Aliens in the Dry Garden?

Over the past few weeks in the Dry Garden some rather distinctive and strange-looking plants have popped up among the old favourites

Beschorneria yuccoides at RHS Garden Hyde-HallIn the midst of the trusty and easily-recognisable California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), Spanish poppies (Papaver rupifragum) and Olypmian mullein (Verbascum olympicum), there are some plants that look almost as if they have suddenly arrived from another planet.

Beschorneria yuccoides (left) has produced its first flowers since it was planted in May 2012. Two plants have produced huge wide panicles (branched flower spikes) almost 1.5 metres (5ft) tall, and over the past two weeks red bracts have opened out to reveal green-yellow flowers. Since this species originates from Mexico and can be frost tender, this is quite an exciting event.

Trachycarpus fortunei at RHS Garden Hyde HallThis spring has also seen the Chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, flower for the first time in many years. I pass this palm nearly every day and it was a great surprise for me to walk past one morning and see bunches of yellow flowers hanging down among the green fan-shaped leaves.

Dotted across the Dry Garden and looking rather domineering are Echium pininana with their tall blue flowering stalks literally reaching for the sky at about 4 metres (12ft) high. As these biennials self-seed across the garden wherever they please, it is always interesting to see the locations in which they choose to grow.

Hello aloe

Then there is Aloe striatula (below) - one of the hardiest aloes you can grow - with its mound of fleshy green leaves with little ‘teeth’ on the edges. Its tall, cone-shaped flowers, just turning yellow from green, seem to randomly pop up through the leaves.

Aloe striatula growing outside at RHS Garden Hyde HallOne of the Phormium tenax (New Zealand flax) has just produced its panicles; and the shape of the flower buds before they burst out on the tall stems is rather distinctive.

So, if you are searching for plants that are a little bit out of the ordinary, take a stroll through the strange but beautiful landscape that is our Dry Garden.

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