Like Marathons and Opal Fruits, Schizostylis coccinea has been renamed. Now called Hesperantha, the whole nomenclature of this elegant autumn flowering genus is clearly what fascinates Penny and David Ross who hold a National Collection of these plants. Located in ‘deepest darkest’ Devon (actually only 12 miles north of Exeter), Penny and David have a passion for finding out the correct plants for the named cultivars. They have trawled through old nursery catalogues to trace the rise and fall of cultivar names; using family history websites they have located descendents of original growers and been given plants from the original source and they hold, for comparison, a selection of plants bought under the same name but clearly different. Take a look at the images of the two plants bought as H. coccinea ‘Ballyrogan Giant’. As an intellectual exercise it takes some beating and they admit that some of their friends think they are mad.
However another issue is causing them problems at the moment. A virus is widespread in this genus and Penny and David are about to destroy many hundreds of pounds worth of nursery stock rather than sell it and spread the disease. Micropropagation, using meristem material which does not contain the virus, is the future for producing clean stock, but like Malmaison carnations and Canna which have been similarly affected with a virus, unless all growers adopt the same rigour, the virus will still spread.