Aspidistra sp. 'Ginga' was the first Aspidistra I bought. It was 'doing the rounds' as A. 'Milky Way', a name which actually applies to a completely different variety, but I bought it anyway. It's a pleasant enough plant; typical upright strappy Aspidistra leaves covered in tiny yellow/white spots, but I was very impressed when it flowered for me! Aspidistras flower at ground level and their strange waxy blooms are pollinated by beetles. Partly because they don't flower very often and their flowers are almost hidden away, not many gardeners have actually seen an Aspidistra flower before! Aspidistras are remarkably hardy given their status as house plants, but when I grew this one outdoors it failed after its first winter. I'm not sure if it died because it's not as hardy as other species or because it was too small or weak to live outside (equally it might have been eaten in spring while I wasn't looking!). A good house plant though, tolerating shade and neglect, as well as cool temperatures- just remember that if your house is very warm keep an eye on watering!


There has been a lot of interest in recent years in the hardier Begonias, and Begonia pedatifida is certainly a great species to grow. Native to areas of broadleaf forest in China this species grows well in woodland gardens in the UK, although it benefits from a mulch in colder areas. The downside to this, as well as many other hardy Begonias, is that it appears quite late in the garden, maybe even as late as May or June, which leaves even the most patient gardener wondering if it's still alive! Nonetheless, once it starts into growth it grows quickly to make a mound about 1ft (30cm) or so tall, with these fabulous fleshy leaves. If it's minded to it will also produce small sprays of uninteresting white flowers, but be assured that this is most definitely a foliage plant! Moisture is key for success with any Begonia, and the trick is to have the ground free draining enough to prevent winter waterlogging, but also moisture retentive enough to prevent the plant from drying out. It's quite a balancing act, but worth it for several great species, including Begonia pedatifida.


Petasites japonicus var. giganteus 'Nishiki-Buki' is not for the feint hearted. This monster of a herbaceous plant will colonise extensive areas of ground if allowed to, providing that its roots have ample water. So why would I recommend it? This plant is an excellent foliage plant; leaves the size of dinner plates are boldly splashed with creamy yellow markings. If these huge leaves are damaged by bad weather then you can cut the whole thing back to the ground and it will spring back to life in less than two weeks! All this Petasites needs is space to grow and a good supply of water, preferably in ordinary to rich soil. It is perfectly cold hardy. When it tries to escape it's plot just put a spade through its runner and pull out unwanted bits for disposal. Oh, and the flowers are delightful too; large heads of sweetly scented flowers appear in late January and through February, perfect when nothing much else is going on!