An unlikely berberis relative

We all know berberis shrubs, often big unruly monsters with vicious thorns (which we rapidly discover when trying to reduce them to a more manageable size). But within the berberidaceae family is the genus gymnospermium, comprising twelve members. These are small plants growing from a tuber, flowering in early spring. They are native to temperate Europe and Asia and are suitable for growing in British gardens with a couple of caveats.

Firstly, they require good drainage. Growing on the sides of mountains in the wild, often in shaly soil, they don’t get moisture sitting around the tuber, especially in the winter when they have a covering of snow. A raised bed, possibly with a cover over it during our coldest months, seems to offer the best chance of success. They often tuck their tubers under stones or small rocks, ensuring sufficient moisture without drying out in summer.

At only a couple of inches high, Gymnospermium altaicum warrants close inspection

Gymnospermium altaicum - 2019 - Copy

The flowers emerge first, closely followed by the unfolding foliage on red stems.

In comparison, Gymnospermium albertii is a monster at six inches

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

 

The red colouring on the reverse of the flowers makes this a most desirable plant.

So if you’re fed up with being attacked by berberis, or you only have a small space to fill with spring colour, try these tiny relatives instead.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s