I like to experiment with new plants each year and with a nickname like Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, Persicaria orientalis sounded like an entertaining annual to try to grow from seed. It’s an old-fashioned cottage garden plant, growing to 4ft (~1.2m) apparently. I’d seen photos of its deep cerise tassles mixing in beds filled with echinacea, purple cleome and amaranthus. You can imagine it against a white picket fence, nodding over it, maybe tapping you on the shoulder in a bit of a breeze.
They looked wonderful and since I’d been reading an article by Mary Keen, who had coincidentally been trying to track down some of these plants, things came together because she had found seeds at www.specialplants.net. (It is well worth checking out Derry Watkin’s selections on this website. It is like a treasure trove.)
The seeds arrived, were shallow sown and placed in an unheated greenhouse. Germination was said to be slow but reliable.
In fact germination was fairly quick and the little red seedlings looked very attractive.
Soon they were big enough to prick out and they quickly made sturdy plants ready for outdoor homes. In the end the germination rate was practically 100% and so friends and family were gifted examples of the experiment.
The plants began to get quite tall and since they seemed to be all stem at this point, I staked the few in exposed spots. I need not have bothered. They behave just like bamboo and seem to thrive on a good blow around in the wind. Their stems became thick and the they have curious sheaths around the leaf axils. They look rather like exotic elizabethan ruffs:
And on they grew. Their leaves were larger than might be attractive, but the plants seemed to be using the energy supplied by them to reach for the sky. However, it got to August and there was no sign of flowers and the stems were still reaching upward. This was a bit disappointing.
Then all of a sudden in mid-August I could see flowers beginning to form at the top and the stems finally started to put out side branches, ripping those pretty sheaths to shreds in the process. By mid-September the plants were looking dramatic.
Now they have reached 8 or 9 feet (>2.5m). They are branching nicely and extending the flowering zone into an umbrella shape. The deep cerise tassles look absolutely glorious against blue sky.
The plants are like small trees. I’ve put them in the wrong places in the borders (at the front, because of my quaint ideas about picket fences, kissing gates and growing to only 4ft). In a strong wind I can imagine them hitting a person around the head rather like a whomping willow!
I asked a colleague at Wimpole what he though of the new persicaria I’d tried in the borders. He asked for them to be pointed out to him because he was looking down (and had walked straight passed/under them)!
However, I am getting more excited and fonder of them as they get more exuberant. I wonder what their final height will be?
They are looking good and so I am joined this week with Gillian at Country Garden UK who is hosting a new meme on Fridays to celebrate and share things that have caught our eye and are looking good at the moment. Why don’t you check it out?