Monday, 20 April 2015

Not Dead Yet. Back from gardening leave with a hybrid skunk...

So I came back from Chelsea last May, knuckled down to a spot of weeding and whoosh! Nearly a year went by. How did that happen? It certainly wasn't intentional. Anyway, the good news is it's spring all over again.

The buttermilk hood and green spathe of the skunk cabbage Lysichiton x hortensis backlit in the morning sun caught my eye as I walked along the stream today. I first saw this plant on the cover of Beth Chatto's Damp Garden and ordered mine from Beth's nursery soon afterwards. Over time it has made a substantial plant that thrusts up its richly textured, but none-too-subtle flowers (like Lords-and-Ladies on steroids, or possibly viagra) in April. These are followed by mid-green leaves that gradually expand into enormous great paddles a metre or more in length, forming the perfect architectual foil to other wetland plants such as the native Yellow Flag Iris Iris pseudacorus and Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata, though the latter is highly poisonous and should be used with caution.

Lysichiton x hortensis is a sterile hybrid between the better known bright-yellow-flowered American Skunk Cabbage L. americanus and its white-flowered Asian cousin L. camtschatsensis. Since there is no seed, L. x hortensis can be planted without the risk of it becoming invasive, either within the confines of the garden, or in the wider environment – something that has become a major problem with American Skunk Cabbage in some UK wetlands (see here for example).

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