Featured Plant No. 10 – Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma palmata in the Winter Border at Chartwell

Kirengeshoma palmata in the Autumn/Winter Border at Chartwell

With temperatures reaching up to the low-mid twenties here at sunny Chartwell this week you could be forgiven for thinking that its still Summer! However, the reality is that we are most certainly running head first into Autumn now as September grinds to a halt and October’s golden tones can be seen in the distance. It is not surprising perhaps then that while areas such as the Herbaceous Border and the Cut Flower area are still strutting their colourful stuff, the Autumn/Winter Border here in Churchill’s gardens is starting to put on a bit of a show once again too. And it is here that you can find the focus of this week’s blog, our Kirengeshoma palmata plants.

These drooping butter-yellow bells look stunning right now

These drooping butter-yellow bells look stunning right now

While these shade-loving beauties are not the most common plants in the gardens of Britain, there is plenty of reasons to suggest that maybe they should be. You can find them at Chartwell about halfway up the border, nestling happily in the shade of the our huge Walnut tree (Juglans nigra). So suited are they to partial or deep shade, that there is no reason why they couldn’t be the go-to plant for those little sun-starved spots every garden has. There is one proviso though: they only thrive in lime-free soils (and if truth be told, much prefer a sheltered rather than open spot). The soil along our Autumn/Winter border isn’t acidic as such, but it is that absence of alkaline lime that ticks the Kirengeshoma box.

When the flowers fully open you can really see the intricacies of their structure

When the flowers fully open you can really see the intricacies of their structure

Fully hardy in the UK, this herbaceous perennial is commonly known as Yellow Wax Bells and is a member of the Hydrangeaceae family. Native to the woodlands of Korea and Japan, the buds start to form on the elegant, drooping stems in late Summer before they really hit their stride during Autumn. Each plant can reach up to 120cm tall and 75cm wide, but they may need some staking in sandy soils. Although it is generally disease-free, it can be prone to slug and snail attack in some areas. Touch wood that ours seem unaffected so far this year! A moist soil will promote better growth than a dry one and it may need dividing every now and again as it is a clump forming plant in the right conditions.

The palmate leaves are almost as attractive as the blooms

The palmate leaves are almost as attractive as the blooms. They turn gold late in the season if the frost doesn’t nobble them

The name Kirengeshoma is formed from words in the Japanese language. ‘Ki’ means yellow and ‘renge’ means lotus blossom while ‘shoma’ means hat. ‘Rengashoma’ itself is the Japanese common name for Anemonopsis macrophylla which this plant is said to look similar to, although is not the same colour at all. It has been cultivated in the British Isles for more than a century and was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.

There are still plenty of spherical buds on our plants at Chartwell

There are still plenty of spherical buds on our plants at Chartwell

Kirengeshoma palmata is also a medicinal plant, containing biologically active flavonoids in roots and rhizomes. It is generally thought to reproduce sexually through cross-pollination by insects and asexually by spreading rhizomes. It has become rare, almost endangered, in its native Japan in recent years, all the more reason to enjoy the plants that we have over here perhaps.

The Autumn/Winter Border, viewed from the top end where the Cyclamen, Brunnera and heathers are looking fab right now

The Autumn/Winter Border, viewed from the top end where the Cyclamen, Brunnera and heathers are looking fab right now

The Kirengeshoma is by far the only plant to be putting on a show in the Autumn/Winter Border right now. Although the area is only just revving up for a long season there is plenty to catch the eye already as the pictures below can testify…

These Chelsea-chopped Sedums are still burgeoning but the bees love them already!

These Chelsea-chopped Sedums are still burgeoning but the bees love them already!

Most of the Asters are still on their way but this little Aster novi-belgii 'Apple Blossom' is giving an early showing

Most of the Asters are still on their way but this little Aster novi-belgii ‘Apple Blossom’ is giving an early showing

The pink heads of this Miscanthus sinensis 'Flamingo' look amazing rustling in the wind

The pink heads of this Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ look amazing rustling in the wind

The Cardiocrinum giganteum plants are still yet to put on their full dinosaur-headed show but they still look pretty darn interesting even at this stage!

The Cardiocrinum giganteum plants are still yet to put on their full dinosaur-headed show but they still look pretty darn interesting even at this stage!

Some perfectly formed Colchicum speciosum 'Album' bulbs are are starting to rear their pretty heads

Some perfectly formed Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ bulbs are are starting to rear their pretty heads

So when you next pop in to see us at Chartwell, make sure you walk along our Autumn/Winter Border where you might spot a few hidden gems. You’ll find the area in the Orchard running up along one of Churchill’s famous walls. And if you see me around I’ll be more than happy to show you the highlights in person!

Jamie

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