Plant of the month: January
Inula hookeri – Herbaceous Border
This shaggy member of the daisy family, with its beautifully geometric spiral pattern of unopened central florets, originates from the Himalayas. It is a great attraction to bees, that appreciate the long period of pollen production resulting from the sequential opening of the florets.
The plant’s specific name commemorates Sir Joseph Hooker, one of the most eminent botanists and explorers of his day, who found it in the Himalayas and introduced it to British gardens in 1849. The generic name of this plant, Inula, has given its name to the carbohydrate inulin, which it stores in its roots instead of starch. Inulin – which is also present in Dahlia and Jerusalem artichoke tubers – has little effect on blood sugar levels and so is often used as a sweetener in foods for diabetics. Unfortunately – as anyone who has ever eaten significant quantities of Jerusalem artichoke will testify – it can generate acute attacks of flatulence for anyone who doesn’t gradually add it to their diet.
Inula hookeri is a clump-forming , slowly spreading perennial. It performs best in a sunny position and is tolerant of most garden soils.