Burnett: Colourful world of ‘coral bells’

When I hear the name coral bells, I immediately think of my Grandma Henderson.

When I hear the name coral bells, I immediately think of my Grandma Henderson.

I have a clear memory of her pulling the couch grass growing up through her border sporting this popular plant which has graced the gardens of plant lovers since it was first introduced in 1656.

The coral bells of today, however, are not the same as those enjoyed by our grandparents.

Over the past 20 or 30 years, there have been so many new introductions I have indeed lost count.

The botanical name for coral bells is Heuchera  and in the 1914 edition of the Twentieth Century Gardener, it had a mere mention as Heuchera sanguinea, 1.5 feet tall with pink flowers in summer; several hybrids available. In the 1949 edition of the “Encyclopedia of gardening” it has a somewhat larger presence with five species listed and a mention of several pretty varieties available in the trade.

When I began my career in the late 1960s, I remember only carrying a few varieties in our garden centre and most of these were with the traditional green foliage and tiny coral pink bell shaped flowers on upright stems to about 1.5 feet.

About 20 years ago I attended a workshop in Vernon conducted by Grahame Ware, a freelance writer and broadcaster for Canadian radio, television, and print media. Grahame owns and operates a wonderful nursery called Owl and Stump rare plants near Vernon and has co-written a book called Heucheras and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells.

It was at his workshop Grahame forecasted the explosion of Huechera varieties about to happen and indeed it did.

We now have a selection of foliar colour ranging from almost black to peach pink. I have five varieties of different species in my garden and I’m not through collecting by a long shot. Even the names are exciting and descriptive.

My selection consisting of Amber Waves, Palace Purple, Georgia Peach, Black Currant and Key Lime will soon be joined by varieties such as Plum Royale and Blackout.

Most of my plants look good all winter and with a little spring cleanup they soon burst into a show of fresh new foliage.

I like planting Heuchera in groups of three or if there is room a drift of several plants of the same variety. Today the lowly coral bells have a much larger presence in the garden encyclopedias such as the 2003 edition of Taylors Encyclopedia of Garden Plants with dozens of species and varieties listed. Heuchera is a plant you can rely upon to give your garden interest and colour all year long.

This week it’s 10 years since I started writing this column. My how time flies when you’re having fun.

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Kelowna

Clinic at Kelowna Secondary School from June 22 to 24 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read