One of the most striking new plants I came across at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this month was a new linaria. I’d spotted it on the Twelfth Night garden, tucked up against a pink bee hive, and wondered what it was, it didn’t look familiar and there was no label. Then in the floral marquee, Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants showed it to me.
It proved to be an unusually dwarf form of Linaria purpurea, reaching only about 18in/45cm in height. Rosy had spotted it in the gravel on their Hampshire nursery, and it caught her eye not only because it was a lot shorter than the usual form – less than half the height – but was also unusually bushy with side shoots appearing all the way up the stem. It also seemed to be sterile (one reason it was so prolific), with none of the infuriating seedlings that the usual form produces and which you then have to weed out. Its colour also seemed a little softer, perhaps a little more blue.
On her exhibit, Rosy had it labelled simply Linaria purpurea “Dwarf” – not such a catchy name, really, so I urged her to choose something better. Later, she told me they’d decided to call it ‘Mini-Me’. I wrote it up in my New Plants selection in the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show coverage and included it in my video covering much of the same ground.
But that wasn’t then end of the story. After the show Rosy sent me an email. It wasn’t possible to call the plant ‘Mini-Me’ as one of the big international plant breeders had registered Mini-Me as a Trade Mark for any horticultural products. They use it for a series of petunias, for example. So Hardy’s came up with a new name – ‘Freefolk Piccolo’ (the Freefolk part of the name comes from the name of the Hampshire hamlet where the nursery is located: Freefolk Priors). So, finally, this breakthrough new linaria is called Linaria purpurea ‘Freefolk Piccolo’.
Such has been the interest that the nursery has now sold out. But check the Hardy's website so see when it’s back in stock.