We've started this year's seed distribution scheme as usual.  Please send us your seeds as soon as they are ready.

Featured Conservation Plants: February 2016

February 2016:
Astilbe ‘Sheila Haxton’ (was ‘Rosemary Bloom’)

This dwarf astilbe was introduced to the Conservation Scheme in 2002 as a good plant that was little known. It is not clear which HPS group made the introduction, but according to our records, the original plant was sourced from and verified by Blooms of Bressingham. It was a selection made by Adrian Bloom and named after his wife Rosemary and may have Astilbe chininess var. pumila (the dwarf Chinese astilbe) in its parentage. Information from Blooms database describes it as having large pink flowers on short stems that once established is one of the most prolific flowering astilbes, blooming over a long period through July and August.

Astilbes are members of the family Saxifragaceae and grown for their handsome, fern-like foliage and feathery plumes of flowers. They are adapted to shade and moist soil and are particularly associated with pond-side planting. This cultivar can grow to a height of 50cm (this may be the overall height with flowers) with a neat mound of foliage.

Although this plant has been in the scheme for a number of years reports from growers seem to suggest that it is slow to bulk up and needs some care if it is to survive, being intolerant of both drought and winter wet. Plants may be susceptible to vine weevil (although it is not clear whether this is a problem in the open garden or for plants grown in pots). It is propagated by division.

As the plant is currently offered by only 1 source in the 2015 Plantfinder, and is not listed in the National Collections, it is difficult to know the date it was originally introduced or when the change of name occurred. I am also curious as to who Sheila Haxton is/was. It would be helpful if any of our growers could supply more information.

Jan Vaughan

The Conservation scheme involves HPS members in growing these plants and documenting the best way to grow and propagate them. The plants are distributed across the country with many local groups and individual growers being involved.

The scheme is open to all HPS members. More information about the scheme can be found here.

Since the present scheme started in 1998, we have been successful in conserving over 30 plant varieties that are, in our opinion, all worthy of being grown in British gardens. However, there are still a large number of potentially garden worthy plants in need of conservation.

If you are a interested in making this (or any other of our conservation plants) available on a commercial basis, please contact the National Coordinator.

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