Friday, 24 June 2011

Purple reign

Atriplex Hortensis, or purple orach is possibly the king of self seeders.  I have mentioned previously that I am a fan of self seeders, but that they are not without their downsides.  I think it is possible that every seed that the Atriplex Hortensis develops germinates into a plant; and they develop a lot of seeds.
I was given my packet of Atriplex seeds at Great Dixter, following a day event I attended a few years ago.  This small packet of seeds was given with the caution that it can self seed proflically and that once you have it, you will never be without it.  These were indeed words of truth.

I carefully nurtured my first seedlings and I let them set seed as I was happy to see some plants for free.  Some, did I say some?  If you turn your back on these seedlings for a millisecond they romp around the garden like some sort of alien invader.
Yet the foliage is beautiful; the colour works so well in the garden.  These are good plants to grow.

They grow well, they grow tall - four to five feet tall at times.  They are also called purple orach and are a form of wild spinach.  They are annual, but that is irrelevant as they will seed and you will have  them forever.
However forewarned is fore-armed and this is not an ungrateful grumble.  I now know to weed them assiduously from the moment they start to appear.  They are easy to recognise as a seedling due to their colour.

Like all self seeders they know where to place themselves to the best effect.  If you turn your back for a minute there is one that you have missed.  Some seem to appear fully formed at two foot tall, when you are certain you had cleared every one from that area.
However they look so stunning, so architectural and with good foliage colour that I remain grateful for my free packet of seeds. 

6 comments :

  1. Love the image of the romping Hortensis.

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  2. I love dark leaved plants and anything out of the ordinary, will have to look for some of these :)

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  3. You've missed one important feature: they're edible!! We eat the younger shoots - or the whole plant if we're weeding early - in with other salads. Every day for lunch at the moment to try and keep on top of it ...

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  4. I've not tried eating it, but I will have to give it a go, I have enough of it :-)

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  5. This was recommended by Alys Fowler as an alternative to Spinach as it tend not to bolt.And it looks wonderful in your photos. I can't get it to germinate. I wonder if it needs it warmer conditions. Any ideas?

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  6. Hi Janet, the first time I grew it I started it off in the greenhouse, and it germinated quite quickly - once it was let loose outside there was no stopping it.

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