Potatoes and Pincushions.

I have grown Charlotte potatoes this year as my chef, ( aka the Pianist) prefers waxy potatoes and has forbidden me to grow the sort that fall apart in the water as they are cooked. But that is not the sort of potatoes that I am writing about here.

I love the climbing  Chilean Potato Vine Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’. It is always full of  clusters of lilac- coloured blooms with prominent yellow stamens. It grows exuberantly so I hack it right back from time to time and then off it goes again. The correct time to prune Solanum is in the spring, when the side shoots should be cut back to about 6 inches. I actually cut it back when it starts to annoy me by blocking the path. Its long shoots are desperate to get into the nearby silver- leaved pear Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ and although they look good together, I can’t put up with this sort of anarchy. The Pyrus is getting ideas above its station at the moment too; like everything else in the garden, it very badly needs a haircut.

Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin'

Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’

I am a bit confused about the name of the lovely white potato vine. Is Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’ the same thing as Solanum laxum ‘Album’ ? They look the same to me and so I am not sure which one I have. But whatever the name, it is very pretty and blooms for longer the the blue one. The flowers are supposed to be lightly fragrant, but I cannot detect any scent.
When I was at Beth Chatto’s nursery a couple of years ago I fell in love with the fabulous solanum that she has growing on the wall of the shop. This has white flowers which are tinged with violet. Some of the flowers in each cluster are white, some are violet. Fortunately, there were some for sale, because I needed it very badly. It is called improbably, Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’. I noticed that Beth called it ‘Creche du Pape’ in attempt to make it more grammatically plausible. But on the other hand, it still doesn’t make much sense. What would a Pope need a creche for? One likes to think he is above such things, unless like one of the earlier popes, such as Pope Paul 111, there is a brood of children to be accommodated. Anyway, I did a bit of research and found that there is a garden in Brittany called ‘Pape Ar Crech‘ and I suppose this lovely Potato Vine was born there. Somewhere along the line the name has gained an ‘e’.

Solanum laxum'Creche ar Pape'

Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’

I am going to Beth Chatto’s soon with Christina from MyHesperidesgarden and I will take a photo of the lovely one there. In fact I am sure that Christina will fall in love with it too, so I will take some cuttings for her.

As this is an alliterative-themed post,  I am going to write about some pincushion-type plants. They are everywhere in the garden right now.  The pretty Knautia macedonia is a bit of a thug, but I don’t mind, it is so pretty and the seed heads are lovely too. I believe this used to be a scabious, but the powers that be decided that it is  Knautia – pronounced ‘naughtier’. Christopher Lloyd disliked this plant, but I can’t see why, apart from its thuggish ways, I think it is a delight.

Knautia macedonia

Knautia macedonia

I grew some wine-coloured scabious from seed a couple of years ago and they obligingly seed around everywhere now in different  shades..


Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight'

My favourite pincushion flower is Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’. It has large black flowers with little white pinheads and is the most dramatic of all the lovely tribe of scabious. It is said to be lightly fragrant, but I think it smells faintly of public lavatories. Very clean ones; but still not a pleasant smell. It is only detectable if you put your nose right into it. Bees and butterflies love. Well,the butterflies would if they were around. I just seem to have Cabbage Whites this year. Where are all the butterflies? Even the Buddleia hasn’t got its usual flutter of colour round it.

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight'

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’

Most of my Astrantias are over, but I still have this one in bloom. I love the old-fashioned name,‘Hattie’s Pin Cushion’ for this plant.

Astrantia major

Astrantia major

My last pincushion is a silver-leaved Santolina. The foliage is lovely enough, but I fall in love with it all over again when it blooms. I can’t remember its name, as I have had it so long.



As this is a ‘P’ themed post, I must show you a couple of poppies. One is an Opium Poppy which turned up from somewhere and I think it is a very pretty colour.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum

The next is a Californian Tree poppy which is not really a poppy at all. Romneya coulteri is a very handsome plant with pure white flowers and a nice pop pom of yellow stamens. It is sun-loving and hates root disturbance. This can make it hard to establish, but if it is happy, it romps away enthusiastically.

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

I have a really pretty Clematis called ‘Pagoda’ which I had coveted in a friend’s garden for years. I finally found it for sale at Great Dixter last year, although it was an act of faith buying it as it looked dead. Fortunately, it is now thriving and sharing an obelisk with ‘Betty Corning’.

Clematis texensis 'Pagoda'

Clematis texensis ‘Pagoda’

My last ‘P’ is an imposter and I am very annoyed about it. I finally succumbed and bought a lovely Hydrangea which I have seen on several blogs. My reluctance was caused by the eye-watering price and even more, by the truly toe-curlingly, embarrassing name. Yes dear readers, I shame-facedly bought a plant called ‘Pinky Winky’. I tended it lovingly and paid somebody to water it whilst I was away.
But it is clearly not ‘Pinky Winky’. Pinky Winky has pretty pink plumes. When I complained to the nursery, they said it was perhaps my soil. Which is rubbish, it was wrongly labelled. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not ‘Pinky Winky, more ‘Whitey Whitey’. And I am weely, weely cross.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky ' Imposter.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky ‘ Imposter.

I could go on with this ‘P’ themed plant post, after all I have some lovely Penstemons and the Platycodons are particularly pleasing. But a pack of pesky pixies are whispering in my ear that enough is enough.

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43 Responses to Potatoes and Pincushions.

  1. Christina says:

    Thank you in advance for the cuttings; Solanums do well for me and I would love to have more. I’d also like to beg some seed of the Kautia if you have any; mine was all removed inadvertently last year when I was away. Looking forward to seeing you.

  2. I have horridly name Pinky Winky too, it is also creamy white like yours right now – in previous years I see that it only goes bright raspberry rippled coloured as the flowers age. I like the alliterative theme!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh, thank you for telling me Kate, I didn’ t realise that it was an age thing. I was going to go back to the nursery again in high dudgeon. But I will put my dudgeon on hold and see what happens. Maybe in time it will go pinky winky.

  3. I am particularly pleased with the plants in your post. Pinky Winky!indeed the paniculatas are peeved.

  4. Chloris says:

    Pinky Winky is excrutiating, but for truly awful names, some new Hemerocallis hybrids take a lot of beating. There is a breeder in Ohio who seems to have a thing about underwear. So you get Day lilies with names like ‘ Droopy Drawers’ and ‘ Pink Panties’, ‘ Panties in the Wind’ and worse. These peope shouldn’ t be allowed near plants

  5. Anna says:

    Himself was waxing lyrical about our allotment grown Charlotte potatoes yesterday evening. I hope that you and Christina have a great time at Beth Chatto’s nursery and indulge in some satisfactory retail therapy.

    • Chloris says:

      Charlottes are particularly good and always meet with the chef’ s approval.
      Thank you, Christina and I had a lovely time and we were quite undeterred by the rather showery weather.

  6. I love all these potato vines, especially that blue one. For pincushion flowers, we have the Knautia and also the Scabiosa columbaria. Your dark Scabiosa is quite striking.

    • Chloris says:

      Scabious columbaria is a pretty little thing, very similar to our native field scabious which confusingly is a knautia. I just looked it up and it is Knautia arvensis.
      Black Knight is an aristocratic sort of scabious, well worth looking out for.

  7. Tina says:

    Here I am, in Texas and I don’t have a Clematis texensis–shame on me! I like yours, though, as well as all your other pretties. Who names these things? It’s like paint samples or lipstick colors–where do they come up with the names and how much are they being paid??

    • Chloris says:

      Clematis texensis and Clematis viticella are my favourites. I love their dainty flowers at this time of the year when many of the large- flowered ones have finished.
      I suppose these silly names are supposed to be funny. To serious gardeners they are just annoying.

  8. Kris P says:

    I love all your Ps and would have been happy to read on if the pesky pixies hadn’t provoked you to cut the post short. I’ve one Solanum (S. xanti, a California native which is now seeding about) and I’ve got another, Solanum sp. ‘Navidad, Jalisco (with flowers larger than I’ve ever seen on a Solanum) on a mail order wish list. I love the dark-red Scabiosas too but they promptly fried when I planted them here a couple of years ago. I sighed aloud when I saw Romneya coulteri as it appears that mine will not be blooming this year but it’s still alive and, given its location on my back slope, that’s enough for now I suppose.

    • Chloris says:

      I just looked up your Solanum ‘Navidad’ and wow! It’ s stunning.
      Once a romneya gets established it romps away, sometimes with a little too much enthusiasm. I expect yours will bloom next year, it really is a lovely thing.

  9. I should imagine you are properly peed off about pinky winky. Pretty pictures Chloris and enjoyable post.

  10. pbmgarden says:

    I’m unfamiliar with things like Chilean Potato Vine. Looks lovely. Hope you and Christina have a wonderful time together.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Susie. Christina and I had great fun, even though the weather could have been better, we still enjoyed Beth Chatto’ s wonderful garden.

  11. Funny! I have been ‘weely weely’ cross about my plants before, too! I have loads of knautia (pronounced ‘naughty-uh’ here) and it is indeed a shameless self-seeder. I often pull it out after it blooms to keep it under control but the pollinators love it so I give them those first few months of blooms.

  12. homeslip says:

    I’ve missed your posts Chloris but it is good to hear that even passionate gardeners can go on extended holidays. I used to grow both the blue and white solanum, now sadly gone due to their rampant natures. The blue solanum has been replaced by C. Betty Corning and the white one by an ordinary jasmine. I only grow Charlotte (or Nicola) potatoes at the plot. My local chalk Downland is awash with pretty blue scabious at the moment. How annoying about the hydrangea but I know that my H. Heinrich Seidel intensifies in pinkness during hot dry weather – it was looking a bit washed out but this week it is the colour of raspberry sorbet.

    • Chloris says:

      Oh thank you Sarah. Indeed these climbing potatoes are rampant but they can be cut back. I love Betty Corning, I have it with Pagoda and it is a much stronger grower.
      There are beautiful field scabious on the verges here too. I just learnt that it is Knautia arvensis which surprised me. When is a scabious not a scabious and why? Only the taxonomists know the answer.
      Pinky Winky remains resolutely white.

  13. Flighty says:

    As always a most enjoyable, and interesting, post with good pictures. A shame that the hydrangea is the wrong one, and I think that the nursery’s response was poor. xx

  14. I am with you on pruning times, spring or when it gets on your nerves! Lovely plants again, I especially love the dark scabious. 🙂

  15. rusty duck says:

    I shall keep my fingers crossed for PINKy Winky. Utterly stupid name, whatever the colour.

    • Chloris says:

      Pinky Winky indeed. It is still very white and I don’ t think it has any intention of turning pink. It’ s probably too embarrassed after I have sneered so much about its name.

  16. There’s just something about Astrantias… I think I need them in my garden. Maybe in a pot… Lovely plants; lovely images. Have a great weekend!

  17. Cathy says:

    I enjoyed reading this post Chloris – and catching up with your garden. I have been confused by the knautia/scabious distinction and which scabious are perennials. I have had a number from Hayloft, most of which don’t seem to have come back this year although I am sure they should be perennial so perhaps they were not all hardy. If there were any more scabious seeds going spare I would be happy to take them off your hands. Love your clematis – I shall be looking to add more next year! Enjoy with your vosit with Christina and do say ‘hello’ from me ☺

    • Cathy says:

      ps that wasn’t the emoticon I clicked, honest – I have no idea what that face is meant to represent. Perhaps it will look different on your screen…

    • Chloris says:

      I am confused too Cathy. Today, I found out that the lovely Field Scabious is Knautia arvensis. I can’ t understand why it’ s not a scabious. Of course i will save you some seeds.
      Thank you, I had a lovely time with Christina. She said she is looking forward to meeting you on another visit.

  18. Brian Skeys says:

    I once saw a potato vine and a clematis Montana growing together, they looked wonderful covering thr roof of an old barn. I do like knautia, it’s my kind of thug and the Clematis pagoda beautiful. I am envious of your visit to B C and G D I think they are both wonderful, I wish we lived closer to them although the bank manager might not agree!

  19. I hope you are seeing pink (not red) soon. I grew Pinky Winky in my previous garden and (as Kate notes) the flowers open white before coloring. It’s actually a nice effect, as the oldest flowers color first which means the inflorescence changes from its base to its tip over a period of time. I think you’ll like it. Jessica (Rusty Duck) and I saw an amazing climbing potato vine at Cothay Manor in June. Goodness, it must have been 20 or more feet tall! The color was very similar to your ‘Glasnevin’ but perhaps the leaves were wider.

  20. snowbird says:

    I’m glad to hear that your pinky winky will flush up and now you don’t have to be weely weely cross any more! Lol. I did enjoy all these darlings, especially your purple poopy, purple potato vine and tree poppy. What jewels you have!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Dina. Pinky Winky is stil very white. I find it difficult to believe that it will colour up. My fault for buying a plant with such a stupid name.

  21. bittster says:

    I also am a lover of waxy potatoes. With the exception of baking I can’t think of any other reason to have anything else.
    The poppies, knautia, and clematis are beauties but I just can’t warm up to the potato vines. Perhaps because they aren’t hardy enough to grow here I’m just convincing myself that’s ok, but they always remind me of weeds.
    I bought a daylily named ‘Bubblegum Pie’. Hopefully no one asks the name since I won’t be labeling it.

  22. Chloris says:

    Well if you can buy a plant called Bubble Gum Pie, I don’ t need to be too embarrassed about Pinky Winky. Whatever possessed you?

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