Heucheras

There are a lot of plants I don’t like. Ornamental cabbage, hollyhocks, begonias, chrysanthemums, ranunculus, impatiens and dahlias spring to mind all-too readily, but I’m sure if I put my mind to it then there are others that promote nothing but ire in me (if you like them, good for you – just don’t expect me to gush over them for your benefit).

There are also plants that I used to like and now don’t (pansies) and – possibly rarer still – those plants I used to dislike that are now bosom buddies. Such as the heucheras (incidentally, I’m including heucherellas -hybridised offspring of heuchera and tiarella- in that nomenclature).

The genus Heuchera are herbaceous perennial plants in the family Saxifragaceae, all native to North America. They are tough, will tolerate and even thrive in a semi-shaded position and they are not pH sensitive. Quite importantly for me in my garden, Heuchera are not attacked by slugs or snails (whether they enjoy being alternately dug up or urinated on by cats remains to be seen …). They are predominantly grown for their striking foliage (further hybridisations by commercial growers create new colours almost every year), and the leaf colour may also change in response to lower temperatures, giving rise to dramatic autumn highlights. Heuchera can grow out of the ground over time, but lifting and replanting deeper will re-invigorate old plants.

Something I didn’t know was that Heuchera are resistant to the chemical juglone produced by walnut trees to suppress vegetation beneath the canopy.

Other fun facts include that many native North American people used it medicinally. The Tlingit used H. glabra as a remedy for inflammation of the testicles caused by syphilis. To the Navajo, H. novamexicana was a panacea and a pain reliever. The roots of H. cylindrica had a variety of medicinal uses among the Blackfoot, Flathead, Kutenai, Okanagan, Colville, and Shuswap. Needless to say I am not advocating self-medication using any of the above …

There shade-loving and evergreen attributes are what made me look them over again when I was researching plants to go into the ‘shady border’. A trip to a garden centre later and I was the proud owner of three Palace Purple.

 

Palace Purple, June 2013

Palace Purple, June 2013

As you can see in the above photo, they were joined by a number of other plants – including a pair of misplaced Japanese anemones,  Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’, two Convallaria majalis (Lily of the valley) and a number of annuals at the front. The trunk to the right of the picture is of a lilac (probably Syringa vulgaris) and the main cause of the shade here (the other being the privet hedge to the rear of the border – tragically untrimmed by the neighbours).

A month later and they had definitely settled in …

Palace Purple, July 2013

Palace Purple, July 2013

Following the removal of the honeysuckle plant (you can just make it out on the left in the top photo), and a reshuffle (and addition) of plants, a visit to the garden section of a local farm shop saw me purchase another. This was Cherry Cola.

And then came another three …  Sugar Berry, Tapestry and Lime Marmalade…

These are now all happily ensconced in the enlarged shady border and, following a recent phone call from my mother, will be joined by another five in October: Caramel, Paris, Lime Rickey, Kimono and Obsidian.

Where are they going to go? I have no idea. But they’ll go somewhere … even if its a bit of a squish!

 

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