Everyone has their faults and, among my many bad habits is an enthusiasm for plants that I find endearing or fascinating but that other gardeners would pull out at the first opportunity. That is why I give two ratings to the plants I describe: a sensible rating that is based on a rational judgement and a rating based purely on my personal taste. So here we go with another plant that most people would pass by without even noticing but that I would hate not to have in the garden. I don’t have it here but it is creeping around the garden in the UK and I saw it the other week in the Botanic Garden in Dublin.
Reineckia carnea is a creeping plant from western China with long, narrow leaves and is now in Convallariaceae. The leaves grow to about 25cm high and the plant consists of creeping, reddish stems that form a network across the soil surface with tufts of half a dozen upright, gracefully arching leaves. It is evergreen and the stems root as they grow so it makes perfect ground cover. It will mix in with other ground cover plants and in shade the stolons are longer as it spreads wider to get to better light and it tends to make denser cover in a brighter spot. It prefers semi shade and soil that is always moist or the leaves, which are evergreen, can get a bit scorched and tatty. Most references say that it need acid or neutral soil but in Peterborough where I cannot grow camellias or rhododendrons it thrives so I think that only very alkaline soils should be avoided. Adding organic matter is a good idea and that is easily done by working a light mulch of compost into the clump in spring – it gives the stolons something to root into and keeps the clump vigorous.
The flowers are produced in autumn. Again some references seem confusing and they say it blooms in spring. I have never known this to happen. For me the short stems of deep pink buds open to starry, pale pink flowers in late autumn, usually in October and November. I would hardly say they are showy because they are produced below the leaves. But they are pretty and any flowers so late in the year are welcome. They are supposed to produce red berries but I have never seen a single fruit in the 25 years I have had the plant. Whether this is because I have a single clone and more than one is needed or whether it is because it needs more warmth to ensure pollination I am not sure. I suppose I could try a pot in the greenhouse in winter to be sure. In fact, this would be a great plant for a pot so the flowers could be better seen around the edge. Berries would be nice but I won’t lose sleep over it.
Although this isn’t a plant that will set pulses racing it is a charming addition to the garden and a good alternative to lamiums, vinca and other ground cover.