Plant Heritage’s Christmas carol collections
What floral versions of the traditional carol would we give to our true loves to beautify their garden on the 12 days of Christmas? Drawing on our flagship National Plant Collections Scheme for inspiration we came up with a lovely list – not necessarily in flower in the festive season, but something to look forward to as this unseasonably warm autumn hardens into winter. Details of when each collection is open to the public can be found on our website or in the annual Plant Heritage Collections Directory.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
12 Lords-a-Leaping – Perhaps stately Delphinium ‘Lord Butler’? The two Delphinium Collections are to be found in Queen Mary’s Gardens, Regent’s Park, London and Temple Newsam, Leeds
11 Ladies Dancing Echeveria derenberia ‘Painted Lady’, a pretty succulent. A collection of Echeveria is to be found over the seas on the Isle of Skye.
10 Pipers Piping – Campanula latiloba ‘Percy Piper’. SueWooster’s bellflower collection is sheltered in the Langham Hall Walled Garden, Suffolk.
9 Drummers Drumming – Rosa ‘Drummer Boy’ – so many rose collections to view – from 19th Century shrubs to Scots roses and ramblers.
8 Maids-a-Milking – Cardamine pratenis (Milkmaids or Cuckoo Flower). See 31 varieties in Mrs Wilkins’ garden inYork.
7 Swans-a-Swimming – Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (above). The Echinacea collection grows at Elton Hall, Herefordshire amongst follies and late summer flowers and grasses.
6 Geese-a-Laying – Ribes uva-crispa – gooseberry. Brogdale Farm, Kent, is the place to find gooseberries, and so many other varieties of fruits, as you would expect of the home of the National Fruit Collection.
5 Gold Rings – Berberis thunbergii ‘Gold Ring’ – the Japanese barberry. Lady Quicke has the Berberis collection in her 15 acre garden in Devon. Open on Sundays throughout the year.
4 Colly Birds – Colly Bird is an old name for blackbird. Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ is a handsome plant with near-black leaves. Take care when visiting the Oxford Botanic Gardens, as these plants have skin-irritating sap.
3 French Hens – Sempervivum is often known as Hen and Chicks. Sempervivum ‘Monique’ is surely French! Mr and Mrs Wills in Devon are the keepers of a huge flock – more than 1,000 varieties.
2 Turtle Doves – A brace of white Aquilegia ‘Dove’. The common name for these pretty perennials, Columbine, derives from the Latin for dove (columba). Carrie Thomas has gathered 450 varieties in her small cottage garden near Swansea, which come to a flowering peak in the second half of May.
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree – surely an Aloe Variegata (Partridge Breasted Aloe) in a Pyrus communis (Perry pear) pursuit of which will take you almost from one end of the country (Aberdeen) to another (Gloucestershire). Well, this Christmas gift challenge is intended to be a demonstration of love!