Heuchy-coochy man

OVER the last few years I have developed an obsession with that most wonderful group of plants, Heucheras and Heucharellas.

The first Heuchera to become widely poplular as a foliage plant in Britain and Ireland was introduced by renowned English Horticulturist Adrian Bloom as recently as 1983.

It is hard to believe now that they are such a recent introduction to gardens in these islands as I cannot imagine a garden without at least one of these beauties. For many years we persevered with that first Heuchera Palace Purple but in recent years there has been a veritable explosion in the amount of new cultivars being introduced and of course developing hand in hand with the increased number of cultivars is their popularity as a garden plant.

Commonly referred to as Coral Bells there are so many reasons to love these plants. The first is, perhaps, their names: Peach Flambé, Crème Brulee; Plum Pudding; Tiramisu; Sugar Plum; Binoche; Georgia Peach and Berry Smoothie to name but a few.

The second thing to love is their leaf colours, ranging from the near gold colour of Lime Ricky to the velvety black of Binoche. The third element is their texture. Soft, wide leaves, some curled and ruffled, some flat and smooth. They act as a perfect foil for so many other plants, particularly ornamental grasses.

If you haven’t already joined me on my journey down Heuchera lane then remember their other stunning attribute — and that’s their baby’s breath type of flower. Sprays of powdery, wispy looking flowers are produced above the basal rosette of leaves all summer long.

Consider also their versatility. Use them for borders, beds, pots and under planting. I have found they grow well in sun and in shade. They are evergreen, providing lightbulbs of colour in the winter garden when so much has gone to sleep under the soil awaiting the new season.

There are now about a thousand cultivars of Heuchera available with the latest few introduced at the Chelsea Flower Show in May of this year and before I end up in a suitably named support group, I am striving to collect as many as possible.

You won’t ever find them all in one place but your local garden centre will have a good selection available. Any of them are worth growing and so if you are new to this world of Heucheras and Heucherellas don’t knock yourself out looking for specific varieties, get your hands on one or two and I hope you enjoy these plants as much as I do.

In the meantime here a few that you should definitely try to find: Fire Chief; in my experience this was the most sought-after plant last year, I had a waiting list of people eager to get their hands on it and it is proving no less popular this year. It has beautiful coppery red shiny foliage and produces low spikes of pink/white flowers during the summer. A low growing good clump former.

Marmalade has coppery orange/brown foliage which fades to a lovely yellow ochre with a pink underside sending up masses of flower spikes about 30cm high in summer and right into autumn.

I have this planted at home next to a pale pink Dianthus and the colours combine beautifully. It is important, in order to get the best from plants, to combine them with another plant that will contrast and compliment in terms of colour and texture.

A new variety to me this year and an absolute stunner is Sugar Plum. Big fat proud leaves stand about 20-25 cm high, rich purple in colour with silver and pink markings and producing white/pink flowers about 25cm above the leaves I think this one has become my favourite for this year.

Ask me next week of course and my choice will have changed, such is the beauty of this genus. There is a variety and colour to suit every mood. There is literally a different one for each day of the year and then some. Keep a look out also for the sweetly named varieties referred to above as they are definitely worth sourcing and also the varieties Hollywood, Obsidian, and Jade Gloss which produces the tallest flower stems of all that I have yet discovered.

Heucherellas are an even more recent introduction being an intergeneric hybrid between Heucheras and Tiarellas. Keep an eye out for the strongly veined dusky brown and coffee coloured Heucherella Sweet Tea and also the very distinctive Alabama Sunrise with dark, nearly black veins in a bright fresh green/gold leaf.

Another must have is Redstone Falls as it provide excellent leaf colour along with providing good ground cover.

Try your local garden centre and nursery first in your quest to find your perfect plant but if you cannot find one of the cultivars you are seeking then try the specialist suppliers listed below.

I hope they bring you as much joy as they do me and I may see you at the same support group in the future. In the meantime happy gardening.www.hostasdirect.com; www.heucheraholics.co.uk


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