so do, please, remember to ‘sign in’ and if you bring a guest, make sure that their details are recorded.

4)     Chairs will be spaced around the hall; please feel free to move them to where you are happy to sit, be it by yourself, or with others.

5)     There will not be a raffle and refreshments will not be served.  If you would like to bring something with you to consume once you are seated, that is fine.

I know it is a daft comment to make to Hardy Planters, but please do not all mill round the plants; we will try and spread them out as much as possible and, of course, masks should be worn when moving around the hall for such purposes.

This will be a ‘learning curve’ for all of us, but hopefully we can all have an enjoyable evening, using our common sense!


Mixed Emotions as Summer Wanes

by Brian Denison

As Sue Gray pointed out in her August email, the weather this year has produced amazing growth and the garden can soon look overgrown. My friend Duncan has remarked that already we have seen the last of many flowers until next year. One definitely feels a sense of loss at this time of year but there are many plants just reaching their peak right now and some which still continue to perform. All the pictures shown below have been taken recently and provide some comfort to me despite the nights drawing in and lower temperatures. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

This is Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’ growing on a structure made using recycled conifer branches.

Here what was left of the conifer used for the clematis climbing structure supports three hanging baskets planted with Hostas. From top to bottom they are Hosta ‘El Nino’, H. ‘Halcyon’ and H. ‘Orange Marmalade’.

This is Euphorbia mellifera underplanted with a Begonia and two Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’. The latter add a new dimension to this pot display.

Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’ with Iris foetidissima and Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’. The Senecio has continued to perform well despite being a sun loving plant.

This plant was grown from Rudbeckia hirta ‘Dwarf Mixed’ seed. This is the second year I have grown this plant and I love it. More of the seed grown plants are shown in the next two pictures illustrating the variation in flower colour.

Rudbeckia hirta (same seed)

Rudbeckia hirta (same seed again)

Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ is still looking good in its large, elevated pot.

This is Dahlia ‘Mystic Dreamer’. Acquired last year and growing to just 75cm .

Agapanthus ‘White Heaven’ was purchased some years ago from Merriments and never fails to perform

Bergenia ciliata and Lysimachia clethroides in an East facing shady spot.

The three pots of Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’, Hosta ‘Patriot’ and Begonia ‘Whopper’ are also facing East.

This arrangement of Photinia serratifolia ‘Pink Crispy’ with Coleus (Solenostemon} enjoys a little more sun but the Coleus doesn’t seem to mind.

Dahlia ‘Orange Turmoil’ is a little late to bloom this year but will soon catch up.

Solidago ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ A compact form growing to 50 cm.

Phlox paniculata ‘Norah Leigh’.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii and African Marigold ‘Crackerjack’.

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’. I must remember to Chelsea chop this plant next year.

Brian Denison

All images courtesy of Brian Denison

Plant of the Month: September 2021

Cyclamen hederifolium

by Peter Williams

Cyclamen hederifolium is one of my favourite garden plants. Flowers appear just as the long days of summer are becoming noticeably shorter and making me feel a little sad at the approach of autumn and winter – if only I had been born a galanthophile! However, the sight of cyclamen flowers popping up from bare earth or through a canopy of fallen or decaying leaves always restores my spirits and optimism. 

Fig. 1– Cyclamen hederifolium flowering in late August beneath the canopy of a beech tree. 

The main flowering period for C. hederifolium is August, September and October but some plants begin flowering in late July and others may still be flowering in early November. Flowers are various shades of pink or white and are usually produced before the exquisitely marbled leaves begin to appear. The variability and attractiveness of the foliage is reason enough to grow this beautiful and undemanding European species, 

Fig. 2– Leaves of naturalised C. hederifolium growing at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire showing the great diversity of leaf forms. 

C. hederifolium naturally occurs in Europe; from France in the west, to Turkey in the east and is found in woodland, scrub, hedgerows and rocky outcrops. It has been grown in Great Britain since the sixteenth century and has become naturalised in many locations especially in southern and eastern England. 

Cyclamen are mentioned in John Gerarde’s Generall Historie of Plantes published in 1597 and were widely used by herbalists to treat just about every condition from snakebites to cataracts, boils and wounds. Gerarde suggested that cyclamen corms could be beaten into little flat cakes and used as ‘a good amorous medicine to make one in love’.1 He goes on to warn, however, that pregnant women should not take, touch or even step over cyclamen because to do so might risk giving birth prematurely! Taking medicines containing cyclamen was probably a very unpleasant experience because extracts were distasteful and had emetic properties. James Edward Smith, who like many early botanists, tasted the plants he studied, noted in 1828 ‘that it was a very acrid plant, especially the root whose acrimony is not much perceived at the first but soon becomes intolerable.2 

Botanically, C. hederifolium is a very long-lived tuberous perennial and a member of the Primula family. It is one of 20 or so species in the genus Cyclamen. When seedlings first emerge, they quickly form small swellings on their roots that develop into the corms. Over decades, the corms can reach diameters exceeding 30cm and may be crowded one upon the other in the soil. Leaves follow the flowers and remain on the plant until late spring /early summer when the plants become dormant until the flowers appear in late summer. 

The generic name is derived from the Greek kyklaminos that means a circle and is thought to refer to coiling of the flower stem that occurs after pollination3 (Fig.5). The specific name hederifolium means ivy leaf because the patterning and outline of cyclamen leaves look similar to ivy – Hedera helix. The species was formerly known as C. neopolitanum because it was common around Naples. In Europe, the common name is often Sowbread or Swinebread because the corms are foraged by wild boars (Gerarde refers to Panis porcinus). 

The flowers of C. hederifolium have five reflexed petals each with a U- shaped purple mark and a pair of ear-like projections (auricles) at the base. The petals can be linear with an acutely pointed tip or more rounded with a less pronounced tip and are often slightly twisted. 

Fig.3– Flower forms of C.hederifolium

The flowers on the white forms are equally variable and have auricles but no basal purple u-shaped markings.

Fig. 4– The white form – C. hederifolium ‘Album’

Cyclamen flowers are self-fertile and when pollination has occurred, the stem becomes tightly coiled and pulls the developing seed pod down to the ground. 

Fig. 5 stems after fertilisation and mature seed pod with seeds

Over the next 9-12 months the seed pods develop and by July of the year following flowering, they will be approximately one centimetre in diameter. The pods open to reveal numerous seeds with a sticky coating that serves to attract ants and other animals that probably aids dispersal. 

Freshly collected seed will germinate freely if washed to remove the sticky material. Stored seeds obtained from seed merchants or from the HPS seed exchange should be soaked overnight and will again germinate easily. Seeds can be broadcast into soil although better results are probably obtained by sowing seed in trays stored outside or in a cold glasshouse. Seedlings will usually start to flower in their second year and very many can be raised in even a small seed tray. Young corms can be planted out either in growth or when dormant. 

Fig.6 – A half seed tray with numerous small corms. Left, in growth and right, the following summer

Dry corms offered very cheaply by bulb companies and garden centres often fail to grow and should probably be avoided. 

Cyclamen hederifolium is totally hardy and will thrive in most soil types and conditions except heavy wet soils. It is generally more tolerant of poor soils than Cyclamen coum, the equally attractive spring flowering species. Plants will grow well in shade and can tolerate the dry conditions beneath the canopy of trees and it is one of the few species that will grow well on the north side of a wall or dense evergreen hedge like privet or Leyland’s cypress. 

Nurseryman have named many selections that have particularly attractive flowers or leaves to cater for the collectors amongst us to display in alpine houses or raised beds. For me, however, Cyclamen hederifolium looks best when naturalised in a rough part of the garden where they can seed around delightfully.

Fig. 7– Naturalised area of C. hederifolium at Wakehurst Place in Sussex 
  1. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. John Gerarde, 1597 p 694-695 
  1. The English flora. James Edward Smith Vol 1, 1824 p273 
  1. Plant Names Simplified. A.T. Johnson & H.A.Smith. 2nd Ed 1931 p32 

Peter Williams

Pictures courtesy of Peter Williams

Plant of the Month: August 2021


by Kate van Heel

Persicaria is a genus of around 100 species of colourful perennials, found in pretty much every country worldwide. Along with other members of the Polygonaceae family, they are commonly known as knotweed. Although they have a reputation of running without restraint, there are some fabulous garden plants that I think should be given a chance.

Persicaria amplexicaulis and its many cultivars will tolerate a wide range of soils in sun or light shade, often preferring moist soil, but will grow in drier conditions too. The slim, tall, dark spikes of red, white or various hues of pink flowers bloom all summer long until the frost puts a stop to them.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Pink Elephant’

One of my favourites is Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Pink Elephant’, not least because I like the name! It grows to about 70cm, producing pink flower spikes from July until October, bulking up gently but by no means running out of control.

It grows here with Astrantia ‘Gill Richardson variety’ and some dark leaved Heucheras, together producing a long lasting display.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘September Spires’ is a robust, taller plant than ‘Pink Elephant’ with a more lax habit, producing pale pink flowers and with mid green foliage. The foliage can look slightly messy but growing it amongst other plants means the flowers waft around gently giving a pleasing effect.  As its name would suggest, it flowers later than ‘Pink Elephant’, coming into flower probably around the beginning of August and lasting into October.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’ grows in quite deep shade under a Sorbus and fights for space with the self seeding Melica grass, alongside Eurybia divaricata (formerly Aster divericatus). However, it manages to hold its own and lightens a shady area with its soft, airy flower spires. Another reason to grow this Persicaria is because it knows its place and doesn’t try for world (garden) domination! In my garden it tends to start flowering at the beginning of August, but that may be because of its position; more sun would probably help it into flower earlier.

There are also many Persicaria grown just for their foliage. Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ is distinguished by having red stems and leaves which emerge purple-brown, turning silver-purple, and finally green with maturity. It is clump forming but can be very sprawling in habit so give it plenty of room.

Persicaria runcinata ‘Purple Fantasy’

Another persicaria that has fabulous foliage is Persicaria runcinata ‘Purple Fantasy’. Unfortunately it is a very vigorous plant, spreading by means of runners. When it decided to take over the area it was planted in, it  had to be relegated to the shaded front garden to take its chances below an old laurel.

There are several other Persicaria species in the garden ( I didn’t realise there were so many!), all earning their place for one reason or another. Persicaria campanulata spreads around but keeps producing flowers for an incredibly longtime;  Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Dikke Floskes’ has masses of thick bushy deep red flower spikes, growing alongside Helenium ‘Sahins’s Early Flowerer’ in the red and yellow border; Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba flowers earlier in the year, giving a welcome burst of pale pink flower spikes; Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’ has been growing in my garden for more than twenty years and is perfect for using as ground cover at the front of a border under the shade of an old apple tree. 

The good thing about Persicaria is they are easy to propagate – just divide mature herbaceous clumps in early autumn or late winter and pass on these wonderful plants to all your friends!

Kate van Heel

Pictures courtesy of Kate van Heel

Plant of the Month: July 2021

Old Shrub Roses

by Ruth Baumberg

Now it is the turn of the shrub roses. I am not writing a book on them (it is a huge subject) so I will confine myself to those that I grow in my garden. In general I prefer the old shrub roses to David Austin’s modern hybrids, so I will start with the oldest which are the albas, of which some date back to Roman times.

Rosa ‘Maiden’s Blush’

They have beautiful blue-green foliage, and I grow both ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (white and pale pink, pre-fifteenth century), and ‘Königin von Dänemark’ (pink and not so double, more semi-double). Both of these have a wonderful scent.

The next to be developed were the gallicas, which were mostly French-bred and here I grow ‘Tuscany Superb’ (1826), a wonderful velvety maroon with golden anthers, and ‘Charles de Mills’ (1790), which is deep red and very full.  Both these sucker and run, so if you want a bit, just let me know and I will dig up a bit for you and pot it up.

Again these roses have a wonderful scent and, in fact, I don’t much care for roses that aren’t scented.

On the front of my house, over the dining room window, there is an eye-catching deep pink climbing rose, ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ (1868). I haven’t gone close so I am not sure about its scent but it makes a beautiful sight when the front gate is opened. It is supposed to be repeat flowering though I don’t recall a late flower so I cannot swear that this is what it is.

Rosa ‘Felicité Perpetué’

My second climbing rose is ‘Felicité Perpetué’ (1827), which is a wonderful rambler in July, once-flowering, getting 20 feet up a silver birch tree and has tiny, white double roses with a pink tinge in a huge mass. It is easy to take cuttings and I have a second large shrub, not climbing, that is seven foot by seven foot, from a cutting.

In the back row of the garden viewed from the kitchen window are a row of three Hybrid Musks, ‘Buff Beauty’, which is a wonderful soft buff-apricot and carries an enormous amount of bloom, ‘Felicia’, another silver-pink, very prolific, shrub rose  and lastly ‘Penelope’, which isn’t so prolific but it is in deep shade. Hybrid Musks were bred by Rev Joseph Pemberton in 1929.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’ and Clematis ‘My Angel’

Elsewhere in the garden I have ‘Veilchenblau’ (1909), which is a purple or mauve rambler with single flowers and Rosa spinosissima, in a white double form (pre 1808), which has pretty blue-grey leaves. Coming up here and there is Rosa glauca with its blue leaves, purple stems and single deep pink flowers and lovely hips. This is another self seeder and gets removed where it is not wanted.

Rosa × odorata ‘Mutabilis’, an old China rose, is a prey to blackspot some years, but blooms from June to December and has wonderful yellow, deep pink and orange single flowers. There are odd roses not on this list but I don’t remember where they came from and just enjoy their flowers when they appear.

Ruth Baumberg

Pictures courtesy of Ruth Baumberg

Plant of the Month: June 2021


by Sue Gray

Polemoniums, for me, are a staple of the late spring/early summer garden.  Commonly known as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ on account of the pinnate leaves said to resemble Jacob’s biblical ladder rising to heaven, they have had a reputation for being rampant self-seeders which should be avoided at all costs, but there are now many named varieties which do not seed around but form clumps, in my experience up to 50cms wide and, depending on variety, anything from 25cms to almost a metre in height.

P. carneum ‘Apricot Delight’

Usually found in shades of blue, purple/mauve and white, there is a yellow form, P. pauciflora which is slightly later flowering and can self-seed, and P. carneum ‘Apricot Delight’ which rather belies its name and appears as a very pale pink flower slightly flushed with yellow.

P. ‘Lambrook Mauve’

One of my favourite varieties is P. ‘Lambrook Mauve’ which, as you might infer from the name, was discovered by Margery Fish in her Somerset garden.  It has open mauve flowers with orange anthers, but I suppose my favourite of all is P. ‘Sonia’s Bluebell’.

I have no idea how or where I first came by this lovely plant emerging with dark foliage that fades to green and pale blue flowers, but I was thrilled when it formed part of our display at Chelsea 2010 and even more thrilled when Carol Klein recorded a piece about it as part of her ‘Red Button’ coverage.  Apparently it had first been discovered in the garden of her friend Sonia, hence the name, who had helped Carol create her first ever display at Chelsea.  Sadly Sonia died not long after, and Carol’s last sentence was ‘so it is good to see Sonia back at Chelsea where she belongs’.

P. ‘Sonia’s Bluebell’

I have tried twice with P. ‘Northern Lights’ – a favourite of our late member Marguerite Mason – but lost it on both occasions, no doubt by my wrong placement, but all others that I have grown have been very easy-going and divide easily in spring to form new plants which grow away well.

Sue Gray

Pictures courtesy of Sue Gray

Lockdown Gallery 21- week 14

May 31stThis is, we hope, the last of the Lockdown Galleries as garden visiting returns in June. Many thanks to all who contributed this year and last!

Weather: Summer is here! Warm sunny days and no rain

Ruth Baumberg received identifications for the plants she asked about last week – the Narcissus was Pipit and the Geranium was G. tuberosum. She also has a fine Peony grown from seed to show us this week

Glenda Wray has some interesting plant combinations

Ann Fritchley says that everything in her garden has been watered and battered. Looks like it’s thriving though!

Liz Hall’s submission of beautiful Aquilegias is tinged with sadness. She has discovered that downy mildew is affecting some of her plants, so it may be the beginning of the end for her collection

Judith Ladley has a mystery for you to solve

Sue Gray asserts that Ladies of the Night do better in the rain…

Carine Carson joins the party very late – but not too late!

And finally, the Hackett garden is still looking decidedly scruffy after that iffy spring, but there are still a few blooms here and there

Directions for Woodroyd, Denby Dale and Old Scotgate, Honley

To Woodroyd, 148 Barnsley Road, Denby Dale, Huddersfield, HD8 8QW:

From Leeds. Take the M1 South to junction 39. Take 3rd exit onto A636 to Denby Dale.

Stay on this road through Denby Dale, after passing under a viaduct travel 1/3 mile and turn sharp left almost back on yourself onto the A635 Barnsley Road, this approx. 8.5 miles from the motorway.

You are now looking for No.148 on the right after about half a mile.

From Woodroyd to Old Scotgate:

Hassocks Lane, Honley, HD9 6RF

Take Barnsley Road  A635 back towards Upper Cumberworth after approx. 3.8 miles turn right,  A616 to Huddersfield at New Mill crossroads (a complicated junction in the middle of New Mill).

After approx. 2.5 miles turn left at Jewson builders. Follow this through Honley to a roundabout where you turn right, 3rd exit onto Thirstin Road.

After 150 yards at Y junction keep left onto Scotgate Road. After half a mile fork left onto Hassocks Lane. Old Scotgate is the first property on the right.

Directions for Maspin House

Hillam Common Lane, Hillam, Leeds, LS25 5HU.

From Leeds. Take the A6120  Selby Road out of Leeds, cross the M1, continuing on Selby Road A63.

Cross under  the A1(M) keeping on A63 using several roundabouts.

Pass through Monk Fryston, as you leave the village there is a car wash on the right, take the right turn after this sign posted to Kellington and Birkin.

Turn left at the T junction onto Hillam Common Lane. Follow this road for a mile and a half. Parking is just before the garden.

From the M62 towards Hull, take junction 32A onto the A1(M) North. Leave A1(M) at next junction (42). Turn right on A63 to Selby. Join instructions above.