North and South

It always fascinates me (and sometimes frustrates me), that some plants will grow well in all parts of Britain while others will only flourish in certain parts.

Take meconopsis, the blue Himalyan poppies. In Scotland they are almost weeds, the cool, moist conditions there reminding them of home. Here in Berkshire, where it is milder and drier, they sulk. We can get them to flower in the first year, but by the second year the plant has disappeared. At RHS Wisley, just twenty miles from me, where the growing medium is free-draining sand, they are grown as annuals. So when I saw an exciting shrub at Inverewe, in the far northwest of Scotland, a few years ago, the immediate question was, “Will it thrive down south?”


The mock orange, or philadelphus to give it the botanical name, is a family of shrubs from East Europe, Asia and both North and South America. They carry white, scented flowers in early summer on wood made the previous season. But the shrub I saw in Scotland had purple calyces, making it an immediate candidate to add to my “wants” list, a list of plants I would love to grow in my garden and which never seems to get any shorter! After doing some research and sending an e-mail to Inverewe to get confirmation, I knew I was trying to find a supplier for Philadelphus delavayi forma melanocalyx. But finding one was easier said than done. However, Philadelphus purpurescens is similar and more highly scented, and it was this I eventually tracked down and planted in a sunny position near a path so the fragrance could be sampled. Three years on and it is growing and flowering well.

Philadelphus purpurascens - 2015

It is gratifying to know that some plants will grow equally in both the north and south of the British Isles.


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