Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

Sublime and divine….

A fantastic hardy member of the ginger family, this group of tuberous perennials with their orchid resembling flowers appear between May and August and some varieties, when a sizable clump, can carry on flowering for up to eight weeks.

Originating from forests, rock ledges and alpine meadows in the Himalayas from Pakistan to southwestern China, they prefer a humus-rich, moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil. A cool and sheltered site in light, dappled or partial shade is ideal making them a perfect addition to the summer woodland garden. If growing them in a very cold area I would apply a deep, winter mulch. These plants are frost hardy provided they are planted at the correct depth. This can help with excess heat too as they do like a cool root run. Plants are either sold potted (plant at the same depth as in the pot), or sometimes as a tuber (plant 10-15cm deep). They will also grow happily in a container, providing they have some frost protection in severe frosts. Ensure plants are not dry in the summer and are not waterlogged in their long dormancy period over winter.

Colours can range from pale yellow, cream, white, purple, pink and red. Some have red tinges to the stems. Some such as ‘beesiana’ represent a group rather than a cultivar so includes different incidences of a plant cross, therefore these can vary greatly.

Varieties I grow here are:

R. purpurea ‘Nico’ – large purple flowers on stems up to 35cm through July and August. Seen here with a painted fern and Corydalis ‘Blackberry Wine’, which makes a delightful combination.

R. beesiana ‘Monique’ – white flowers with varied purple speckling and flecks in late June and July

R. Wisley Amethest – White flowers with distinctive purple stripes in July

R. Harvington Summer ‘Deep Purple’ – purple flowers on 40cm stout stems from July into August

R. Harvington ‘Evening Star’ – Dark purple flowers on stems up to 45cm high in June and July

R. auriculata ‘Floriade’ – large purplish-pink flowers with white centres on stems up to 20cm high in July and August

Roscoea cautleyoides ‘Early Form’ – pale yellow flowers in late May and June

R. purpurea ‘Red Ghurka’ – large red flowers on short stout stems in mid-August to September. Not as hardy as some of the others, so may need extra protection. Really stands out from the rest.

R. scillifolia – this is far daintier, with very dark purple (almost black) flowers (or pink on the ‘pink form’) on stems up to 20cm high in July, with possibly a second flush of flowers in the autumn. Will freely set seed. Better suited to the rock garden or alpine house as is too small for the flower border.

One word of warning, mark where your Roscoeas are planted very well and be patient, as they are late risers – some varieties as late as June. It would be a terrible shame to sink a trowel or spade into such a delight, having forgotten it was planted there!

Posted: 07/07/2016 14:33:18 by Pamela Barden