Ligularia dentata

Ligulana could not be called a subtle plant in either size or colour, but it has a harsh splendour by the waterside on hot days in the height of summer. It is a herbaceous perennial from China and Japan. Making large clumps of toothed leaves which are almost circular. These are beetroot red when they appear in spring; as they mature, growing up to 3 feet (90 cm) in height, the upper sides of the leaves turn bright green, but the undersides remain purple. The dark purple flower stalks later out-top the leaves. Branching in summer to bear enormous heads of orange daisy flowers with brown centres, coarse but spectacular; when crowded with butterflies the plant looks very summery indeed. The best-known variety is ‘Desdemona’. The leaves deeply flushed with purple underneath and there is another variety called ‘Othello’. I cannot myself see any difference between them.

Ligulanas must have rich soil and a great deal of moisture and are usually grown in the sun, though some gardeners find that the leaves are more robust in light shade. They must be planted beside the water, but not so near that the crowns are submerged in winter, or they will rot. They can. Indeed, be planted on a mound of soil.

Plant 3 feet (90 cm) apart with other water-loving plants which will not be crowded out by its size – Hosta siebol-diana. The largest-leaved of our hostas, royal fern (Osmunda regaiis) and perhaps skunk cabbage (Lysichitum amehcanum), with golden arum flowers in spring. Cornuses and willows, pollarded almost to the ground every year, would provide stems of many colours.

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