PLANT OF THE WEEK #33: Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

“I’m just going to check out the plant stall,” I said to my wife.

She looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

“Da-aad,” chorused my daughters with a note of despair – “no more plants!”

But on this sunny Saturday morning at the local school fair, how could I possibly know what fate had planned?

“I won’t,” I promised, and trotted off.

I’d been searching for Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae since starting to make my garden nine months earlier. 

And I’d been warned it wouldn’t be easy. None of my local nurseries had it and even online it was proving hard to track down. 

I wanted it for the dry, shady beds beneath two trees. E. robbiae was, after all, discovered in an oak wood in Turkey by the intrepid Mrs Robb (who brought it home to England in her hat box, thus earning it the common name “Mrs Robb’s bonnet”). It would be perfect for my needs.

As I approached the $5 plant section, I could see plenty of people already perusing. I quickly scanned the offerings. The usual suspects were there: catmint, sedums, society garlic … nothing to endanger the promise I’d made.

Then I clocked them. The dark green leaves of E. robbiae. And not just one pot, but several, each of a generous size.

In that moment of discovery, those pots had an ethereal glow. I walked towards them, all the while fearing that the people ahead of me would also spy them.

They didn’t. They kept moving. I wanted to leap and punch the air. I wanted to hoist a pot above my head like the premiership cup. 

My plant hunt was finally over.

I imagined how E. robbiae wouldlook once established in my garden: the haze of lime green flowers standing above the evergreen rosettes of foliage. I could picture bulbs in amongst them, bursting through and then retreating once the spring flowers had faded.

I fought back the Gollum inside me and selected five or six of the biggest clumps. That wouldn’t be enough to complete the image in my mind, but I could divide them and, in time, these plants would bulk up and send out a network of runners to create the ground cover I desired.

First, though, I had to get them home.

If only, like Mrs Robb, I’d brought a hat box.

Please note: Euphorbia robbiae is only infrequently available, but is on the current list at Lambley nursery (03 53434303 or lambley.com.au).  It is likely to sell out fast, but there was still stock available on the morning of the 13/10/20.


Richard Padgett is bringing to life his design for his garden in Woodend, Victoria. You can follow his progress on Instagram: @richard_creates

Discussion

  1. I love this story Richard 🙂 It is always a joy to make a discovery of a plant you covet ‘hanging around’! I am embarrassed to say that I have this plant spreading and suckering in my garden. With no knowledge of it’s name I have almost cursed it for sneaking about into areas of my garden I want to share with other plants. After reading your article, and arriving home I raced out to the garden to see if my clump of this euphorbia was still in fine form. It was! I am ashamed to say that I have done this with many a plant over the past 38 years. I ‘LOVED’ violets, now I curse them! I ‘LOVED’ forget me nots, then the dry seeds stuck to all my clothes, the kids and the dog! ARRGH! Those cottage plants have so much to answer for!!
    The euphorbia robbiae will now be treated with respect and considered a worthy euphorbia for my garden. BTW I LOVE Euphorbias!! 🙂

    1. I completely agree with you about Euphorbias, Symone. Don’t they look lovely catching the sunlight at this time of year? Glad E. robbiae is finding favour again. It’s funny how our feelings about plants change. I’ve a few already that have fallen from their pedestal. I love that the relationship with my garden is evolving, though – even the frustration and failure. That constant re-evaluation – what works, what doesn’t, what could I try next – is very much part of the enjoyment, isn’t it?

  2. The thrill of the hunt! Even better when you actually find that gem. I can relate to your story Richard.

    1. Yes, it’s great when the searching pays off – it adds an extra layer of appreciation. What have been your best “discoveries”?

  3. I’m hoping that one day they’ll sort out, from the genetics, whether this really is a form of Euphorbia amygdaloides. I bears no resemblance, in leaf or growth form, to E amygdaloides ‘parpurea’ (of which E. ‘Craigieburn’ is a form). Neither of the latter run at all at the root, but that’s the most notable (and most useful) characteristic of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae.

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