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Big plants


by James Alexander-Sinclair

I love big plants. Not big pants. Plants. [...] herbaceous plants that go from nothing to gigantic in the space of a few weeks.


Pink flowers of Persicaria polymorphaI love big plants. Not big pants. Plants.

Not so much enormous shrubs or majestic trees (although they have their place of course), but herbaceous plants that go from nothing to gigantic in the space of a few weeks. I love their energy and their exuberance. By 'big' I mean something that dwarfs its neighbours and reaches at least 2m high. I have five such plants in my garden.

The first is Inula magnifica. I can see the cheerful, shaggy yellow flowers from my office and they never cease to amuse me. The stems are at least 3m tall and they bear vast leaves. It needs a fair bit of water so I planted it just by a downpipe on the house so it gets lots of rain.

My second star plant is Persicaria polymorpha. It is planted by the door to the chicken shed and has been a pleasure since the beginning of May. It sends out great plumes of white flowers that fade to dusty pink as time passes.

Third on the list is Datisca cannabina: a plant I bought from Marina Christopher at Phoenix Perennial Plants. A towering mass of arching stems and finely cut leaves. The flowers are pretty dangling green catkins - not at all obvious.

Fourth is Cephalaria dipsacoides which has very tall slender stems capped with pale yellow, button flowers - like a giant scabious.

My fifth plant is not so much tall as unbelievably beefy - more like a rugby hooker than a heavyweight boxer. Just outside the door is a rodgersia (which I wrote wrote about earlier in the year), whose leaves are as big as toddlers and full of fizz.

Admittedly we are lucky enough to live in the countryside and we have room for these big plants, but even in the tiniest garden this sort of thing can be effective. A big plant in a small space makes a great impact.



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Gardeners' World Web User 28/07/2009 at 17:03

Oh, patientgardener - you have just dug up one of the best plants for bees! They just love it. I do hope you have replaced it with something as good for pollinators as our food supply depends on them.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/07/2009 at 14:02

All these plants sound fabulous, but why not some fotos...as I LIVE IN THE mediterranean, dont know if they could be grown successfully here but i have plenty of water and room but wretched soil. any chance of fotos?

Gardeners' World Web User 31/07/2009 at 14:51

Hello patrician, James has included links to images of each of the plants discussed in his blog - clicking the link from each plant name will take you to his lovely photos on flickr.com. Best, Daniel The Gardeners' World web team

Gardeners' World Web User 02/08/2009 at 19:40

I have a plant that I cannot identify, my friend gave me a pot with "tubers" before she was posted to Cyprus, the label in the pot said Heliotropium-arbdr Marine. Now the plants has grown and it is not a Heliotropium, it has huge leaves and long stems with amazing flowers that the flies love. I have photos but how do I upload them. Would like to know!

Gardeners' World Web User 03/08/2009 at 09:58

Hi, I have 2 lovely bay trees at my hall door but they have become covered in a black (gunge)which I think has something to do with aphids. Nothing I have put on them has cleared it so please HELP as they really look awfull.

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