27: Spring 2011

Author: Andrew Lawes

Kiss me over the garden gate

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Kiss me over the garden gate
Andrew Lawes

I just couldn’t resist writing about this plant -yes it’s a plant and not an offer -I knew it first of all as straightforward Persicaria orientalis. It is an annual and a quick grower attaining a good seven feet high by summer when it towers over the herbaceous border with dangling pinkish-red flowers hanging from an arching stem.

As is usual with me, I tend to become more interested in a plant if it has an unusual common name. It was at our September visit to the Lucy Redman School of Garden Design that I came across P. orientalis’ other name. It was over coffee that Lucy recommended Derry Watkins’ catalogue ‘Special Plants Seeds’ and thumbing through this beautifully illustrated booklet, each entry having its own photograph, I found the common name. Here, the description of the plant says that it attains a height of four feet, but the ones that I associate with definitely tower over my head. This seed came from Marchant’s Hardy Plants but I expect that growing conditions radically affect the height of the plant being as how it is such a fast grower.

Looking on the internet under both names threw up a lot of information, most of it repeated I must say. However, says that this plant comes originally from south-east Asia and Australia but has now naturalised in North America. Annie’s Annuals claims that it was first grown by Thomas Jefferson, makes an excellent cut flower and that rich soil is the best to grow it in.

It has plenty of other common synonyms but ‘Kiss me over the garden gate’ describes that wonderful arching of the stem and the height that it needs to attain in order to get over the garden gate. This then puts the rosy-red flowers dangling before the eager lips of the beguiled gardener. If this is too fanciful a conjecture then perhaps it is the wet flowers after a summer rain, sweeping across a slightly annoyed gardener’s face that first gave this plant its colourful name, and who knows, that gardener might even have been Thomas Jefferson himself!

First published in the Norfolk & Suffolk Group Newsletter, Spring 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 27.
© Copyright for this article: Andrew Lawes

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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