Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Plant Profiles: Perennial Nemesias

Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla'
Summertime Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla'

It was wonderful at the weekend to be able to sit out on the patio without the need for fleece and gloves, at last. I drank plenty of coffee, had the odd ice cream or three, and took some time to see how the spring garden is coming on.

Then I detected the unmistakable scent of the nearest Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla', remarkable because there are currently just a couple of stems in bloom after its late winter haircut. This was also one of my surprise plants in bloom for last December's Blooms Day.

I have a pair in bright blue pots either side of the patio doors, and their distinctive warm scent makes my nostrils crinkle with pleasure. They also remind me of happy times spent with Threadspider, so she still has a friendly presence in my garden now she lives so far away. NAH mistakenly calls them Amnesia.

Inspection of the other pot revealed its plant has succumbed to root rot over the winter, about the only problem with this plant. It was no surprise really as that pot's beneath a leaky gutter. Even with its demise, my plant's still given me good value seeing I bought it back in 2010. Time to buy its replacement, so I still have a matching pair.

Cultivation notes

Nemesia 'Easter Bonnet'
N. 'Easter Bonnet'
Many gardeners are surprised there are perennial nemesias, as they're better known as a popular summer bedding plant.

I think their perennial cousins deserve to be known better, especially if you have a southern or sheltered garden, or can provide the winter protection of a cool greenhouse.

They're rated as a half-hardy H3 in the latest RHS hardiness guide.

N. 'Wisley Vanilla' was bred by Martine Tellwright and was
Nemesia 'Fleurie Blue'
N. 'Fleurie Blue'
launched in 2004 to celebrate the bicentenary of the RHS. It isn't the only perennial nemesia of value to gardeners.

They're a British plant breeding success story, hailing from the Fleurie Nursery near Chichester, though the genus itself originates from South Africa.

Some of the other cultivars bred by this nursery are shown on the left. These are also lightly scented of vanilla, with a citrus overtone. They're relatively short, and grow to around a foot in height and spread. They are good for the front of the border, or in pots.
Nemesia 'Berries and Cream'
N. 'Berries and Cream'
They prefer a sunny spot and a moist, well-drained soil.

They flower for a long period, as long as the spent stems are trimmed back after flowering. I also trim back the deciduous stems down to a couple of inches in February or March to encourage fresh, bushy growth and I also give my pots a good feed to last them through the summer.

Most of these are Plant Breeders Rights protected, hence no propagation information.

Nemesia 'Amelie'
N. 'Amelie'
Flowering usually starts in late April or early May in my garden and lasts well into the autumn.

The flowers have a distinctive white or yellow central dot, surrounded by petals of a single or two-toned colour. Colours range from pure white, cream, blue, pink, red, yellow, or purple. Then combine any of two of those colours to make the two-toned cultivars.

Another British nursery which breeds perennial nemesias is Penhow in south Wales.

Latin without tears

Nemesia is derived from the Greek nemesion meaning similar plant. So for once botanical Latin's explanation leads to more questions - which plant(s) were similar, just Nemesias, or were there others? For instance, I think Diascia flowers look quite similar.

The species name for N. 'Wisley Vanilla' is strumosa, which means cushion-like swellings. 

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  1. I think I may have fallen in love with 'Wisley Vanilla'. Any plant which can make your nostrils crinkle while you are on your 3rd ice cream has to be a winner.

    1. Thanks Sarah, that criterion needs to be added to flower trials immediately!

  2. It is beautiful - and yes - so nice to have some better weather at last isn't it? #homeinterest

    1. It's wonderful Stephanie - thanks for your visit!


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