Conservation Feature March 2022

Published: March 4, 2022

Posted on 04.03.2022 |
Added in Featured Conservation Plants


Vinca minor ‘Mrs Betty James' 

vinca minor mrs betty james 19Introduced by the Shropshire group in 2017, it had caught the attention of Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers. He is the one who named it after the woman who brought it to a plant sale. The double flower is attractive, and a bit different for a vinca. There are other attributes to recommend this plant too. Some plants in the Conservation Scheme are ‘Wow' plants. Everyone wants to grow them, photos are stunning, and they feature in articles in HPS publications. Other scheme plants however, don't seem to generate the same enthusiasm. One of these is Vinca minor ‘Mrs Betty James'. Maybe it's because the small, dark green leaves can look a bit dull in some light, but at other times they seem to shine. The double, soft blue flowers are very pretty, but growers have reported that there are not very many of them, or that they hide beneath the foliage. So why was it put into the scheme?

For one thing it is evergreen and provides good groundcover year-round. One use for it would be to plant under trees. The vinca roots well so establishes quickly and is fairly drought tolerant. It won't mind if mature tree roots take most of the moisture. It should grow where other plants would suffer and die back. 

It could also be planted on a hillside. Since the vinca roots from nodes along the stem, it helps hold the soil together and prevents erosion under heavy rainfall. On the downside, it can also become invasive if it is too happy in its situation. If this happens however, it is easily pulled up to keep it in check. 

During our annual Conservation Scheme meeting it was suggested that growers cut back the long runners in early summer. This should produce tighter clumps with more flowers, held above the leaves. Several of the growers said they would try this trick and report back to the group with their results. I have not previously grown this vinca myself, but I was now keen to try it. I had a couple of small plants in pots left over after the main plant exchange, so I have planted them in one of my difficult spots in the garden. There is an area near a fence that gets some dappled afternoon sun, especially in early to mid-spring, but tends to be on the dry side.

Everything I have tried there either gets out-competed and dies, or gets run over by cats when they race around the garden. At last inspection the two plants were well rooted and beginning to put out new growth. I have my fingers crossed that it will flower for me this year so I can get some new photos for the website and the HPS image library. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Vinca minor ‘Mrs Betty James' can do.