his low-growing herbaceous cinquefoil provides a brilliant splash of vibrant colour at the front of the border and is in complete contrast to your typical ‘shrubby’ potentilla.
Indeed when referring to potentillas many people think of the shrubby species and don’t realise there are some great herbaceous varieties as well as smaller alpine species to choose from.
Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’
is a brilliant example of an herbaceous variety and grows well at Hyde Hall. Being herbaceous it dies down every winter and then re-emerges in the spring, with fresh green, soft, lobed leaves. It has a low growing, slightly sprawling habit but remains a neat, clump-forming plant that doesn’t spread aggressively.
In early summer it bears cup-shaped, semi-double flowers that are of the brightest scarlet red with a darker centre, making it one of the best red-flowered perennials, adding a wonderful splash of bright colour to the border and working well as a contrast to other ‘hot’ colours.
At RHS Garden Hyde Hall, we grow this plant in the Herbaceous Border, where it is used at the front of the planting, sprawling onto the path edge as it does a wonderful job of softening the edges. The Herbaceous Border is colour themed and Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ is grown in the ‘hot’ colour combination which is made up of reds, yellows and oranges where it works well alongside other gems such as Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’ with its feathery golden yellow flowers and Crocosmia ‘Spitfire’ with its bright orange flowers.
When designing a planting scheme it is not always easy finding plants with bright red flowers, but this Potentilla hits the spot if you want to add a zingy bright colour to your planting. Although we grow it in an herbaceous planting at Hyde Hall it would also work well in a mixed border where it can be used along the front of the scheme to in-fill around taller plants.
‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ is easy to grow and tolerates a wide range of conditions. It prefers humus-rich, well-drained soil, in full sun but it will tolerate a little shade. It suffers from few pests and diseases and other than being cut back in the early spring before the new growth emerges, it requires little maintenance. The only exception to this is after the first flush of flowers have finished these flowering stalks should be cut back to the central crown to allow fresh new foliage to emerge which will ensure the plant looks at its best for the rest of the season and you may also benefit from a small amount of secondary flowering.