The Tempest

On the 29th June we welcome back the Lord Chamberlain’s Men for another spellbinding outdoor performance. This time, it’s the ‘The Tempest’ in which the vengeful Prospero conjures a magical storm in order to thwart his jealous brother. So, in honour of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, we’ve asked the Garden Team to pick their favourite storm proof, perennial plants… 


Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb)

Gunnera manicata and the Japanese Bridge, The Tempest, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Gunnera manicata and the Japanese Bridge

What: Gunnera manicata are giant herbaceous perennials which grow up to 3m tall with leaves up to 2m across carried on long, spiky, rhubarb-like stems (petioles). They produce huge flower spikes in early summer which, although inconspicuous in colour (green, tinged with red), are also brilliantly architectural.

Where: A native of Brazil, Gunnera manicata needs lots of water in order to support its giant leaves which flop dramatically in response to drought. Grow adjacent to ponds or streams where their roots can seek out all the water they desire.

How: The leaves of Gunnera manicata will begin to die back at the end of the growing season. Cut them off, turn them upside down, and secure them on-top of the crown of the plant to provide some winter protection before the first frosts arrive.

“Did you know? Gunnera form a unique symbiotic relationship with certain cyanobacteria in the soil. They provide the bacteria with carbohydrates in return for nitrogen needed to grow their giant leaves.”


Darmera peltata (Indian rhubarb)

Darmera peltata in the Stream Border, The Tempest, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Darmera peltata in the Stream Border

What: Although unrelated, Darmera peltata looks a lot like Gunnera with large, scalloped-edged leaves. However, it is much smaller (up to 1m tall) and therefore a better option for those with an ordinary sized garden. Their attractive pink flowers emerge before the leaves in spring.

Where: Darmera peltata will grow with its roots fully submerged in water or any boggy soil which never dries out in part-shade or full sun.

How: Plant the thick rhizomes on the surface of the soil so that their upper most surface remains exposed and not buried. Cut back in autumn and divide (they are very vigorous!) in autumn or spring.

“Did you know? Also known as the umbrella plant, Darmera peltata is in the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae).”


Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag iris)

Iris pseudacorus in Edgbaston Wood, The Tempest, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Iris pseudacorus in Edgbaston Wood

What: A widespread iris native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, with broad blades of foliage and sunny yellow flowers which appear in May and June.

Where: Iris pseudacorus thrive in deep, acidic soils at the margins of ponds and streams in shallow water. Plant in a sunny spot to get the most flowers which are also an important food source for native pollinating insects.

How: Like many water-loving plants Iris pseudacorus can be a bit of a bully (sometimes invasive) once it is established, so care should be taken to prevent it from overpowering less vigorous neighbours. Remove unwanted suckers and seed heads as soon as they appear.

“Did you know? The design motif fleur-de-lis is believed to have been based on the flower of Iris pseudacorus.”


Primula Candelabra hybrids (candelabra primula)

Primula Candelabra hybrids in the Sandstone Rock Garden, The Tempest, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Primula Candelabra hybrids in the Sandstone Rock Garden

What: A group of primula hybrids whose parentage is likely derived from mostly Asian species such as P. prolifera, P. bulleyana and P. japonica. Their flowers appear in whorls at intervals all the way up the flowering stem in May and June.

Where: This group of primulas are happiest in the bog garden growing alongside other acid loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendron in moist, part shade. Full sun will be tolerated but only if there is plenty of moisture in the ground.

How: Divide and re-plant overcrowded groups in spring followed by a leafy mulch. Dead head after flowering unless you want them to seed around. Candelabra primulas hybridise very freely and an unpredictable mix of colours will likely result.

“Did you know? Candelabra primulas are believed to represent the most primitive primulas still alive today.”


Astilbe ‘Red Sentinel’ (false goat’s beard)

Astilbe 'Red Sentinel' in the Sandstone Rock Garden, The Tempest, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Astilbe ‘Red Sentinel’ in the Sandstone Rock Garden

What: Astilbe ‘Red Sentinel’ is a hardy herbaceous perennial with feathery purple tinged foliage and crimson flowers borne on loosely packed flower spikes in summer.

Where: Astilbe ‘Red Sentinel’ grows best in permanently damp shade and is often found in bog and woodland gardens. Pair with other striking foliage plants that thrive in the same conditions such as hostas and ferns.

How: Divide regularly and stay vigilant against powdery mildew. Old flower spikes dry and keep their shape well. They should be left for some autumn colour and structure before they are cut back the following spring.

“Did you know? Astilbe are a Great British garden staple; we’ve been growing them since the late 1800s!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.