Swines Meadow talk at South Pennine HPS: “Hardy exotics”

Yesterday I attended another meeting of the South Pennine Hardy Plant Society, only my second since I joined in December (winter has been busy!) We listened to a great talk from guest speaker Colin Ward from Swines Meadow Farm Nursery, speaking about hardy exotics.

Along with his beloved bamboos (which warrant an entirely separate talk in themselves!) Colin discussed a number of hardy exotics that could be grown in a reasonably sheltered local garden, and even some that could withstand seriously tough winters. One of the hardiest he mentioned was also one of the few hardy palms (the only one Colin was willing to guarantee in the UK): Trachycarpus fortunei. He mentioned—and I can confirm!—that they had been recorded surviving Bulgarian winters down to -28°C! Even the leafy, watery Musa basjoo tends (in mildish UK winters) to die back to hardy roots which regrow, which I didn’t realise; mulching it with straw, though, does let it benefit from each preceding year’s growth.

Here’s Colin, standing in front of his jungle backdrop:

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Several of the plant samples were so tall that it was quite tricky to get them down from the table without interfering with the lights. If Colin’s wife hadn’t been carefully coordinating the bringing-forth of parts of that jungle, we’d have had some kind of plaster/render/lightbulb incident, I’m sure. I think the Paulownia tomentosa was the tallest, and would easily put on three or four metres of new, woody growth every year!

The talk also covered: weirder Kniphofias, which Colin felt were more likely to intimidate the sparrows that would tear away at the traditional red-yellow varieties; an Aspidistra attenuata “Dungpu Dazzler”, which loved to be out so much that they left it through the winter and it thrived in dry shade; and a bulky Zantedeschia aethiopica “Hercules”, that was the origin of quite a thrilling tale (which maybe you should see Colin yourself to hear more about!)

Afterwards, we were able to gaze at, fondle and even purchase the plants mentioned plus many others. I dithered over a Ribes speciosum (the fuschia-flowered gooseberry) and it was gone, then admired this Coronilla emerus (the scorpion senna) from a distance:

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but ultimately my purchases were:

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Clockwise from the top:

  • Daphniphyllum himalaense ssp macropodum: with the habit of a more compact rhododendron, but with neater, less leathery leaves, bright red branches and neon-green new growth.
  • Salvia “Ember’s Wish”: a salvia, but with red flowers!
  • Impatiens omeiana “Pink Nerves”: a beautifully leaved Chinese balsam, still only a rooted cutting but usually rhizomatous.

The Impatiens is probably my favourite, although don’t tell the others as they’ll just expire on me:

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Still potted, they’re nonetheless all out in the garden now (with one eye on the forecast for the sake of the Impatiens) and looking pretty great. Thanks so much to Colin, and everyone at the South Pennines HPS, for such a great talk and such lovely plants!

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4 comments

  1. Julieanne · April 7, 2016

    Great write up J-P, and useful too as I didn’t quite remember everything. It was a very engaging talk and Colin changed my mind about some plants I’ve previously dismissed. I might have avoided Impatiens in the past, but now I’ll be on the look out for a rhizome or two from you once yours is established 🙂

    Like

    • jpstacey · April 8, 2016

      Thanks! I do hope people will be happy correcting me on any mistakes, though: I took notes but not of everything….

      Like

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