January 9, 2014


The rare Chinese primrose, Primula sinensis ( P. praenitens) is one of the seed items on my wish list of plants to find.

Plants on my Lust List

Don't worry, I'n not going to bore you with what heirloom tomatoes I am going to order, or what purple podded pea I am going to try this year, there are enough of those posts out there - rather, these are some of the plants I am either looking for (help!) or ones which I am planning to grow. I/ sharing them with you because I think you might find some of these choices interesting, maybe even inspiring as you create your own lists.

Later I will share my list of special projects that I plan to work on in 2014 ( like growing hops, or raising a garden of 19th Century cottage annuals), but for now, here are some items making the top of my list:

Primula sinensis (p.praenitens), a rarely grown greenhouse or conservatory primrose

Primula sinensis (syn. P. praenitens) seed

I have been searching for this tender primrose for ever! Please, if anyone has seeds to sell or knows of a source, let me know. This uncommon primrose requires greenhouse conditions, preferable cool, moist buoyant air and a long growing season. It's sad at how many blogs and sites list this with the incorrect photo and incorrect information, as I have seen even on well known sites, along side a photo of Primula obconic a - clearly someone just performing a lazy Google search using the key words Chinese Primrose. Primula sinensis is from China, but it is not the same plant as P. obconic a - again, be wary of common names, and sloppy research. I NEED this plant! (smile).

Even Gregor Mendel used Primula sinensis in a his color variation  studies. Amazingm right? What has happened to all of these strains? Are they lost forever?  I wonder where these selections are today.

Primula mallophylla seed

This recently rediscovered primrose from Chongquing China was first described in 1916 but has not been seen since, until rediscovered in a recent botanical expedition. Documents in 2011, I don't even know if seeds are available yet, but apparently it makes a great alpine garden subject. Again, if anyone has any idea where seed might be available, or knows of a source, please share.

Cobaea campanulata, a rare green cup and saucer vine that I must find!

Cobaea campanuliflora ( C. campanulata)

I'm not even sure how I found this more unusual related species of the more common Cup and Saucer vine, Cobaea scandens, but like many planst, the lesser species are often forgotten by many gardeners. I was so surprised that there are a handful of cobaea species that are quite interesting, but this one is irresistible. I found a source for seeds, but they are sold out, so once again, I am asking you for help. I can certainly see some interesting cobaea growing in my garden this summer.

The Remarkable World of Named Double Nasturtiums

OK - Most seed catalogs list common, annual Nasturtiums, and I agree, they all seem rather un-special, nice - but not special. You also probably know already that I grow many of the very rare wild species, both tuberous forms and seed raised form, but there are a handful of sterile, double strains which are ancient, or recently rediscovered, which are much far more special - so special that they can only be propagated vegetatively, from cuttings or via micro propagation,  and thusly, difficult to find, especially in the US, as most micro propagation for these plants occurs overseas.

In the mid to late 19th Century, the Victorian growers had a long love affair with the common seed-raised Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), with dozens of named varieties available, and with their images appearing on everything from tea cups and spittoons to Valentines Day cards, but in the great estate conservatories and private greenhouses throughout this period, they real jewels were the ever-blooming sterile double forms, which were grown by cuttings, named, and shared in secrecy. Today, a few of these are being rediscovered, and a few, are literally re-imerging as sports, and now being propagated for sale. My greatest concern is us, the consumer - will we know what these plants can really offer, when we see them at our local garden center?

Why grow these forms? Aside from the  provenance, one grows these double forms for their amazing capacity to produce copious blooms. Being sterile, the plant has no genetic shut-off switch, so a vine can fill a pot in months, and then cover the plant with flowers - and what flowers these are.

Today, a few of these named varieties are emerging, yet they are terribly difficult to find.
Here are a few of them below. Yes, they were on my wish list last year too, go on - say it. I welcome any contact information or sources where I can find them or other forms. Sorry for the crappy images - hey, find me some and imagine what I can post here next year!

Double nasturtiums are the queen of the genus tropaeolum, and, they are some of the oldest varieties available today.
Left to right:
'Darjeerling Gold' or 'Darjeerling Double' was discovered as a sport in India by Bleddyn Wynn Jones of Crug Farm Plants, it is similar to sport which emerged in the late 1800's, but it now becoming available after being propagated by the Dutch and Danish, 'Hermine Grashoff', a reddish salmon double is perhaps the oldest form not lost, with references dating back to the early 1880's. It is now an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. Lastly,' Margaret Long' is a peach colored truly double sterile form. Not pictured is 'Apricot Twist', and another recently re-emerging sport from Ireland, that I am also looking for as a potted greenhouse specimen.
This image from an old Ebay auction for an 1881 print of 'Hermine Grashoff' 

Most of these double varieties are being propagated by the Dutch, and it seems a couple are being distributed to  some US nurseries, but european gardeners have a much better chance of finding these plants, for now.  Burpee's and Annies Annuals carry one or another, variety as plants, but demand must become greater for any nursery or importer to justify the cost of importing liners from overseas. Better images and deeper stories about these old double varieties can be found here at the great nasturtium site of collector J.S. McFarlane.

Image from Thompson & Morgan sell sheet for 'Flame Thrower' nasturtium plants, only available in the European market aside from one selection available from Burpee's.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'

Then there is the story of a Nasturtium variety called 'Flame Thrower', a selection now marketed and developed by UK owned Thompson & Morgan, Co., but was bred by an amateur plant breeder in their home garden. Here in the US it is hard to find, but Burpee's does carry a red selection ( I had thought that there was only one color available until I found the European selections).I will be ordering the red form from Burpee, but again, as plants need to be micro-propagated from tissue culture, I can't find the other colors here in the States. Apparantly, seed is not available which limits availability. If anyone knows of how I could get the other color variations ( and don't you agree that they are awesome!), please let me know!
I have discovered that 'Nasturtium majus 'Flame Thrower' and the double  'Darjeerlilng Gold' are being vegetatviely propagated in the Netherlands by a company called Jaldety, yet it seems that few if any US company has picked up these selections for their product lines, at least from what I can tell. Again, if anyone knows more - please share.

Finally, there are many tuberous and seed raised nasturtium ( tropaeolum) species that I am looking for, or planning on adding to my collection, but for now, this list will focus on the N. magus selections.
Are there any forms which any of you grow? Have you tried some cross-breeding of your own?


  1. This is a great list! It looks like you can order 'Margaret Long' from Avant Gardens here: http://www.avantgardensne.com/catalog/product.cgi/1/128/5215/P1/default/N/0

  2. Wow, you know, Avant Gardens is so near me and I have never gone there not ordered from them. Sounds like a visit is in order - now I am starting to imagine having an entire collection of these tropes this summer!

  3. Awesome! I'm invested in seeing this project succeed! It looks like Walker Farm in Vermont had Flame Thrower Cream, as well as Margaret Long and Darjeeling Gold last year. It's further afield, but maybe you can get your hands on whatever they might have this year!

  4. Select seed has Nasturtium "Whirlybird Cherry Rose" - doubled vibrant rose


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