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Scraping the barrel


by James Alexander-Sinclair

The time has probably come to say something a little contentious: there are some plants that are so dreadful that they should never have been invented.


DahliaThe time has probably come to say something a little contentious: there are some plants that are so dreadful that they should never have been invented. (I use the word 'invented' advisedly as the culprits are almost always those plants that have been hybridised and fiddled with by plant breeders.)

I started thinking about this because of this Dahlia. My mother-in-law was sold this particular plant under the erroneous impression that it was Arabian Night. I think that it is a truly hideous confection that really should have been immediately composted as soon as the first flower showed. The raspberry rippled pink and white collar would be almost acceptable as camouflage for plankton but when teamed with the urine yellow centre it ventures into nightmare country.

Other plants that I think are dreadful include Rosa Masquerade (rather like an eruption in a fruit salad factory), almost all ruffled Iris, Heuchera Caramel (repellent flaccid toffee coloured leaves), variegated ground elder (a con of the worst sort), Ceanothus Diamond Heights (an abomination), Aucuba japonica (depressing beyond belief), Lonicera nitida (stalwart of car parks - excellent at catching wind blown litter) and many others.

I wonder if I am the only one to be so blatantly prejudiced? The most interesting thing about any list like this is that it changes all the time - some plants that I thought were unspeakable a decade ago are now my best friends. However, I think it may be a cold day in hell before I snuggle up to this particular Dahlia.



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Gardeners' World Web User 08/08/2007 at 18:21

Whereas I absolutely agree about the Dahlia and to s lesser extent the Ceanothus, I have to disagree about the others. Whereas the Acuba is and the Lonicera are not exactly in my top ten they can fit the bill when planting up a terribly difficult position such as under a large conifer. There are more attractive cultivars of both. The Variegated ground elder I have myself and although it has got very invasive tendencies - again it can fit the bill when isolated in a semi wild area and has very attractive foliage. It collapses in very dry conditions however (having tried it under the very large conifer) It is all to do with the right plant for the right place.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/08/2007 at 21:57

Oh dear! Looks like you may have to swap your hat for a tin helmet James.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/08/2007 at 20:58

James is right tho', H.'Caramel' is incontrovertibly vile. Heuchera 'Peach Flambe' on the other hand....

Gardeners' World Web User 10/08/2007 at 18:00

It's true.....fashions and tastes change. Five years ago the thought of making a fuss about ANY plant would've had me in stitches, but middle age (perhaps?) or the acquisition of a garden has changed all that. And I've discoverd I like chrysanthemums and dahlias...of most colours. That's radical these days. Monty did have an article in one gardeners' world magazine wondering when people would wake up to the fact that begonias are actually quite repellant (although he was more polite). I'd have to agree with him there!

Gardeners' World Web User 10/08/2007 at 18:59

Thank you all for your comments: I had a funny feeling that I might get someone disagreeing with me! I understand the amenity value of some of the shrubs I mentioned and I by no means think that they are bad plants - just that I don't like them very much. Aucuba always reminds me of cheerless, dank shared front gardens full of dustbins and a bike with a buckled wheel. My problem, I suppose, with many plants is that there are so many others that are so much better therefore why give up space in your valuable garden to anything that is mediocre? Instead of variegated ground elder try Tiarella, Euphorbia robbiae, Geranium macrorrhizum or Asarum europaeum But I'm still not convinced by Heuchera Caramel and as for the Garden Monkey's Heuchera Peach Flambe? What an unutterably ghastly name. It is bad enough breeding things like that without burdening the poor unfortunates with names like that. It makes poor Tiramisu Andre (or whatever name it is that Peter and Jordan have chosen) seem very nearly classy.

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