A few words on just a handful of this year’s New Plants

With such a huge amount of new additions this year it is going to be difficult to select a few to write about here, but here we go:

A few different wild collected Acers from my trips to Guizhou and N. Vietnam are now available, but one really stands out. Acer laurinum NJM 10.048 (etc) is going to need a mild garden to thrive, but the exquisite, evergreen, simple, unlobed foliage with long tropicalesque drip-tip and icy-white underside make it worth every effort to grow.

Yet more beautiful birches are added this year; Betula utilis ‘Darkness’ was selected at Ness BG on the Wirral from a tree originally collected in Bhutan. I had seen a friend’s photos of these incredibly richly coloured B. utilis, taken in Bhutan, and almost booked a flight! No need it turned out, ‘Darkness’ was already here.

Buddleja wardii KR 4881 was collected at altitude in Tibet and represents, I believe, the first introduction of this taxon into cultivation. Thought by some to be a hybrid between B. alternifolia and B. crispa, by others to be a species in its own right and by others still to be another species altogether, B. tsetangensis! Make up your own mind.

My collection of Camptotheca acuminata NJM 11.049 from Guizhou represents a very rare opportunity to buy this handsome, but not altogether straight forward tree. Young plants need to be grown on for a few years before being planted out; the late growth not ripening too well before winter, but older trees are very hardy indeed. For those that like a challenge and want to grow a ‘New Tree’ of considerable rarity, be one of the first to succeed with it. I’m planting a 1.8m specimen this spring.

Hickories (Carya spp.) are far too seldom seen in gardens and parks here, even though they are highly ornamental, producing some of the best butter-yellow autumn colour of all trees. I offer a small range this year.

All Daphniphyllum make good looking evergreen large shrubs (or even trees on the wild) and my collection Daphniphyllum sp. NJM 10.147 from N. Vietnam is no exception. You’ll notice a lack of specific epithet, as this one is proving difficult to name with certainty, but I would rather use my collection number instead, rather than attach an incorrect guess, just to help sell it, as some in the trade do.

One of the most sought after Japanese shrubs, Disanthus cercidifolius, is offered again this year, but additionally we offer Disanthus cercidifolius ‘Ena Nishiki’, a newly available variegated variety with an irregular cream margin to the leaves, which contrasts well with the smouldering autumn shades.

Never before have we offered such a range of Helwingia, those obscure Asian shrubs with a bizarre habit of flowering and fruiting in the middle of the leaf.

My collections from rarely visited peaks (at least by Westerners) in Guizhou, China have resulted in Hydrangea heteromalla f. xanthoneura NJM 11.00, a bold tolerant shrub of some proportions, handsome in both flower and foliage and Hydrangea longipes var. longipes NJM 11.052, a close relative of H. aspera, but very early flowering, in June.

Lagerstroemia ‘Tuskegee is one of the many hybrid crape myrtles raised by Don Egolf in the USA some years ago, yet remains an absolute rarity in the UK. This has proved a reliable flowerer outside at Kew, even in dull cool summers, producing prodigious amounts of vibrant deep coral-pink flowers in late summer.

No less than 17 Magnolia cultivars and hybrids join the catalogue this year, some of them exceptionally rare or new, most just plain gorgeous (that sounded cheesy didn’t it?).

I have a few plants to offer of my new Mahonia ‘Pan’s Peculiar’, a hybrid I’ve grown for many years that desperately needed a name. A cross between M. duclouxiana and M. japonica, the foliage is very distinct, arching along its length with congested leaflets and forming hummocks of leaves at the shoots tips, giving a most unusual visual texture for a Mahonia. The large scented flowers in winter are a bonus. Another Mahonia to get very excited about is the extremely handsome Mahonia oiwakensis from Taiwan with wonderful large leaves composed of narrow leaflets, closely set. This, again, gives us another angle on Mahonia foliage texture and again the autumn flowers are a bonus.

If you have a warm sheltered spot you might like to try Philadelphus karwinskianus F&M 152, an exceptional species we found in E Mexico back in 2004. It’s a strong growing scandent shrub closely related to P. mexicanus that could almost be described as a climber. In nature it climbs into small trees with its long branches cascading down, ending in terminal panicles of large, highly scented, pure white flowers.

Phlomis ‘Toob’ is another new name, first seen here. This is in limited circulation in the trade as P. angustifolia which, it turns out, is a synonym of P. fruticosa. It may indeed turn out to be a form of the latter, but the foliage is very distinct, having the edges of the leaves fully in-rolled longitudinally, almost creating tubes, showing the pale grey undersides to great advantage and creating a beautiful visual texture. ‘Toob’ celebrates that wonderful way the yanks mispronounce ‘tube’. Another Phlomis worth talking about is Phlomis grandiflora NJM 10.014, a plant I found in abundance in SW Turkey in September 2010. Although often a little smaller, this rarity in cultivation has the potential to get to 1.8m high and almost twice that across. Quite why it’s so seldom seen here is a mystery to me, as it’s as hardy as P. fruticosa.

If wild roses are your thing check out the listings under both ‘Trees and Shrubs’ and ‘Climbers’ where recent wild collections from Bhutan, Manipur and Guizhou can be found.

Schefflera fantsipanensis NJM 09.137, my collection from Fan Si Pan Mountain, N. Vietnam, is one of the more attractive species in the genus, having an extra tier of leaflets on the compound palmate leaves.

A very wide range of some of the most unusual and desirable Sorbus species has joined the others already in the catalogue this year, far too many to mention here and most of wild origin.

Yet more rare Tilia have been found and propagated, bringing the range available here at PGP to 26 taxa.

Dahlia sp. nova F&M 312 is almost certainly a new species I found in NE Mexico in 2005 and may be officially described soon. It is a superlative species in foliage, bearing huge, glossy, compound leaves on very sturdy wind tolerant stems, creating a large exotic mound to about 2m tall. The flowers appear in December after mild autumns, but the foliage alone makes it worth growing. It has also proved totally hardy in the ground, even through all the recent cold winters.

Hedychium spicatum MW was collected recently in NW Yunnan by Michael Wickendon and represents a form very rarely seen in cultivation. Also found in Tibet it has compact inflorescences on comparatively short stems; the flowers most often taking on yellow tints as they age and altogether looking rather different from most cultivated forms.

Selected from an original collection by Roy Lancaster, Rodgersia pinnata ‘JadeDragonMountain is one of the very finest forms of this well known species of moisture loving perennial, with dark flower stems and flowers that morph from cream to red.

Bumping into Clematis smilacifolia NJM 10.094 on a limestone mountain in N. Vietnam made my day on a very foggy afternoon in November 2010. This has splendid evergreen foliage, often rich purple tinted beneath and mottled pale grey above, especially on young plants. This is a variable species over its very wide natural range, but flowers are often a mix of deep purple and white, though can be pure purple.

A climber not seen enough in gardens is Tripterygium wilfordii NJM 11.029, so it was good to secure seed of this on Leigong Shan in Guizhou, China in 2011, where it was a common roadside weed, clambering over all manner of other choice plants.

Finally, I’ll mention Yucca whipplei subsp. whipplei NJM 11.001, which I collected seed of in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Los Angeles, on my way to China. For those who don’t know it, this is no ordinary Yucca! Me oh my.

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