"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Leaf of the Day: Pretty Coleus or Flame Nettle

Looking like a nettle leaf, a member of the mint family and brilliant in a thousand different colourways this is such a charming little plant. Here it grows happily in a shady garden spot. They are so forgiving to even the worst of neglectful owners and as I remember, respond willingly to even the most ham fisted attempts at propagation. Pop a piece in a glass of water and soon you will have a new little plant.

The coleus was introduced to the UK in the mid 1800s and became the must-have plant. Brought over from Indonesia they were easy to grow and the colours were fascinating as you were never quite sure what you would get from the seeds. The colour variations are many and beautiful. Here is a lovely old print from 1880 of some popular varieties, from Coleusfinder.org here.


There is a renewed interest in coleus now and somehow its perky friendly aspect has won it some very strange variety names. I imagine that enthusiasts chat to each other in a sort of lingua-coleus.
From 'Mr Wonderful' and 'Prissy Primrose' through 'Tickle Me' 'Flirtin'skirts' 'October Wedding' 'Saucy Tart' 'Heavy Breathing' 'Dead Drunk' 'Careless Love' 'Sin' to 'Dark secret' 'Stormy Weather' 'September Divorce' and 'Brighter Day' they read like the plot of a brief modern marriage.... 'Mama Mia' !

Mine, I guess, would be "Sloppy Painter", I think I am going to order one today.

If you have an interest see the amazing variety here at Glasshouse Works There are 282 colourways recorded.
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Coleus, Flame Nettle


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