Perennial Pleasures – a talk by John Negus

John Negus gave us a fantastic canter through his favourite perennials, it was an animated evening where John split the room into teams and offered many prizes for correct answers (and even not quite correct answers). It was very revealing as to the knowledge of our members and also highlighted the more competitive amongst us!


Here are some of John’s favourite plants (in the order presented):

Edgeworthia chrysantha – a difficult plant to grow which is flowering now. One of our members is already growing this plant and John suggested taking semi-ripe wood cuttings (July time) and rooting them in a gritty medium with some bottom heat.

Salvia superba

Phlox maculata

Scrophularia variegata

Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (golden marjoram – low growing)

Kniphophia erecta – a rare plant with upright flower tubes (normally flowerlets droop downwards)

Iris unguicularis (syn. Iris stylosa) – flowering from November – March, evergreen foliage

Cardamine quinqefolia – spreads a bit but very early flowering

Primula denticulata

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Hadspen Gold’

Helleborus orientalis choose the ‘Ashwood Hybrids’– to avoid the leaf blotch disease, cut away old foliage in November

Helleborus argutifolius – pale green, coarse foliage which is a bit more resistant to leaf blotch disease

Anemone ranunculoides

Euphorbia mellifera – choose a sunny sheltered spot with good drainage

Bergenia ‘Bressingham White’ – John recommends using this en masse around a golden conifer

Hesperis matrionalis

Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’

Paeonia mlokosewitschii – known as ‘Molly the Witch’ – the first to flower and an expensive plant

Paeonia chromotella – a large tree paeony with big double flowers, needs regular feeding with a balanced fertilizer from April – September

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Raphael’ – a huge pink fringed white paeony

Digitalis ferruginea – evergreen perennial foxglove, the tall spires create a focal point in the border

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ – rabbit, slug and deer resistant!

Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ – buy when it is in flower as some of the selections have a ‘muddy’ colour

Mecanopsis betonicifolia – tall clear blue ‘poppy’ that thrives in moist acid soil (grows well in Scotland and Ireland). This plant is monocarpic which means that it dies after flowering. John suggests that if you deadhead it immediately after flowering you can trick the plant into becoming a perennial.

Anthriscus ‘Raven’s Wing’ – purple leaved cow parsley

Corydalis flexuosa – spring flowering, low growing, looks good in a terracotta urn. The foliage dies completely back in the summer

Aquilegia ‘Magpie’, A. ‘Nora Barlow’ – a couple of good selections although there are many to choose from

Asphodeline lutea – a signature plant of Gertrude Jekyl

Helianthemum ‘ Henfield Brilliant’ – orange red low growing evergreen rockery plant

Anaphalis – pearly everlasting, good in dry soil beware it spreads a bit

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’

Erodium manescavii – very long flowering season, flowers are a bit like Geranium

Sisyrinchium – not liked by everyone due to the leaves turning black in the winter (Ed’s note: I make black string from these and therefore find extra value in the plant)

Hosta sieboldiana, Hosta ‘Hadspen Blue’

Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ – this plant does not regenerate from older wood but takes well from insitu cuttings of woody shoots.

Bearded iris, try the new french ‘Cayeux’ varieties e.g. ‘Titan’s Glory’

Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’ / ‘Cloth of Gold’ / ‘Coronation Gold’ / ‘Walter Funke’

Anthemis ‘EC Buxton’

Melianthus major – not fully hardy but normally regenerates from the base in spring. Choose a warm sheltered free draining site


Eryngium ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ (syn Eryngium giganteum) – named after Miss Wilmott who would surreptitiously spread seeds of this in friend’s gardens

Hemerocallis – although beware of the slugs

Selinum wallichianum – a bold perennial with ferny foliage and showing white umbels followed by impressive seed heads

Echinacea purpurea

Alcea (hollyhocks)

Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ / ‘Raven’ / ‘White Bedder’

Rosa ‘Ballerina’

Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’

Dianthus ‘Becky Robinson’ – a scented border carnation

Liatris spicata – flowers from the top of the spike to lower on the spike, best planted en masse

Agapanthus – Good flowers and reliable


Hostas – some ideas on how to keep slugs at bay: garlic, nematode treatment, grit / egg shell / bran mulch. Spray a very fine mist of WD40 on the plant (to do this you will need to stand 2-3 feet away)


Design tips

To sum up John recommends graduating heights and occuasionally bringing height forward in a border to create more interest.

Avoid using too many colours, don’t overlook the value of ‘green’ in the garden, choose ferns, hostas…

A paved mowing strip to a lawn is both practical and visually appealing (allows perennials to flop over without damaging the grass)


John rounded the evening off with a quiz for the teams –

  1. Name three climbing perpetual flowering roses:
  2. Rosie, Breath of Life, Compassion, Golden showers, Climbing Iceberg, New Dawn were among the answers from the audience.
  3. What is ’tillering’? (sprouting of shoots from the base of plants, particularly grass)
  4. Which vegetable has a cultivar named ‘Red Rum’? (runner bean)
  5. What colour skin has Scorzonera? (black)
  6. What is ‘Pitmaster Duchess’? (pear)
  7. What is a Japanese wineberry? (Asian species of raspberry)
  8. Name 3 winter flowering clematis (C. cirrhoas ‘Freckles’, C. napalenisis (rare), C. ‘Wisley Cream’)
  9. Akebia quinata – what does quinata mean? (5 leaflets)
  10. Leontopodium alpinum what is the common name? (Eidelweis plant)
  11. Butomis umbelatus what is the common name? Flowering rush)
  12. Monstera deliciosa? (cheese plant)
    What is the latin for ‘Mother in Law’s tongue’? (Sanseveria trifasciata)
  13. Name 3 deciduous conifers (Taxodium distichum, Ginkgo, larch, Metasequoia glyptostroboides)



Plants for damp places – Echinops, Lythrum, Salicaria, Ferns, Caltha, Astilbe…

Scotts sell Glyphosate with a hypodermic syringe for knotweed treatment

notes by Angela