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Agastache rugosa

This is one of the easiest perennials to grow in temperate climates – very frost hardy and tolerant of pests. The flowers open in succession over a long period of time, attracting a constant stream of welcome garden visitors such as Butterflies, Bees and Hoverflies (and many other beneficial insects).

With its pleasing aromatic foliage, this will quickly become a garden favorite among human visitors also, with a fragrance reminiscent of mint, liquorice and warm spice. The long stems make these reasonably suitable for cut-flowers, and these can be used in mixed bouquets quite successfully. The mature plants will form clumps about 45-60cm wide, and to a height of 40-75cm, depending on light and feeding.

Agastache are a wide-ranging genus, with examples from across the globe. We conducted a fair bit of breeding work with some of the more interesting forms and obtained some extraordinary hybrids, although due to the high number of new Agastache varieties already entering the market we did not introduce these as new varieties. Maybe one day.

Nerdy note: Most garden varieties of Agastache rugosa are at least partial hybrids with closely related mediterranean species Agastache foeniculum, and there may be some confusion about the naming of these different species in cultivation – it is quite likely that Agastache foeniculum is the ‘true’ name for almost all garden examples of this species. True Agastache rugosa is an east-asian species, and slightly frost-tender, whereas the Agastache foeniculum is more frost tolerant and generally more vigorous.

See also the Golden-leaved form, ‘Golden Jubilee’.

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Tradescantia occidentalis

This is one of the ‘Spiderworts’, and is a hardy relative of the climbing houseplant commonly known as ‘Tradescantia’.

There are several species and varieties of Spiderwort available for gardens, including the x andersonii group, which are very good garden plants indeed. The x andersonii group are hybrids which are descended from this species, and several others – all native to north America where they dwell in prairies and woodland clearings.

We like this species because of its elegant simplicity. It is a more gracile species, and enjoys growing in a more mixed, informal setting instead of forming a tight clump. Perhaps the only downside is that it is much beloved by Slugs and Snails, but we can hardly hold it, or them, to account.

Height to around 70cm, perhaps more in shadier situations where it would stretch toward the light. Clumps are looser than the andersonii group, but tend not to be too invasive.

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Habranthus tubispathus v.roseus (syn salmoneus)

Habranthus tubispathus v.roseus (syn salmoneus)

The ‘Rain Lilies’ include both the Habranthus and Zephyranthes, and as a result the names are often mixed up. This species is often mis-sold as the much harder-to-find Habranthus gracilifolius, but they are different species and may be generally distinguished because the latter rarely sets seed, whereas this beauty tends to self-seed very profusely.

The Rain Lilies originate across an area that spans from Texas and the southern USA, down to Argentina, and each species has its own requirements, but almost all are pretty easy to grow. They almost thrive on neglect and need to dry out at least a little bit between waterings. The name ‘Rain Lily’ comes from the fact that the flowers emerge, usually very quickly, after a heavy rain. For this reason they can flower multiple times per year in cultivation when they growing conditions are most favorable.

Although these do not tolerate frost, they can take coolish weather in winter and are wonderful plants for a window-sill or balcony.

This particular species is generally regarded as a pink form of the species, but there are some that believe it is a distinct species or that it may be a hybrid. It is sometimes sold as Habranthus salmoneus.

The flowers are pretty but sadly short-lived, often coming and going within a week. The plus point is that they will come back in several ‘flushes’ over the year as the bulbs go through repeated cycles of drenching and drying out. A well-drained medium is preferred, and it is important to avoid water-logging. Height to about 20cm, with narrow grassy foliage emerging from the bulb, often disappearing in dry spells and returning after flowering.

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Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ (botanical Tulip)

This has always been one of our most desired species of ‘Botanical Tulip’, having bright yellow-eyed pink flowers early in spring, usually around April.

‘Botanical Tulips’ are basically the wild species of Tulip that grow wild across parts of Europe, the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Middle-East. Some of these species were the ancestors of the modern Tulip hybrids that have become well-known. Most Botanical Tulips are smaller than the hybrid types, and tend to flower early in the year just after the Crocus and around the time of many Narcissi.

Tulipa bakeri Lilac Wonder

Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a selected form of the species, with lovely pink flowers which make a real addition to the usual springtime color palette.

These bulbs can be naturalized, but generally do better in a rockery, raised bed or container, where they benefit from the drainage and sheltered microclimate.

A gentle balanced liquid feeding in the springtime, around the same time as flowering, will help the bulbs scavenge enough potassium (and other nutrients) for a good flowering result the following year.