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By AndrewR


One of the joys of being a plantsman is the opportunity of growing unusual plants or different forms of more common ones. For example, did you know there is a near prostrate form of the shrubby potentilla? It’s a variety called ‘Manchu’ that grows a metre across but only reaches a third of that in height. The downside to this obsession is often, after deciding what the ideal plant is for a spot in the garden, discovering there is no supplier nearby (or sometimes not even in the country). Abutilon ochsenii and pelargonium schlecteri fall into this latter category.

After moving some paeonies last autumn, I decided the vacant spot would be ideal for a rhaphiolepis, an evergreen shrub from southeast Asia. It is disease and pest free, has dark green leathery leaves and white flowers with a pale pink tinge in early summer. There is also a cultivar called ‘Spring Song’ with flowers of a more definite pink, carried over a longer period. But I set my heart on ‘Coates Crimson’ with blooms of a darker colour. Where could I get one?

I checked the RHS Plant Finder and found a nursery in Hertfordshire who did mail order. Bingo. Then I looked at their website and discovered they only send out smaller plants. The rhaphiolepis only came in large pots and would not be delivered. It looked like a long trip was on the cards.

But this afternoon I nipped down to our local ‘cheap and cheerful’ Garden Centre to order my supplies of compost, grit, etc for the coming year and, lo and behold, nestling among their shrubs was rhaphiolepis ‘Coates Crimson.’ So now I have it – but perhaps it’s not so rare as I thought. I’ll have to find that abutilon to make up for it.

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Hi Andrew
Well done on locating your challenge plant, it is so surprising when they pop up when you least expect it!
Abutilons - sell a varigated one in plant form, but another 2 types in seed form, one is a hybrid of the one you are searching for.
RHS plant finder in my personal experience does list places but they have been out of date and no longer sell the product you are after. I know they are successful for most people but my experience has been pretty awful, even trying to find something as basic as Santolina.
What I do is look at Botanical Garden plants and their retail areas and they are usually pretty handy for the more rare species. Doing an image search for your abutilon I came across some Botanical Gardens that grew it, maybe contacting them to see if they sell the plants would be helpful, they may even know of other suppliers.
Best of luck

11 Feb, 2008


I use the Plant Finder too, and have been frustrated in going off to buy a plant/shrub that I really wanted, only to find either an empty space or a disinterested 'seller' who just shrugs and says " Oh, we used to sell those, we don't any more". Well - excuse me, but why list it, then? I have learned that I have to phone first, to avoid long trips and/or annoyance. Glad you found your 'wish-list' shrub, Andrew!

12 Feb, 2008


I don't know whether the problem lies with the RHS or supplier. Have found many out-of-date suppliers and plant lists leading, like you, Spritz, to having to make further
enquiries. Perhaps there needs to be more communication between the 2 parties. This, however, would cost in terms of time and money. I never now treat the Plantfinder as a "bible" but it is usually now a starting point. I always send e-mails, make phone calls to check.
Having said this, however, my wonderful source of fuchsias found via Plantfinder must probably be in hibernation still coz I've had no reply to e-mail or phone call. Early days yet, tho.

13 Feb, 2008


I do know that the RHS has to work a long while ahead of publication, and they do ask each Nursery for their lists to be up-to-date (I have a friend who specialises in Schlumbergias) but I do wonder whether this unavoidable delay is the reason??? No excuse for Nurseries who do not bother to keep their lists accurate and just send in the old one, though. We do need to name-and-shame, I think!

13 Feb, 2008


I use the online version of Plant finder on the RHS website as a starting point. If the only supplier is in John O'Groats and they don't offer mail order then I look for something else. But at least it's a guide to availability and a starting point. Having experience of the way the RHS operates, I wouldn't be too quick to point the finger entirely at the nurseries

13 Feb, 2008


I always use Google and the uk search pages only, I type in the name of the plant and hey presto, I've never had any disappointment or frustration. I entered the Coates Crimson the other day and it came up with the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery who do online ordering and the price and delivery options as well. I too have contacted nurseries through the RHS and have had no response from them so have gone elsewhere, tut, tut to them both I think.

14 Feb, 2008

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