Five plants for Christmas gifts

by James Alexander-Sinclair

[...] if you don't mind not being able to actually tear the shiny paper from your presents on 25th December, then a promissory note of a plant come springtime is a great gift idea.

Foliage and red flower of Calliandra haematocephala, in a glasshouseWe have all been much preoccupied recently with snow and cold (especially those of us whose offices are inadequately heated, and have to sit and write with rugs around their knees, like pensioners on a Baltic cruise).

The weather definitely put a stop to our normal November gardening routine. I would usually be spending jolly weekends doing a bit of light tidying, collecting the last of the autumn leaves and planting the last of the tulip bulbs. Instead we have been shoveling snow out of the chicken yard and doing star-jumps in order to restore circulation.

As a result I will take this opportunity to give you a bit of a pre-Christmas run down. I know that plants (apart from the ubiquitous poinsettia) do not figure much on Christmas lists but if you don't mind not being able to actually tear the shiny paper from your presents on 25th December, then a promissory note of a plant come springtime is a great gift idea.

If anybody wanted to give me a plant then, at the moment, this is my list of five. The rule I have set myself is that it cannot be anything that I grow either in my garden or in any of my clients' gardens. These are all plants I have met briefly, but with whom I have yet to become intimately acquainted.

Chelonopsis moschata - a fabulous late summer flowering plant that will tolerate a bit of shade (provided it is not too dry). The pinky-purple flowers look like the mouths of giant carp. Gets to about 45cm high.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - the dawn redwood is a deciduous conifer from China. It was only brought back to this country in 1949, so all the examples we see in this country are quite young. The leaves look a bit like yew (Taxus baccata) except that they turn golden and fall in the autumn. Quite fast growing and will reach 60m.

Stachyurus praecox - deciduous shrub that grows to about 3m high. The hanging, greenish flowers in early spring (before the leaves appear) are very pretty. Leaves good in autumn as well.

Magnolia denudata - one of the finest magnolias which flowers a couple of weeks before the more common Magnolia soulangeana. Its flowers are more delicately balanced and the leaves are a bit bigger. 10m high eventually.

Scleranthus biflorus ssp. uniflorus is a sort of wildly frothing mossy looking plant. Needs good drainage and works well in between paving. A pleasingly eccentric sort of thing. It does also have little yellow flowers, but they are not much to write home about.

Oh, and the plant in the photograph at the top of the page (just so I can sneak in a sixth) is Calliandra haematocephala, but in order to grow that I would either have to get Santa to bring me a large glasshouse or move to Bolivia.

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Gardeners' World Web User 06/12/2010 at 20:00

Happy Holidays, James!

Gardeners' World Web User 09/12/2010 at 00:53

Now they are all very nice. Always on the look-out for moist, shade lovers, so will give the chelonopsis a go I think. The Stachyurus praecox appeals too. Have loved redwoods since being dwarfed by a grove of them in Yosemite many, many moons ago. Something like that might have to wait until the lottery win, and the purchase of a suitable estate to house them on.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/12/2010 at 09:59

The Magnolia denudata looks like sakura, doesn't it?

Gardeners' World Web User 20/12/2010 at 08:31

I would have never thought of that. Thanks for your good ideas.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/01/2011 at 09:37


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