July

Berkhya purpurea

 

A member of the compositae family or to be botanically correct Asteracea. Berkheya was named after the Dutch botanist M.J.L. de Berkhey. This plant introduced in the 1870s is a native of South Africa and is one of around 30 species of which there are 2 in general cultivation according to the Plant Finder of 2009/10. There are some cultivars of B purpurea but one is probably just as well sticking with the species. The other one is the yellow B. multijuga

 

This plant is not one for the conventional herbaceous border or island bed, but is more suited to the gravel or dry garden where it can bet set in among stone to show of its foliage and flowers to best advantage. High fertility is not necessary in fact it does well in a rather poor stony soil. Interestingly the foliage looks rather like that of the native slender thistle Carduus tenuiflorus. The leaves are up to 12 inches long and deeply divided with each division terminating in a spine. They also have a woolly dark blue green appearance. The flower stalks which are about 2 -3 feet high bear several flower heads which more generally are purple or lilac ray florets (the photograph shows the rarer white ray florets) with purple or brown disc florets which can be yellow. The flower stalk has leaflets along its length which terminate in a spine (which really is a modified leaf).

 

It is hardy, having come through last winter (2011) with up to 12 inches of frozen snow lying on it for 8-9 weeks. It is easily propagated from seed mine though not yet flowering was acquired through the H.P.S. catalogue.

James McCombe

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