SAPONARIA Soapwort, Bouncing Bet

The common names of Saponaria are a guide to some of its properties. Stir a handful of cut leaves in a bowl of water and the lather produced reveals why it is called Soapwort. Leave a clump to grow undisturbed in the border for a few years and the sight of its stems springing up amongst other plants reveals why it is also called Bouncing Bet. It is really too invasive for the choice border, but it remains a charming cottage garden plant. The erect stems bear lance-shaped leaves and in summer a terminal cluster of flowers. It is completely trouble-free – merely cut down the stems to ground level in the autumn.

VARIETIES:Thespeciesgrown in gardensisS. Officinalis-height 2-3ft. Spacing 2 ft.

Flowering period: July-September. The pink single-flowered species is one of our native flowers, found wild in hedges and woodland, as well as being a popular plant in cottage gardens, but it has now been largely superseded by the double-flowering varieties – ‘Rosea Plena’ (pink), ‘Rubra Plena’ (red)and ‘Alba Plena’ (white).

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

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or spring.

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