You know how it is; you are walking round a flower show, the weight of the plants in the carrier bags making the handles cut into the flesh of your fingers, your feet damp and most of your money gone. You have just enough for a coffee, if only you could find somewhere to sit and anyway, how will you get to your money or carry your coffee with both hands laden with botanical goodies. And then you see something new. It is as though it is highlighted with a laser. Like a green siren it draws you closer and suddenly all thoughts of coffee are gone. The pain in your fingers is forgotten and somehow they gain enough strength to extricate the last coins from the depths of your pockets. Picking up your bags suddenly they seem lighter even though their contents have increased and you trundle home on shoes made of thistledown.
You can tell that I found something nice at the show last weekend. Before I build up the excitement to fever pitch so you are disappointed later I have to say straight away that the plant is a form of Saxifraga stolonifera. In the UK (and I assume in Ireland too) it is called mother-of-thousands and in America the strawberry begonia (I can see why but what a confusing name).
I have a strong affection for this plant and knew it as a child. It was usually grown as a houseplant. It was easy to please and would survive in a cold room. The rounded leaves made a tidy rosette and it sent out long red stolons (stems) with tiny plants on them that could be pegged to soil and rooted. If it was happy it would produce airy stems of white flowers that may be small but they are intricately shaped.
Many years ago I experimented with it outside to see if it would make good ground cover and I was delighted to say that it did, in shade.
So I had to buy (three) Saxifraga stolonifera ‘Kinki Purple’ when I saw them. I must say that I was very doubtful about the name but it was right. It seems it gets its name because it was collected by Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones (collector’s number BSWJ4972) on the on the Kinki peninsula in Honshu, Japan in 1997.
The plants I have seem to be rather pale, perhaps because they have been in shade and in a marquee but the leaves are lime green with a purple underside and the plants seem to have had irregular purple flashes on the leaves but what made it exceptional was the red hairs all over it, rather like Rubus phoenicolasius (Japanese wineberry).
I am going to be adventurous with my plants and propagate like crazy so I can use them in baskets and pots as well as in the garden.
It is an easy plant to grow but it can suffer from vine weevil grub damage and aphids cam be a nuisance on the flower spikes though maybe this hirsute form will be harder for the greenfly to suck dry. Watch out for overly wet soil. If the soil is dry it will struggle but survive but if it is wet and heavy clay it will really suffer. If you improve the soil with organic matter or grit your plants will benefit.