This week I am starting the first entry in my winter project: create a plant profile for each garden plant we feature in the various MacKenzie Childs gardens. My hope is to create a property personal data base of everything I have planted. This feature should provide visitors who are interested in knowing more about the specific choices I have made, what each plant’s care needs are, and in what gardens that plant can be found.
Acanthus mollis, common name, Bear’s Breeches, is an ancient plant that originated in Southern Europe. The leaves of Acanthus have been immortalized in the sculpted designs of Greek Corinthian columns as far back as the fifth century B.C. The 10 inch leaves have been featured in carvings and artwork for centuries.
It is a large, statuesque plant that spreads three feet and has flowering stalks shooting up to four feet. According to Armitage, who calls the spiky flowers lovely, and somewhat unnerving, it thrives in moist, rich soil but is drought tolerant once established. It is one of those amenable plants that will grow in partial sun and full sun. The glossy leaves are said to be evergreen but they will get quite tattered in a cold climate like ours (USDA zone 5).
Around here, acanthus is a bit hard to find. I have had plant envy since my undergrad days at Cornell where the Plantations had the stunning (and sharp) A. spinosus as part of the groundcover collection. I was able to buy a plant for my home garden twenty years ago and nurtured it into a presentable colony before I moved. The leaves are reminiscent of Scotch Thistle, our emblem; since the plants are much more desirable and much less invasive that Scotch thistle, I have been on a plant quest since I began designing the property gardens. I was not able to find it in MacKenzie-Childs quantities until last spring. We planted 50 plugs into the was black hole that is the white garden with hopes that it would believe it was in a zone 6 garden and would survive. I will update this spring.