Gardeners are frequently asked to name their favourite flower or plant. The answer is nearly always the one that has just come in to bloom in the garden; so the delicate blue and white of Pushkinia scilloides in early spring, followed by the dainty hoop-petticoat daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium). Then, undoubtedly, a tulip, but which one? The flamboyance of ‘Estella Rijnveld’, the deep crimson elegance of ‘Havran’ or perhaps a little species tulip? Next, delicate aquilegias flying on their fine stems, then a rose, and so on.
At events such as the Chelsea Flower Show matters become more complicated; all the flowers are in bloom: snowdrops, dahlias and everything in between. Even so, each year one plant stands out. Sometimes it is the ‘trendy’ plant that appears in all the show gardens: foxgloves, alliums and Verbena bonariensis have all been in this category over the years. Other times it is a plant used to particularly good effect, or a new variety seen for the first time. This year, for me, it was Anemone ‘Wild Swan’. I’d seen it before, photographed it and even noted its name, but done nothing else. I really should have taken more notice as it had been awarded ‘Chelsea Plant of the Year’ in 2011. But, better late than never.
I spotted it in Hugo Bugg’s ‘Waterscape Garden’ and was instantly enchanted with the delicate white flowers with their blue reverses, remembering then all the other times I’d seen it. This is no Japanese thug, but neither is it a fleeting visitor. A probable cross between A. rupicola and A. hupehensis, it has the best characteristics of each parent, flowering intermittently from May to November and yet not taking over the garden.
About twelve years ago, at Elizabeth MacGregor Nurseries in Kirkudbright, Elizabeth noticed a seedling that showed true promise. It was set aside, watched and trialled, and in 2005 named ‘Wild Swan’. The plant grows into a neat clump (height 45cm, spread 60cm) and prefers dappled shade, moist, well-drained soil and is fully hardy. When in bud, or partially closed in early morning and evening, the flowers appear bluey-grey. This is pretty enough, but the flowers then open to reveal startling white interiors, a truly beautiful combination.
Here is a slideshow of gardens I particularly liked. Jane