I am waiting for the sun to shine – we are supposed to be seeing it after what seems like weeks of dullness. So I am using a few pics taken a week or so ago, of persicarias. They look better now and will look even better if the sun shines on them. I apologise for the photos which are a bit dull.
Persicarias are often known as polygonums and are not the most popular of herbaceous perennials. They are often dock-like and the flowers are not large. But they are tough, reliable and they flower for months. In this post I am going to focus on P. amplexicaulis because there are too many to generalise about.
This species is Himalayan in origin and the leaves are narrow with pointed tips. The base of the leaf surrounds the stem – amplexicaul – though this feature is not restricted to this species. I find it comes into growth rather late in spring but slowly builds into shapely mounds that are largely self-supporting. In rich soil they will need some support. But rich soil is not essential and they will grow in any soil, including clay. Full sun will encourage lots of flowers but they can tolerate part shade. They spread slowly into dense clumps by thick rhizomes that creep along the soil. They put up with dry soil but are better if there is constant moisture, at least till well established.
The flowers are tiny but cute. And they are produced in such large numbers that they are showy. The flowers are loved by bees and also wasps. I have not seen butterflies visit them much but there is never a time when there is not at least one honeybee on a plant.
In recent years a swathe of new varieties has been introduced, possibly in response to the fashion for ‘prairie planting. I have been slowly collecting as many as I can, though I have lots more to get, and I confess that a lot, at least when they are still young, are rather similar. But some of my plants are only a year old so it would be unfair to judge yet. Even so, I will praise the two that I love the most.
Firtsly, ‘Alba’. I love this plant.
It is wispy and when it starts to bloom, with just a few, narrow, spikes, it hardly makes any impact. But the show builds as the days shorten. I guess it would look best against a dark hedge but it shines when the sun is behind it. I have planted it, repeatedly, between my hazels where it should glow in the shade – when the hazels finally shade them! A curious feature is that the flower spikes seem to be fasciated and twisty now and then. It is the tallest of them all, so far, at about 1.2m high just as it is felled by the frost.
A close second to this is ‘OrangeField’ (Below). I like this because it is a different colour to the usual red and it seems to be a good grower. My clump is in awful soil that is too wet in winter and it doesn’t care a jot. I will be dividing it next spring and making a lot more of this gem. I apologise again for the cloudy day.
‘Taurus’ (above), ‘J S Caliente’ (below) and ‘Firedance’ (bottom) are all rather similar at present, but all colourful.
‘Golden Arrow’ is a gem because the foliage is yellow. At present it is struggling a bit because it has been so dry but I expect it to shine when the ground is moister.