RHS Award winners: a very special perennial

January 12th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Erigeron 'Profusion'

This pretty, long flowering, Award of Garden Merit winning perennial is a lovely garden plant with an unusual feature that’s not immediately obvious. I wrote about it here a few years ago, but now that it’s been included in the new Mr F Royal Horticultural Society collection – and now that I’ve found something especially interesting about it – I can tell you more.

When we propagate our plants, the usual rule is that the only way to make sure that our new plants are exactly the same as the original is to propagate them vegetatively: that is, by division or by cuttings or by layering. Erigeron ‘Profusion’ is different – it comes true from seed for a very specific reason. You never see one that’s all pink, for example, or all white, or one that’s very tall or very short. They’re all grown from seed and they’re all exactly the same.

Here’s why. Most plants need to be pollinated and fertilised to produce seed and the plants grown from that seed can be unpredictable. Erigeron ‘Profusion’ produces seed that is genetically identical to the parent plant without fertilisation so the offspring grown from seed are exactly the same as the parent. The technical word is apomixis and it also occurs in plants as diverse as wild roses, rudbeckias, dandelions and blackberries.

But as far as Erigeron ‘Profusion’ is concerned, grown from seed or grown from cuttings they’re all the same.

And what a superb plant this is. It “opens its first white daisies, which turn pink as they age, in May and continues thereafter with unabated zest until the first sever frosts of winter. In a frostless winter…, it flowers right through.” That was Christopher Lloyd in The Adventurous Gardener. You can still see the plant at his garden at Great Dixter even though he himself is long gone.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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