I’ve never been fishing. I don’t see the attraction. Sitting around for hours with very little action. Just not my scene. But, this month’s plant wouldn’t exist if it
weren’t for one particular fishing trip back in 2002!
It’s Senecio ‘Angel Wings’.
How was this plant created?
Plant developer and businessman Lyall Fieldes was a man who couldn’t stop thinking about plants, even on a scheduled day off during a business trip to Chile. He was taken fishing by his hosts in the Patagonia region, and during the trek to a suitable ‘fishing hot spot’, he was taken by a rather distinct silver plant which he almost stepped on. The plant stood out amongst the other vegetation,
due to its silver sheen, but also its robust size.
What happened next?
This intriguing plant next found itself on the other side of the world, as Gentian breeder Takashi Hikage visited from Japan and immediately took a liking to the plant.Takashi-san became No. 1 in Japan thanks to a rich understanding of current needs, whilst also grasping future needs. He expressed interest in testing and marketing these Senecio plants in Japan, where he knew the tactile nature
of the plant would be popular.
Tests were then carried out in the mountainous northern region of Honshu Island, and selections were made for the Japanese conditions and market, and the silver beauty proved popular. However, Lyall still wasn’t sure if the European market would take a liking to a new foliage plant like this. Foliage had not been
popular for many years.
A couple of years later, new plant developer Ron Hoogeveen from CNB New Plants in Holland was visiting Takashi-san in Japan. He saw some potential in this plant and started showing some European traders. In fact, I remember one rainy afternoon in Lisse, Holland and Ron came into the office where I was visiting with one of these plants. Even I wasn’t sure about it; foliage really didn’t sell well,
and especially not silver.
However, Peter van Rijssen and Ron soon began a sophisticated propagation and marketing programme, researching the markets where the Senecio could prosper.
What’s different about this plant?
Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ has very few comparisons; perhaps Stachys byzantina (Lambs Ears) would be the nearest match, with its silver downy leaves. Of course, ‘Angel Wings’ is much bigger than that, with Bergenia-sized leaves. The colour is slightly grayer than the myrtle flower with long stamens. The texture is addictive and businessmen even started stroking it 10 minutes into meetings with Peter and Ron! It’s kinda silky, soft, bouncy – you may even want to
bury your face in it!
The popularity of ‘Angel Wings’ has shocked the world, and I love seeing how creatively it can be used. The boom in sales may be partly due to the fresh ‘urban jungle’ trend taking hold, which has also elevated forgotten sub-shrubs
such as Coleus and Strobilanthes.
Plants don’t often flower, in fact I’ve only seen it once. But, it is quite the event, as the whole plant almost explodes and reaches for the sky, with a spurting
flower cluster of snowy white blooms!
Where can you plant Senecio ‘Angel Wings’?
Thanks to its Southern Chile heritage, ‘Angel Wings’ is not only drought tolerant, but also salt tolerant, so a welcome relief for those dealing with gardens by the sea. Despite that, it’s fast-growing and clumps up well! Hardy to -5C, it makes a handsome accent for your border or summer bedding scheme. In pots, it’s a fantastic mixer, or simply allow it to shine on it’s own.
Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ also has a bright future as a houseplant, where it enjoys a well-lit position and moderate watering. Sprigs of ‘Angel Wings’ have even been used in some modern ‘bouqs’ (trendy new name for bouquets!)
How will you use yours…?
Where can you buy this plant?
How to grow Senecio ‘Angel Wings’:
(USDA Zone 8a -currently testing in 7b)
Size: 45cm (18”) high x 45cm (18”) in spread
Shrub of the Month is sponsored by Concept Plants, a company based in the USA who handle the introduction of new plants into the US.
It can actually be quite easy to spot new plants, as nature often does the breeding work for you! Natural variation is referred to as a ‘sport’, or you may find a new hybrid has appeared in your garden by itself. To hunt down these new plants, it’s all about noticing differences. Make sure you take time out to get to know the plants in your garden, and if any seem different to the norm, let me know!
See every Shrub of the Month here.