5 of the Strangest Plants that I have grown

△ Unknown species of Arisaema.

I do not know which species of Arisaema this is, but it is quite lovely in a kind of other-worldly way. Back in 2015 I ordered A. candidissimum ‘White Form’, but what came up was definitely something else. The leaves are three lobed, so not A. candidissimum. I think it only flowered the once, but I spotted its leaves, occasionally, poking up among other plants in a rather neglected corner.

Last year (2022) while revamping the beds in that area I managed to dig up the dormant corm which was the size of a small potato and almost featureless. After a bit of head scratching, I worked out which way up it should go, then replanted it in a better spot. Perhaps with some newfound love, it will produce a second flower this year.

△ Scouring Rush (Equisetum hymale)

This is a kind of horse-tail — an evolutionary remnant of the ancient group of non-flowering plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds. As you can see, it consists only of vertical shoots, made of jointed segments, with no side branches or leaves. The black bands are actually residual leaves reduced to scales. The stem’s roughness is enhanced by the high concentration of silica in its tissue, leading to its common name: scouring rush. The knobbly black “flower” that appears at the tip of the stem in summer is actually a spore cone.

Equisetum hymale grows rampantly in damp soils but is somewhat supressed where I grow it partly submerged in the margin of my pond. Previously, I had it in more favourable conditions in a large spherical pot, which it soon filled with hundreds of crowded stems, creating a stunning display. From a design perspective, scouring rush can be relied upon to provides strong vertical lines which contrast dramatically with small and large-leaved perennials such as Hosta and ferns. An architectural plant if ever there was.

△ Chinese Wild Ginger (Asarum splendens)

When I first came across this weird sight in my garden I was momentarily shocked before curiosity got the better of me. The oddly fleshy mound looks other-worldly: like some kind of fungus or carnivorous plant. In fact it is a clump of flowers of Asarum splendens — a ground covering plant grown for its variegated foliage. The flowers are often overlooked as they appear on the plant in early spring close to the ground but are usually covered by the old leaves. I only discovered them them when cutting back the old foliage as part of my winter tidy-up.

The individual flowers are almost two inches (4-5 cm) across. Their strange colour, which some have compared to meat, is shared by other plants in its botanical family, the Birthworts (Aristolochiaceae). Being so close to the ground the flowers is possibly fertilised by beetles or small flies. Fortunately, they do not exude the scent of rotting flesh.

△ When Echinacea goes wrong

In 2021 I planted two plants of Echinacea ‘White Swan’ next to each other, which flowered normally that summer. In 2022, however, only one of the clumps performed as expected, producing the typical white ray-flowers with a prickly orange-brown central cone

The other plant, however, did something quite strange. Its flowers were completely different. The central boss was green instead of orange, and the ray-florets were fewer, smaller and green instead of white. But strangest of all, some of the ray-florets were replaced with secondary satellite “flowers”, complete with stalks and miniature green cones orbiting the main flower like a botanical merry-go-round.

△ Paeonia mlokosewitchii (Pink Form)

This woodland peony ia s wonderful plant for a shady garden which has plenty of interest in and out of flower. In early spring bright red buds push their way above ground like a series of dragon’s teeth. When these buds break, peculiar fleshy stems push their way upwards like a series of alien trees. I grow the rarer pink-flowered form (the common variety being yellow). The fleshy texture of the young stems is enhanced by their orange then pinkish then maroon colouration, which contrasts with the grey-green foliage which unrolls over the following weeks.

  • I have a full article about Peony ‘Molly the Witch’ (P. mlokosewitchii), including lovely photos of its flowers, here.

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