Fallen and Unfavoured.

Gracie Fields’s song “The Biggest Aspidistra in the world” seems to denote the plants vigour and robustness, but this plant has hugely fallen out of favour. Like fashion, trends/sales can differ year to year and peoples attitudes to plants can change and without warning. In the 70’s, Pampas grasses were in full “swing” quite literally, the association to key swapping parties might have contributed to its downfall. Sales plummeted and other ornamental grasses as Miscanthus sought approval and started getting more recognition. In addition to this though, it may have been that someone might have preferred a number of plants other than one, very difficult deviant dominating the whole frontage.

Aspidistra’s were a solid choice in the 19th century. The evergreen is largely a singular green colour although there is a variegated cultivar. A. elatior ‘variegata’ has more about it, though not as common and not sourced as easily. The lighting requirements of it differ aswell to its green relation. The plant can be kept outside but more often it had been used as an indoor plant. The plant copes with low light, if anything it prefers it and can suffer from leaf bleaching from direct exposure. It will tolerate a sudden change in temperature, be resilient to no care, maintenance, irregular watering so it really is quite tough.

Perhaps the plant could be regarded as a bit non-descript or insipid but in Victorian homes it was a feature of any hallway or salon. It can cope in a shaded area and deals quite well with polluted/poor air. The flowers are uncommon and usually not significant enough. They appear at the base and don’t appear very often. The plant that can produce a flower are usually very mature and found in optimum conditions. It is a slow growing plant and will only produce a number of new leaves each year which is why to get an established specimen takes some time. In the unlikely event the plant is too big, too quickly, division will be the method to propagate it. Or if you inherit one, this is the course of action.

Poinsettia is part of the Spurge family, Euphorbia too. The plants couldn’t be more different. One is synonymous with Christmas, the common one generally self seeds everywhere and has to be controlled. One is only popular at Christmas, the other accepted at all times of the year. The reality is Poinsettia are cultivated at Christmas but, with the right care and maintenance they can continue to perform as an effective houseplant the following year. it is a good idea not to over water and the plant is not over-keen on extreme temperature changes. Very hot or very cold. Since they are grown in controlled conditions, it seems when they need to adapt to varying climates i.e. people’s homes, they are not very good at coping with this change. Allow adequate drainage as this will always alleviate overwatering and minimise the risk of root rot. Keep it out of a drafty/exposed spot and ensure it gets plenty of sunlight. It will need some respite in darkness – almost half of the day of natural light and half the latter.

Alchemilla mollis is only unpopular because it seeds and spreads so quickly. Lady’s mantle is a perennial that provides foliage and flowers. Cut them back and possibly achieve another swath. This will also procure new young growth. This plant performs in shade where others wouldn’t. The biggest drawback is that it self seeds and does need dead-heading to control it. It is, however hardy, effective at filling gaps in beds and cracks, so a good choice for ground cover in poor soil.

Ivy is so very invasive. It does provide ground cover and can hide a multitude of sins. There are 12-15 species, some cultivars, so not all wild. However, it is the decimation of other neighbouring plants nearby which puts it into bad repute. It has a devastating effect on unsound brickwork and can compound problems already in situ. Similarly, Hypericum Calycinum (St John wort) won’t behave. It acts as great ground cover but doesn’t stop where it should. Its root system is highly developed and very difficult to eliminate once established. Cotoneaster, an upright and ground cover shrub that is highly resilient, it provides berries, habitat and foliage all year round but can too be seen as a nuisance. Its habit seems to need to be controlled too. Unfortunately, the more virulent the growth of a plant, it seems the more it will waiver in and out of popularity. We want the growth, we just don’t want it all!

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I'm Craft Gardener with several years experience. Due to the massive impact the internet has had on advice, forums and consultancy services - it seems knowledge and experience is everchanging and we should therefore share techniques and offer others alternative routes in pests, diseases and weed treatments. The very smallest alterations in aspect, soil conditioning and pruning can determine a plants vigour, health and lifespan hugely. My blogs and online assistance should motivate and interest even the most amateur of green fingered people. As my ex partner used to say "it's green isn't it"?