Big-leaved perennial provides impressive presence

Myosotidium hortensia from the Chatham Islands. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Myosotidium hortensia from the Chatham Islands. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Whatever sort of garden idea or theme you have in mind, a choice from New Zealand’s flora always adds something special.

The camellia garden in Dunedin's lower botanic garden benefits from kiwi flair with a few tree ferns and several drifts of groundcover ferns, grasses and megaherbs.

Megaherb is a name used for the large herbaceous perennials of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. These mega-sized plants are characterised by huge leaves and flowers with unusual or impressive colours.

Looking big, bold and beautiful right now is the megaherb, Chatham Island forget-me-not or Myosotidium hortensia. The strong and leathery texture of the leaves, worth touching, feels thick and impenetrable and helps them to survive the wild, windy conditions of the Chatham Islands.

The leaves are evergreen and very shiny dark green, pleated concertina style with a quilted texture reflecting the light. In late winter, the heart-shaped leaves grow rapidly to about 30cm round on reddish-green stems. With the whole clump reaching up to 1m tall, it’s worth growing just for the foliage.

The mature plant grows from a stout rhizome, which lies partially exposed on the soil.

In early spring, the leaves are topped with flowers of soft, sky blue (slowly tinging to pink with age).

Myosotidium likes partial shade and moist, well-drained soil with cool conditions, but not frosts. It makes a special specimen planted solo and is impressive in a mass planting. Good conditions will reward you with seedlings that can be carefully transplanted.

 - Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Marianne Groothuis.


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