Friday, 19 June 2009


The Photographer General's Favourite Perennial

Well I have to say that Valencia was wonderful fun.

Haven't time to go through the pictures or think about what to say yet, so just to keep in touch, here's notion for you to ponder upon.

I see that the RHS, has kicked off its publicity machine for the magnificent Tatton Park Flower Show with details of an ugly plant competition. Some of the plants they nominate are a bit peculiar, but many of them strike me as being extraodinarily beautiful. And when you consider what remarkable adversity some of them grow in, the beauty, as seen in their adaptation over millions of years, is sublime.

But there are plants which, let's face it, are just plain hideous. The Mediterranean horror, Dracunculus vulgaris looks like hell on earth and smells like a dead donkey that has been left in the Cretan sun for six weeks.

And on top of that, we know we can always rely on plant breeders to make a bad thing worse. Bearded irises, for example, were once gorgeous but nowadays, you can hardly find a single hybrid that hasn't so many frills and furbelows that each bloom resembles underwear purchased at dubious lingerie stores and worn by certain ladies of the night.

So I hereby launch the Silvertreedaze Ugly Plant Contest. For starters, will you please welcome Rudbeckia occidentalis in its 'improved' and 'selected' form 'Green Wizard.'

The name is ridiculous, since the flowers are neither green nor wizardlike. They are brown, nasty, scatological in shape and as they age, they lengthen and curl, making them even more faecal.

The pictures are by the Photographer General who violently objects to this plant growing in my garden, and who calls them, succinctly, 'Turds on Sticks.' She dislikes them growing in the little border by the lawn where we drink our afternoon tea and is demanding that the be composted forthwith.
Turds on sticks.

I'm listening to Beethoven's Violin Concerto, having recently purchased it from the iTunes store, one of my children having pinched my CD version.

I'm reading Little Dorrit - the Dickens' account of the Office of Circumlocution describes to a tee what will happen to the Iraq War Enquiry.

This time last week I was in Valencia - pictures and story soon, I promise.

Finally, this week's film was The Fall, by Tarsem Singh, recommended by James A-S, on this blog, and thoroughly enjoyed. Stupendous film locations, in Spain - Seville, I think - South Africa, China and so on. Exquisite colours, glorious bodies - though most frequently male - and clever interior sets. The child actor was utterly natural, with such things as nose picking and 'desperate-for-a-pee-but-too-distracted-to-go-to-the-loo' jiggling left purposely in the narrative. Distinctly un-Hollywood, but it strengthened the artistry. BUT, the story structure was weak, the screenplay clunked along a bit painfully and I really couldn't give a toss for the stuntman character who seemed a weak-minded twat, by and large. Luvverly film, though and I'm glad to have seen it.


  1. Nigel, I am glad I am not the only one that doesn't see the point of this plant - the name Green Wizard is the only good thing about it and I suspect what makes it sell. The plants in the RHS list are all interesting and adapted for their region, they have a purpose. But plant breeders can produce ugly plants for pretty flowers or just muck a plant up and make it completely ugly.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  2. I have to say that I used to quite like Green Wizard (I grow them amongst Stipa arundinacea) especially as I grew them myself from seed which is not something I often do. But now, after the Photographer General's graphic (and, might I say, crude) description I doubt I will be able to look them in the eye again.
    I planted Dracunculus vulgaris in my mother's garden (a long way from any doors or pathways - I am not a matricide) as a curiosity. It looks evil but spectacular and is a thrill for any visiting children.
    Glad you (quite) liked the film. It is very beautiful.

  3. I'm intrigued - if Green Wizard's so awful, why do you have them growing in your garden?

    I hate the ordinary Kniphofia's that we can all remember with a shudder from our childhood.

    I LOVE 'The Fall' - it was part of this year's award winning Global Village Film Festival that our local film club takes round all the tiny North Wilts villages in March and as my husband is their chief technician, we got to borrow it and watch it several times at home. Hubby and I argued for days over which fall was The Fall of the title. And isn't the score glorious as well?

  4. Oh my, the Photographer General's description has just made me snort my drink down my nose. I've grown Allium 'Hair' this year out of morbid curiosity. It's pretty ugly, especially when in bud and you can see its Medusa locks writhing around under the sheath of the bud.

  5. I laughed out loud at the commentary "Turd On A Stick" it made my day!

  6. Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander' is horrible.

    I noticed Sauromatum venosum blooming in my father's garden which I must have planted there several years ago. It looked like some kind of visiting alien.

  7. Another fun post that I´ll just have to comment on:)Your post made me pounder on what plant I find ugly. At first I couldn´t come up with anything, (maybe still in the happy-go-lucky spirit of midsummer and in love with every plant) but then I realized that I (unfortunatley for the climate zone I´m in)find some wintergreens really ugly like Ilex aquifolium (Iron oak in swedish)and all forms of Cotoneaster (maybe they´re not what U can define plants?) but they´re still ugly, the boring color, spiky foliage, twiggy sticks and so forth:) But then some of the other commenters have picked some plants I really would enjoy growing in my garden like Allium "Hair" it was a new one for me. So thanks for a fun, inspiring post.
    /U from Sweden

  8. Oh! I have green wizard growing here and this year is the first time in 3 years it has not been ravished by slugs and will flower, I am not going to be able to look at it without hearing The Photographer Generals discription - :)
    I am with VP on the Kniphofia.
    Fun post

  9. Lysimachia Firecracker is a devious swine. One moment it is tasteful purple leaves and then, wham, covered in horrible yellow flowers.

  10. Oh, but I quite like that. Plants with dark leaves and pale flowers are rather unusual. I grow my 'Firecracker' in a shady spot with gloomy herbage behind and the yellow sparks are great. Chacun a son gout, I suppose.

    The PG has delivered an ultimatum about Rudbeckia occidentalis- either I remove it to somewhere more discreet, or she will try her new Dyson on it.

  11. I cant stand the appearance of the Bat flower -
    Tacca Chantrieri. Gives me the creeps.

  12. I loathe those multi-coloured houttuynia, such as 'Flame' or 'Chameleon'. I saw a plain green version, 'Flore Pleno', at a water garden specialist the other day and it looked so beautiful, I couldn't understand why someone would want to muck about with it.