In 2007 I went to Chelsea with a friend on a mission. She wanted to know the name of a plant which she had seen on holiday and to find out if she could buy it in the UK. Eventually we spotted the flower on a display of cedar greenhouses and at the end of a cascade of questions around the exhibitors, established the name of the plant.
Lantana according to Chris Brickell’s A-Z are grown for their ‘small 5-lobed salverform flowers, grouped tightly into rounded, flattened or domed terminal heads. Leaves are…..’ but what intrigued my friend is their habit of having several vibrant colours on the same head.
July 2010: the same friend visited the Plant Heritage Marquee at Hampton Court Flower Show and asked me if there is a National Collection of Lantana. There is only one and it is held by Hampton Court Palace. This was enough for Sarah who promptly joined PH and was soon very pleased to find that the Surrey group had organised a trip to see the three Collections at Hampton Court Palace.
Heliotropium with its cherry pie scent and intense colouration was being used in the bedding schemes around the palace.
The Queen Mary Exoticks Garden was looking at its best. As special visitors we were allowed to walk into this part of the garden, normally only viewable from the border. Specially commissioned blue and white pots to reflect the Dutch origins of Queen Mary march up the steps of the Orangerie where in the late 1600s the plants were overwintered. A truly remarkable recreation of a Heritage Collection.
And the Lantana? As it wasn’t being used in the bedding schemes, a few weeks earlier it had been cut back for propagation purposes, so there wasn’t a flower to be seen. Martin Einchcomb, the head gardener, told Sarah to keep in touch and he would arrange a special trip to see the Lantana.
July 2011: a year on and thanks to a special visit arranged by Martin, the collection has been viewed in full flower; two species, 28 cultivars and all shades of pink, purple, red, orange, yellow and white. The blossoms start off as a cluster of rectangular buds, almost like a set of folded hankerchiefs, open to one colour, mature to another and fade to a third, so it is sometimes possible to see three shades on one flower. There are some monochrome varieties, but inevitably the most eyecatching are the multicoloured ones. Next year the Lantana will be used in the bedding schemes in the Palace grounds, so it looks as though another trip will be needed.