As part of our 30th Anniversary celebration in 2018 we are compiling a list of our HPS Kent Top 30 ‘couldn’t do without plants’. Members have been asked to choose their Top Five.

Only five? You cannot be serious!

Now I’ve tried, honestly I have, but every time I put my mind to making the choice I find it’s just too difficult, if not impossible, and I put it aside again until another time. But with the deadline looming it was time to make the decision.

At our recent Local Group seed packing get together, during a lull in the conversation – and there aren’t usually many of those, are there? – I asked if anyone had picked their five yet. There were groans about it being impossible and it turned out that nobody had yet made a decision. “Let’s start with trees,” I suggested. “Trees?” they said, “We can’t have trees, only perennials.” I wasn’t at all sure about this but decided to go along with it because I could see that having trees, shrubs, grasses, bulbs and corms removed was going to make choosing a whole lot easier. “OK, where do we start?” We’d have to have a geranium and I very quickly chose Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’. There were other suggestions including most peoples’ favourite, G. ‘Rozanne’. “Where next?” I must have a euphorbia. Quick think but I can’t decide between Euphorbia mellifera and E. characias. “I must have a phlox,” someone suggested. You only have to say the word phlox and you can smell that glorious perfume but which one would you choose? From the exotic to the ever so humble, to alchemilla and nepeta. Could you imagine a garden without either? The group were a bit iffy about the former but a little more positive about the latter and I guess Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ would be a good choice. Roses tried to wheedle their way into the conversation but were firmly booted out – shrubs!

“Bergenias,” I said. Deathly silence. What have you got against them? Two spring to mind, Bergenia ‘Bach’ and B. ‘Beethoven’. Back to the exotic, what about peonies? They don’t last long but they are beautiful. And then there are poppies. Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ came in for a bit of stick but there are lots more from which to choose. If you have a damp spot you might consider primulas as must have or one of the hundreds of hostas. How can they be so far down the list? Someone suggested Hosta ‘June’ as their favourite and, of rather larger proportions, H. ‘Sum and Substance’. Can you believe we haven’t mentioned buttercups or daisies yet? Aquilegias are for many a mainstay of the spring garden and airy thalictrum a great favourite. Would autumn be complete without Michaelmas daisies? I’ll leave you to struggle with the new name. Dicentras are great in spring and Dicentra formosa ‘Langtrees’ is my all time favourite. When penstemon was mentioned most people thought Penstemon ‘Garnet’ a worthy candidate, some even having a go at its right name – Penstemon ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’. And before we had to stop chatting and pack away someone mentioned salvias. Now I can’t see it myself but a lot of people go potty for salvias. I like bergenias – what can I say? There are many from which to choose and more being developed all the time.

The little envelopes of seed were all packed away and we were packed off home. As soon as I got in I hunted out one of the forms to be used to send in our lists that I’d collected from the past few meetings and there it was in black and white. They need not be perennials but can include trees, shrubs, grasses, bulbs and corms – but they must be hardy.  Now what? Back to square one? Well not quite. I already had a vague idea of my choices and the day’s discussion had firmed up a few of those.

I decided to do without a tree but include a fair-sized shrub. Another flower that I definitely wanted just happens to be a bulb so that’s gone in. Two from my list from earlier in the day survived the cut, leaving one space to fill. This had better be good so needs a lot of thought. I haven’t got any grasses yet although I love grasses and grow quite a few. If I could have six choices I’d definitely put one in. And if I had seven choices I’d include a tree and I guess it would be a silver birch. However, I only have five so it’s decision time. I looked out of the bedroom window and there it was – my fifth plant, which should probably have been my first!

So, at long last and after a lot of soul-searching I have my list. All my choices, bar one, have a very long season of interest whether in flower, foliage or stem. The ‘bar one’ has a delightful, if short, time in the sun. Will yours be good doers or will they have a short but gloriously colourful life? Will they be plants you’ve known and grown for years, ones that have particular memories for you, or newcomers that you’ve only just come across and now can’t be without?

You must choose and choose NOW!

Anne is waiting for your list. You can send it on the form included with the last newsletter or by email. All contact details are in the newsletter. Please try to send it by the end of the year although Anne is willing to extend the deadline just a little so that she gets as many contributions as possible. If you have joint membership you can send two lists.


Do please take part. It will be great fun and very interesting to see what we come up with.

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