Sunday, 13 May 2012

symphytum officinale rhs wisley

Ah ..... two days of complete self-indulgence at the nations' mecca of gardening at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in Wisley, Surrey.

Wet and cold was the weather but our spirits were warmed by all we saw.

Our last visit to Wisley saw us spending an inordinate amount of time poking around the prairie gardens and learning about the plants they used there. And inspired we were.

This time, it was the woodland areas that were at their brilliant, fresh, dripping best.

And perhaps surprisingly there was a consensus amongst us (Trev and Linda joined us) that the star plant of the two days was humble old symphytum officianale.

The symphytums share a clever trick with the pulmonarias of being full of flower but having flowers of a range of colours on each stem. This gives a greater depth and interest, especially when they are planted 'en masse'. Wildife gardeners welcome symphytums especially as bees go boogalloo for them!

There was a lovely, low-growing lemon form and then what I'm guessing was 'Hidcote Blue'. We bought ourselves a pot of 'Hidcote Blue' at the National Trust gardens at Hidcote on the way home and the poor thing was chopped into three pieces and planted in our Cedar walk garden as soon as we got it back to Cordwood.

Symphytums are also called comfrey and for organic gardeners comfrey is an almost talismanic plant. Lawrence Hills, the founder of the British organic gardening movement waxed lyrical about the health-giving properties of Russian Comfrey and the benefits its sterile hybrid 'Bocking 14' brings to the organic garden. 'Bocking 14' is really useful as its leaves contain high proportions of potassium. It is, however a garden bully and grows long roots that are almost impossible to eradicate if you change your mind about its location!

Sympytums are tolerant of drier conditions and will love the shade of our wooded setting. Expect them to become a signature plant of the Cordwood spring in the coming years!

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