Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Iberis umbellata, Globe Candytuft

Iberis umbellata, Globe Candytuft (Brassicaceae)
with 'Dark Opal' basil and mauve Ageratum
Often I will have just one plant of something, especially if it is an an annual such as this one which arrived via a packet of mixed seed. It is always interesting sowing those packs of seed which come labelled as 'rockery mixture' or 'cottage garden flowers' as you never know what to expect. Often different seasonal flowers are included which means it is better to make successive sowing over a period of months as some seeds are programmed to just appear at certain times of the year. You often get inspiration to grow just one of the successful varieties at a future time and for me this is the case here. I would like to try growing the so called hyacinth flowered Candytuft, Iberis amara, which produces a tight cluster of white flowers which are sweetly perfumed. Having a flower belonging to the cabbage family, a 'Brassica', with a sweet perfume seems quite odd of course but nature always has many surprises. This globe candytuft looks a bit like Alyssum/Sweet Alice on stilts and seems to attract a good share of beneficial insects to the garden in the same way Alyssum does.
The Iberis name refers to the Spanish origin of the plant, the Iberian Peninsular. In France it is known as Iberide while the English Candytuft comes from Candia , the old English name for the Greek Island of Crete where it also grows wild. The most interesting common name for it is the Portuguese Assembleias which refers to the way the individual flowers are arranged in a cluster around the stem.

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