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Ceratostigma willmottianum



Pinetum - lower path


A delightful shrub: bountiful clusters of striking blue flowers, contrasting beautifully with its steadily reddening leaves at this time of year. Named by Ernest Wilson, Ceratostigma is from the Greek word keras (a horn) and stigma, alluding to the horn-like branches of the stigma of each flower. Willmottianum is in honour of a Miss Ellen Ann Willmott - a famous amateur gardener who created a lavish garden at Warley Place (Essex) in the late 19th century. Naturally occurring in much of Asia, this low-growing deciduous shrub would serve excellently in a mixed border, providing both summer and autumn interest.

Panicum virgatum 'Squaw'



Grass Garden - trials circle


The burgundy hues of the feathery inflorescences combine superbly with the rich reds and greens of this cultivar’s elegant bunches of foliage. The warm tones of the Panicum beautifully complement those of the adjacent Miscanthus sinensis ‘Sirene’ and Echinacea purpurea here in the botanic garden. Native to the Americas, this perennial grass will happily grow in a range of soils, tolerating periodic flooding, and even drought conditions once established. Recent US research has shown that this fast-growing species can be grown as an effective biomass crop, delivering vast savings of carbon dioxide emissions compared with petrol - an important discovery considering the mounting threat of climate change.

Lapageria rosea (Chilean bell flower)



Terrace area - behind parrot cages


With extravagant, rose-pink flowers contrasting dramatically with rich green foliage, this evergreen climber is certainly one of the garden’s gems. The name Lapageria commemorates Josephine Lapagerie, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and an enthusiastic patron of botany. Lapageria is native to South America, and in Chile, it is the national flower. The species climbs naturally through the branches of shrubs and trees in moist forest habitats, and is pollinated by hummingbirds. Sadly, the plant is now endangered in the wild, through over-collection and forest clearance.

Pennisetum macrourum



Grass Garden - trials circle


A spectacular South African grass, forming tussocks of pale green foliage from which long, pale-coloured plumes arch elegantly upwards and catch the low Autumn light. The Latin name Pennisetum has been allocated in response to such plumes, derived from penna, meaning ‘feather‘, and seta, meaning ‘bristle’ - the hairs attached to the flower plumes are feathered in some species. Though an exceptional ornamental for a sunny UK garden, in New Zealand, for instance, it is considered a serious weed. Via its vigorous rhizome system it can form dense infestations, which completely eliminate all other plants.

Hakonechloa macra 'Mediovariegata'



Grass Garden - trials circle


Charming, mop-headed hummocks of yellow-striped leaves add vivid splashes of colour to the Grass Garden this month. A native of Japan, the species naturally inhabits woodlands, frequently in mountainous locations. This handsome grass could liven up a shady rockery or woodland, or soften hard edges to paths or steps. Planting alone in a minimalist container could have equally spectacular results. A number of ornamental cultivars of the species exist, most notably ‘Aureola’, which holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

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