Eden Project's top 10 plants of the year: 2018
We asked the Eden Team to name their favourite plants of 2018 from our enormously diverse collection. Here are their top 10. You'll find plenty of ideas for your own garden...
1.Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens (near Ice Cream Parlour)
My favourite plants at Eden are the large Euphorbias near the Ice cream parlour. I think they are absolutely beautiful and their unusual green flowers are stunning. They look so alien yet so at home surrounded by the smaller plants in their areas. I love that they look wonderful throughout the whole year too. – Deryck Wilshaw
2. Harlequin glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii)
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens (near the Orchard)
I love this shrub! Partly for the look of its white flowers in a green calyx, which then develop into glorious bright pink around a fantastic and bright turquoise-coloured single fruit. But I love it mostly because those fruits dye that same splendid turquoise onto silks and wool, due to the uncommon pigment trichotomine. Divine!
Eden grows this East Asian deciduous shrub outside as it is hardy to about -20°C. It likes all soils and pHs, though prefers moist soils and a lot of sun. It is also known as stinky tree, due to the pungent smell of the leaves, and pungent they certainly are! Those same leaves and new young sprouts are said to be edible, but would you...? Medicinal uses are said to be mildly analgesic, anti pruritic (stops itching), anti rheumatic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), parasitic and sedative. The pounded seeds can kill lice and are also poisonous for people.
The plant is named after Paul Guillaume Farges (1844-1912), a French missionary, botanist and plant collector, who spent most of his life in China. And speaking of names, Clerodendrum derives from the Greek klero, meaning destiny or chance; dendrum, meaning tree, and trichotomum, signifying triple-forked, referring to the leaves that sometimes have three lobes. The Chinese know it as chou wu tong, meaning “tree of good fortune”. Good fortune indeed for the plant dyer! – Carla Wentink
Photo: Noel Zia Lee
3. Chilean guava (Ugni molinae)
Where to find it: Wild Chile exhibit in the Outer Estate near Pineapple Car Park
A beautiful little evergreen shrub that not only looks good all year round, but also produces the tastiest little berries that no one can say no to.
Come late spring the shrub will produce amazing little pinky-white bell-shaped flowers that ripen into the most incredible berries through autumn and winter, ready for picking. Eaten raw straight from the plant, placed in a dessert or scattered over yogurt, these berries taste amazing whatever you do with them.
Fun fact: this little number was Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, being grown in the mild climates of Cornwall and then being sent up to London via train for her to enjoy.
We have a good number of these shrubs scattered around some of the beds at Eden, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for them! – Jake Hawke
4. Capsicum‘Trinidad Perfume’
Where to find it: sometimes grown in the Mediterranean Biome
A beautiful little chilli with small, 4cm-long yellow pods that are just asking to be eaten. Like its big brothers the Trinidad Scorpion and the Scotch Bonnet, it has all the taste, texture and aroma, but unlike them, has barely any heat, rating only 0-500 SHU (Scoville heat units). It’s what makes this chilli a favourite among people who love the flavour of chillies but not the heat.
‘Trinidad Perfume’ gets its name from the intense aromas that it gives off when being cooked. The flavours can infuse a bland salad with a great sweetness that will get you addicted to chillies before you know it!
The pods can be eaten raw straight from the plant or, for a little extra wow, cooked up in a dish to release those beautiful aromas. – Jake Hawke
Photo: Horticulturalist RJ
5.Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens (near the Rose Pergola)
Daphne bholua flowers from December to January in the outdoor garden here at Eden but can flower late winter into early spring as long as it is in a relatively frost-sheltered area.
When the garden is sleepy and the robins are hungrily following the gardeners around, this sweet-smelling Daphne brightens up our garden. You'll definitely smell it before you see it as the tiny clusters of light pink flowers are beautifully scented and it travels on the morning air for some distance.
It is a winter gem that for the rest of the year is quite unassuming.
I Love Daphne because it gives me hope that not everything is as grey as our long Cornish winters and a sign for the spring wonder to come. – Riyah Snow
Who would have thought that such a small flower can produce so much heavenly scent?! There’s nothing nicer, even on a dull and dismal day, than walking past the specimens at Eden, dotted around in different locations (so no one misses out!) and breathing in that lovely, sweet smell – SO UPLIFTING! - and they seem to last forever.
Even after flowering, the foliage is attractive, but what I didn’t know about this lovely shrub is that it hides a more sinister side – it’s poisonous! And another interesting fact – a couple of species are used to make paper – what an all-rounder! – Karen Dawkins
6.Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens
In the spring, clusters of pink flowers adorn the bare stems, followed by deep purple seed pods and large heart-shaped red leaves, which turn through shades of bronze, orange and yellow in the autumn. I love this multi-stemmed tree, not just for its good looks and interest throughout the year, but because it reminds me of the person who got me hooked on horticulture in the first place, a person who gave me a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ seedling they had grown, which took pride of place in my garden.
It is a slow-growing tree, with a spread and height of 4 to 8 metres over 10 to 20 years, and it does well in moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Flowering is at its best in full sun, and it can be pruned hard in spring each year to keep it small and also to increase the leaf size, although you will lose the flowers if you do this. You need to resist the urge to feed them, as being a member of the legume family you can scorch the roots if they are given high-nitrogen feeds. Instead of artificial feed just mulch around the base of the tree once a year with leaf mould or garden compost.
They don’t suffer too badly from pests and diseases, but are susceptible to Verticillium wilt and coral spot. One word of warning – they do not like being moved once established, so when I moved house three years ago I also said goodbye to my Cercis. However, they are easily propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings in the summer or from seed sown in autumn, so fingers crossed I will have a C. canadensis 'Forest Pansy' germinating soon to plant in my new garden. – Rachel Warmington
7. Hesperantha coccinea
Hesperantha coccinea, also known as crimson flag, is a semi-evergreen, rhizomatous perennial which adds a fantastic splash of colour to the garden in the autumn with upright stems of large, deep-red, gladiolus-like flowers. This attractive plant is frost hardy and low maintenance, and will seed itself around the garden; it particularly likes damp patches. Our visitors often comment on how beautiful they are.
The name Hesperantha means “evening flower” and the genus comprises 65 species, which are distributed through both the summer and winter rainfall areas of South Africa. The species name coccinea means “scarlet” and refers to the bright-red flowers typical of this species. This species is from the summer rainfall area and is widely distributed through the eastern provinces of the country, and in Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Until recently, this species was considered to be in a separate genus, and was known as Schizostylis coccinea. It now falls within the genus Hesperantha because it shares all the characteristics required for Hesperantha and differs only in its rhizomatous rootstock and red flowers. In their native habitat the flowers are pollinated by large butterflies and long-proboscis flies. - Flo Mansbridge
Photo: Ernest McGray Jr
8. Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens (near the Core building)
This attractive conifer is both ancient and new, being thought extinct until found again in China in the 1940s. It is the only remaining species in the genus Metasequoia, the rest being in the fossil record. It was originally introduced to the UK in the late 1940s and the largest UK specimens date to this phase of introductions. Later, seed imports from the 1980s onwards led to it becoming freely available in cultivation, and it is now a popular garden and landscape tree. Here at Eden there are several examples, mostly planted around the Core building and one in the Sense of History garden.
A large, pyramid-shaped tree, it provides good winter structure (growing to an ultimate height of around 25 metres) and has light bright green ferny foliage in spring and summer followed by rusty browns and yellow tints in autumn. Hardy to -20°C, it is well suited to UK conditions, especially in the warmer south, and it prefers damp conditions. There are now several cultivars to choose from, such as ‘Gold Rush’ with golden yellow foliage, and the recent ‘Hamlet’s Broom’, a dwarfing selection. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified the species as critically endangered with a few small, scattered stands in Hubei and Szechuan. - Colin Skelly
9. Climbing roses and twining Clematis
Where to find them: Outdoor Gardens (Rose pergola)
They are like gin and tonic, eggs and bacon, Romeo and Juliet. They are in love with each other. They are the background of every Mills and Boon front cover. They are yesterday, of times gone by, when the world was simpler and wars were over.
Walking through an archway or pergola they peep up or sidle down to you in all their most alluring ways. Their names are ‘Constance Spry’, ‘Danse de Feu’, ‘Gloire de Dijon’, ‘Wedding Day’, ‘Perle d’Azur’ and ‘Fragrant Spring’.
And which is finest? Perhaps the heavily laden sprays of roses, all bursting buds so ripe with the future glory of their sumptuous flowers and pulsating scents? Or the rampant Clematis with flowers like butterflies glistening in dappled sunlight and tendrils simpering in a lover’s embrace? - Paul Stone
10. Kniphofia ‘November Glory’
Where to find it: Outdoor Gardens (on bank opposite the Core building)
If you have walked around the Outdoor Gardens in autumn you will have seen Kniphofia ‘November Glory’. When the other plants in our National Plant Collection of Kniphofia have abandoned their flowers for the year, ‘November Glory’ is reaching its peak. In our warm Cornish climate, the height of flowering is usually October, rather than November, but this is still sufficiently late to set it apart from other cultivars. Its buds are bright coral orange, transforming to warm yellow when flowering, and the flower spikes are numerous; one day in October I counted 43 flower spikes produced by our five plants. When not in flower the leaves are large, bright and robust, providing a wonderful fresh foil for the back of a border almost all year round. When in flower the spikes reach around 1.7m, standing straight and tall when other plants are beginning to bed down for the winter. - Fern Carroll-Smith