Event date: Monday 27th April 2015
Speaker: Dr. Andrew Ward
Write-up by Miranda McCormack

Dr Andrew Ward and his wife Helen owns and runs Norwell Nurseries (www.norwellnurseries.co.uk) near Newark, Nottinghamshire, it specialises in rare and unusual herbaceous perennials as well as stocking the more usual selections. The nursery includes a one-acre display garden designed by Andrew himself. Norwell and its display garden have been in existence since 1993/1994.

 Maggie Duguid introduced Andrew and explained that he would be advising on which small trees, shrubs and plants to have in order to accentuate flowers, using leaf colour and shape. He began by explaining that he had always been orientated more towards flower colour and had, in the past, been asked to create a talk on foliage. When he did just this and included it on his list of talks, there was no take up; it wasn’t until he added four very important words at the end of the title ie ‘A Foil for Flowers’ that he was inundated with interested enquiries. Andrew then led us through a mesmerising selection of plants, suggesting his favourites depending on the colour and shape of the leaves and how good they were at accentuating flowers. Andrew spoke enthusiastically about each one, pointing out its beauty, where to plant it and how to look after it. I felt as if 10 boxes of chocolates had been put in front of me and I was only allowed to choose one to eat – seriously how do you choose? As he spoke I tried to make notes on all he said in case I missed something vitally important, and I think I got everything down – there was simply so much to take in. Incidentally, copies of the handout Andrew distributed will be left on the information table at future meetings.

One of his suggestions for good planting combinations ie. foliage which complements flowers, is Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ planted with Alstroemeria ‘Purple Rain’. He advised that once the Alstroemeria’s flower head had died, the spike could be pulled up and another would grow from the base. However, my personal favourite in this selection of contrasts was Sedum ‘Katharine’s Gold’ planted with Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, with these two the Sedum’s yellow leaves contrast well with the maroon of ‘Obsidian’. Other categories Andrew spoke about were hardy perennials that had good silvery, coloured or variegated foliage; which ones changed their ‘plumage’ throughout the seasons, suggestions on where to plant them and cultivation. There was also a series of recommendations from the Sedum and Heuchera families as well as hard-working climbers. Trees such as Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ and Liquidambar were mentioned for their seasonal leaf colour and fruits; also Cotinus ‘Grace’ when paired with Chrysanthemum ‘Ahlemer Rote’. Roses were an unexpected inclusion purely for the colour of their new leaves when the sun shines through them.

Attractive foliage belonging to shade lovers was also included in his list. Epimedium x warlayense ‘Orangekönigin’ for example, is evergreen with bronze/red tints to its newer leaves accompanied with orange/red flowers; Andrew pointed out that this was a change from the usual yellow. He felt that for the best leaf colour and markings choose Erythronium revolutum ‘God’s Valley’ form as the markings were similar to that of snakeskin; he added that this form also came true from seed and that it self-seeded easily. Dr Ward passed on one secret to growing shade-lovers and this was to ensure that the surrounding soil never dries out even after the foliage had died down adding that one should use neighbouring indicator plants such as Hostas, he pointed out that if they flagged in June/July (indicating dryness) a bucket of water should be thrown over them. Andrew suggested, that if Trilliums are a particular favourite, one should try Trillium kurabayashii as it sports purple mottled leaves and deep purple-red flowers, these leaves are then followed by seed pods the size of small ping-pong balls.

We then entered the world of Hostas or ‘slug food’ as Andrew calls them. It’s true, even grown in pots, heavily barricaded with gravel, showered with Slug Stoppas and encircled with what seems like the world’s supply of copper, the blighters appear to be armed with trampolines and zip-wires – well that’s what it seems like judging by the state of my collection by mid-July. But being optimistic Dr Ward came up with apparently slug-resistant types such as ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Beach Boy’, he then advised the use of products such as Slug Rid by Vitax or Feraamol (both found on the internet).


By the end of the talk my head was spinning with a multitude of colour and form and a wish to try and achieve just a small part of his suggestions in my own patch at home. Andrew ended his talk by thanking the audience and inviting all to peruse a small selection of plants he had brought for sale.