As the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show draws to a close, many of the rarest and most interesting plants are to be found in the Plant Heritage Marquee as holders of National Collections of plants as varied as cannas and camellias show off their treasures. Barrie Clarke, whose "day job" is as propagator at the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum in Hampshire, holds the National Rubus Collection. This year he showed the fruits of his plant hunting in China - and, in particular, two species not seen before.
Rubus pseudoacer (above, click to enlarge) looks to have the potential to be a really valuable foliage plant. As you can see from the picture, the bright green veins make an attractive pattern across the olive green leaf while the backs of the leaves are a lovely contrasting shining reddish brown. The leaves are long and pointed.
Barrie found this species in a very dark shaded gulley in Guangxi in Southern Yunnan province, and also features small white flowers followed by colourful bright orange fruits. He reports that in the garden this species prefers acid, shady and well-drained conditions but that it may not be hardy here in Britain.
The other new species Barrie has on show, never seen in Britain before, is R. reflexus var. lanceolobus has foliage reminiscent of a Rodgersia, opening with a striking bronze tint and evolving into a bright green divided leaf, the tips of each division tending to droop. The flowers are relative unobtrusive, reddish and tubular but followed by bright orange fruits. This species, from near Guilim City in China, might well be hardy.
Neither of these species is yet available to gardeners, but you can check out the National Rubus Collection website for details of the whole collection.