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Cornucopia - More about toad lilies

More about Toad Lilies
Malcolm Michael

The trouble with this overlooked family of perennials is that they are not spectacular and many must be put off by the exhortation to plant in moist conditions in shade.

Like Annie I have found them far more adaptable than textbooks suggest and I prefer the safety of a container to the vulnerability of a border position. Snails and slugs love them and will wreak devastation in one night of gorging on the tasty new growth. Avoid the heartache and outwit the slimy menaces by sticking to container culture. This way you can move them around without fear of setback until you hit the perfect spot to show them off.

I’ve had Tricyrtis formosana 'Gilt Edge' for over four years and rate it highly for its gold variegation, which ought to be confined to leaf edges but is inclined to inset streaking, haphazardly and irregularly, so you never know what the next set of leaves will produce. One thing is sure, the variegation never extends over the whole leaf surface, which means there is never any risk of a gaudy effect.

Smallish lavender flowers with darker blotches arrive in late summer in loose terminal clusters. When I bought 'Gilt Edge' it was classed as a T. hirta cultivar but in the meantime someone has had a rethink and reclassified it as a T. formosana cultivar. Put the two species side by side and you can see the difference!

Propagation is easy by simple division in early spring, a good time also to take cuttings using a heated propagator and a 50/50 mixture of peat and perlite. A word of caution if propagating T. hirta material: don’t get them too wet or they’ll rot.

Growing from seed can have its excitement because Tricyrtis cross-pollinate readily. Seed sown in spring from the previous autumn’s harvest will germinate readily and flower the same year. As with aquilegias etc. such is the path to new sports and cultivars.

20 species are listed in cultivation of which five have synonyms. To date only one plant – T. formosana - has achieved the RHS’s accolade of an AGM (H4). T. f. 'Gilt Edge' is one of nine variegated forms listed in the current Plantfinder but as yet I haven’t been able to make any comparison. Unassuming though Tricyrtis may be, they play their part in bringing balance to a garden.

First published in the Hertfordshire Group Newsletter, Spring / Summer 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 28.
© Copyright for this article: Malcolm Michael

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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