Saturday, July 28, 2012

Acanthus

On my recent trip to Tatton I was delighted to get a plant of the variegated Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel', although I'm not sure if this is the right name as there is a similar plant called 'Whitewater'. I saw it when the nursery was setting up and made sure I was back there at 9.30 on the opening day! I can't tell you much about either but the combination of variegated foliage and pink stemmed, almost albino flowers appeals to me for its novelty value. And yes I'm a sucker for variegated plants! Incidentally, the UK Plant Finder lists 13 nurseries for 'Whitewater' and just three for 'Tasmanian Angel'.  At the moment my plant is small and just showing foliage. I guess that with all that white in the leaf it will need at least partial shade to avoid scorching.

Flowering plant of 'Whitewater'

Fifteeen pounds worth of 'Tasmanian Angel'
Acanthus are persistent herbaceous perennials with architectural foliage and striking flowering stems bearing whitish flowers with purple bracts. The flowers have to be pollinated by  large bees such as bumble bees that are strong enough to open the flowers. The flowers are also spiny as anyone who has tried to use them for flower arranging will know - ouch! The word architectural is doubly relevant, as for centuries the acanthus leaf has been used as a motif in architectural elements such as the classical Corinthian columns. Look up when you next visit an ancient monument with stone pillars!

Corinthian column with acanthus leaves
The two most common species of Acanthus found in gardens are A. mollis which has broad smooth leaves and A. spinosus which has finely cut leaves. Both are good garden plants. They tend to be slow to establish and resent dividing and transplanting but once established are quite persistent. If you dig them up you are quite likely to find them re-growing the next year from remaining root fragments.

Foliage of Acanthus mollis

Acanthus spinosus

I also acquired Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold' early in the year which has young foliage in a shade somewhere between gold and lime green. I find it attractive but when judging recently, a fellow judge thought it was just a chlorotic version of  Acanthus mollis. I'll let my plant establish before I pronounce judgement!

'Hollard's Gold'

2 comments:

  1. I love this variegated Acanthus, but the other one of us don't so have resisted when we spotted this at Hampton court. I think the flowers might change the other one's mind, worth a try :)We both love Hollard's Gold though, lights up a shady spot!

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  2. I rate Acanthus really highly! The variegated forms you mention look great, it's a shame I don't have room here to grow one!

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