This one is not for you if your garden is small. Macleaya (still referred to by its old name Bocconia by many gardeners) is a glutton for space. Not only does it grow more than head-high but its underground suckers are invasive, spreading out in all directions. But for the back of an extensive herbaceous border or as a specimen plant in a large lawn it is an excellent choice. The deeply-cut leaves are greyish or bronze-coloured above and hoary white below, attractive for much of the year but only in midsummer does the full beauty of the plant occur. Large plumelike panicles of tiny flowers provide a white or pinkish haze above the foliage. Cut down the stems in autumn.

VARIETIES: The basic detailsof M. cordata are height 6-8 ft. Spacing 3 ft.

Flowering period: July-August. The 3 ft plumes bear pearly white flowers – the plant which produces buff-coloured flowers with a distinct pinkish tinge is often sold as ‘M. cordata’ but is really M. microcarpa ‘Coral Plume’. Its bronzy flowers are very small but in all other ways it is similar to M. cordata.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable soil will do – thrives in sun or partial shade.

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or spring. Alternatively plant basal cuttings in a cold frame in April.

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