Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Showing posts with label Geri Laufer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Geri Laufer. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Extraordinary History Behind Twist of Lime™ Abelia

 Twist of Lime™ Abelia’s backstory is an enthralling one of arrogance and disappointment.

The genus contains about 30 species. It was named for noted British physician and naturalist-author on China, Dr. Clarke Abel, 1780 – 1826, who served as Chief Medical Officer and Naturalist to the Embassy of Lord Amherst at the Court of Peking and in Canton in 1816-17.  During this time there was resentment on the part of the Chinese due to perceived British arrogance and because of British involvement in the opium trade. The British were technically limited in plant collection to the Portuguese-controlled island of Macao.

In his role as naturalist, Dr. Abel had collected many unfamiliar plants and seeds, all new to Western science at the time. He also wrote a book of his observations and corresponded with renowned English botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

Lord Amherst’s objective in China was to improve British-Sino relations. To this end, the Embassy staff traveled to the capital, and Abel made detailed observations and collected wild and cultivated plants along the way. However, the mission backfired when Amherst refused to kowtow to the Chinese Emperor and the entire party was banished from China. Before departing on the hazardous journey back to England, Abel entrusted a small portion of his extensive botanical collection to a colleague, Sir George Staunton.

The ship ran aground on uncharted reefs and was badly damaged, causing some of the cargo to be jettisoned, including Abel’s botanical collection. Returning to the site the next day to try and rescue some of the botanical chests, they were attacked and captured by Malay pirates. Eventually, Abel did make it back to England and Staunton returned the remaining small portion of Abel’s collection. One of the specimens was named Abelia chinensis in Abel’s honor posthumously in 1844, and is an ancestor of Twist of Lime™ Abelia. .

Meanwhile, Robert Fortune, another famous plant collector, was also sending back live specimens from China, including one that later would be named Abelia uniflora. The first Abelia chinensis x A. uniflora crosses were made at the Rovelli Nursery in Italy producing a hybrid named Abelia x grandiflora in 1886 and was the best Abelia of its time.

This is the fascinating history behind my favorite Abelia, Abelia x grandiflora, Twist of Lime™ by Garden Debut®. I’ve planted my Twist of Lime™ Abelia an area of the garden I call the “golden triangle” planted with specimens having gold or yellow variegation or yellow flowers. In the photo, Twist of Lime™ Abelia is in the foreground, flanked by Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’  and Forsythia koreana ‘Ilgwang’.  The brilliant leaves of Twist of Lime™ is perfect for lighting up the partial shade. Other landscape uses for Twist of Lime™ Abelia include specimen plantings in gardens and/or in a mixed border with other shrubs, as a low, informal hedge plant, or as a cascade.

The honey-scented, tubular blossoms of Twist of Lime™ Abelia are one of my greatest butterfly and hummingbird attractors, and are actually edible in salads or candied. In Astrological reports, the shrub Abelia is placed under the dominion of the planet Moon, if you go for that sort of thing. Folklore tells that many baby girls were named after the plant Abelia because of its continually fresh, evergreen nature. Post a photo if you’re growing Twist of Lime™ Abelia too.