One of the joys when visiting private gardens, whether it be a village run Open Garden Scheme or a National Garden Scheme garden, is the discovery of new and out of the ordinary plants that you may not see in larger gardens such as those owned by the National Trust.
Last month, as I wandered down the path of a garden in the Henfield Open Gardens I was struck by an unusual plant with fleshy leaves and blue tubular bells shaped flowers. This was my first encounter with Cerinthe Major “Purpurascens” (common name: Honeywort) and it immediately went on my “Must Have” list.
Having never seen it in a garden centre I assumed I would have to buy seeds and wait until the Spring. That is until my visit last weekend to the Parham Garden Plant Sale. There it was, I couldn’t believe my luck! Despite the number of plant stalls selling more or less the same plants, this little nursery stall was the only one with Cerinthe Major.
It goes without saying, of course, I bought it – a snip at £5.
I then read up all about the plant, where and how it grows and the ways to get the best out if it.
It has oval, cool succulent blue-green leaves, mottled with white, and rich purple-blue and electric blue tubular flowers held inside sea blue bracts. Flowering from May to August, it grows to a height of 60 cms with a spread of 30 cms.
Cerinthe Major is a RHS “perfect for pollinators” plant. Not only is attractive to bees, who love it and can be seen buzzing around the plants in summer, butterflies and other insects like it too.
For early blooms, sow in pots indoors in early spring, alternatively you can sow outdoors in April. Apparently once introduced into the garden the self-sown seedlings will mean that it rarely disappears. Time will tell, because in my garden it seems only Aquilegia self-seeds itself.
Cerinthe Major should be grown in a south facing or west facing border with well drained soil with plenty of organic matter. You can also grow it in pots but container-grown plants should be moved close to a warm house wall in the Autumn, ensuring they are on pot feet to raise then off the ground.
It makes an excellent cut flower and will really add to any country garden floral display lasting 7-10 days. Cut Cerinthe will last a little bit longer if you sear the stems in boiling water for 30 seconds.
As you can see it is a great plant to photograph and with the fleshly leaves, it lends itself to shots of raindrops which I am still trying to master.
A big bonus is that Cerinthe Major is slug resistant which in this slug infested Summer is brilliant!
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