Rare plant of the month – Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’

We are currently finalising the annual re-registration of Plant Guardian plants, which usually sees an influx of new registrations, some of which are plants shared through our annual Plant Exchange.   We are delighted to include an additional 95 new registrations, with 72 new rare plants being added to the scheme.   Sadly though, this year has seen a loss of 41 registrations from the scheme, which perhaps indicates what a difficult growing season we have all experienced.  

Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’, which is threatened in cultivation, is one of the new plants having been grown by a Plant Heritage member since 1977.  During registration, we try to establish where and when a plant was introduced to cultivation, useful information for our Threatened Plants Programme too.   

Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’ cc P Lockett 

In this instance, our research has taken us back to 1966 where the Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist reported that Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’ received an Award of Merit at the Chelsea Flower Show ‘as a foliage plant for the rock garden or alpine greenhouse, subject to verification of the name,’. It had been exhibited by Mrs. S. Stone of Radlett, Hertsfordshire. ¹   The Alpine Garden Society Journal of Dec 1966 also reported the award and further stated that Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’ was said to have been growing for many years at a house in Essex known as ‘Weston’. No details were known of its origin, and it was deemed to be sufficiently different to type to be named.  The young foliage was further described as being white, becoming silver-grey when mature and it was considered ‘hardy and is a suitable dwarf shrub for a hot dry position.’² 

Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’ cc P Lockett 

Our Plant Guardian, Pat Lockett, first obtained her plant from Joe Elliott’s Broadwell Alpines in 1977.  Pat further explains ‘We were initially attracted to this Santolina, in 1977, because we tend to grow the smallest version of any plant, so fitting more plants into our garden. This is our only Santolina.  It grows in a south facing, narrow border against our bungalow wall and has been there for many years.  It has soft, dense, silvery foliage and flowers well; some years I let it flower and sometimes I cut them off; I prefer just the foliage.  It is a healthy plant with no pests or diseases.  The plant overwinters all right here in Warwickshire.  I have tried many times over the years to propagate it from cuttings with little success, but a grower friend did manage to root some cuttings for me quite a few years ago. The present two plants are replacements of the original.  It is a lovely little plant which deserves to be more widely grown.’ 

We really do appreciate (and enjoy!) that our members record rare and unusual plants grown in the British Isles & Ireland in our Plant Guardian scheme.  This helps us not only conserve these plants for future, enabling some to be shared through our annual Plant Exchange, but also enriches our knowledge of the history of plant introductions.   

Do you have a rare plant to register in our Plant Guardian scheme? http://bit.ly/PlantGuardians.  

To join Plant Heritage: https://bit.ly/PHmembership.

¹With thanks to the RHS Library archive.  

²With thanks to the Alpine Garden Society archive.