Heuchera 'Palace Purple'
Heuchera 'Palace Purple' is an historical Heuchera cultivar of some importance as it was the first of the coloured foliage Heucheras and began the tidal wave of interest in Heucheras as foliage plants which has since swept the horticultural world. Heuchera 'Palace Purple' was first discovered as a chance seedling in 1980 in a seed batch at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, by Brian Halliwell, AHRHS, who was the Assistant Curator of the Alpine and Herbaceous Department there for over 20 years, retiring in 1989.
There is a certain amount of debate as to the genetic origins of this cultivar and perhaps only Brian Halliwell and a trawl through the archives at Kew can clear it up. It was originally named as Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia and is still often sold in nurseries as Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'. It is probably a form of Heuchera villosa to which it is largely indistinguishable, having the same cold hardiness and seed morphology. Heuchera villosa is native to well-drained rocky wooded slopes from Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee and has a purple form, Heuchera villosa f. purpurea.
The original seed is thought to have made its way to Kew via the late botanist, Dr Edgar T. Wherry (1885-1982) who collected purple-leaved plants of Heuchera villosa in Virginia in the early 1960's and who shared seeds through the American Rock Garden Society exchange. However, neither Heuchera micrantha nor Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia are native to the Southern States and grow instead in the Pacific Northwest. A synonym of Heuchera villosa is Heuchera macrorhiza and it is possible that this was the name written on the seed packet and may have been misread as Heuchera micrantha.
Whatever it origins, Heuchera 'Palace Purple' became hugely popular in the 1980's and was widely distributed, finding its way back to America where by the early 1990's it had created quite a sensation, further inspiring a number of notable nurserymen to what was possible with Heucheras and their future potential. Alan Bush, who had worked at Kew in the late 1970's, was among those nurserymen who brought 'Palace Purple' to the American public from his Holbrook Farm & Nursery at Fletcher, North Carolina. A darker and taller strain that he had selected was named 'Molly Bush' - after his daughter - and was produced commercially in Europe and again re-introduced to America. Blooms of Bressingham also took 'Palace Purple' to America and selected their own strain 'Bressingham Bronze' which has very crinkly leaves.
Heuchera 'Palace Purple' has a tallish lush mound of bronzy-purple ivy-shaped foliage with deep purple on the underleaf and delicate sprays of white flowers throughout the summer. As a foliage groundcover it is fantastic with frost-hardy year-around colour, a tolerance of a wide range of soil types and strong resistance to slugs.
Grows best in a rich moist but well-drained soil in part to full shade and clumps should be divided every few years to renew their vigour.
|Synonyms||Heuchera villosa 'Palace Purple', Heuchera villosa f. purpurea 'Palace Purple, Heuchera villosa var. macrorhiza 'Palace Purple, Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia 'Palace Purple, Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple', Heuchera micrantha var. versicolor 'Palace Purple', Heuchera macrorhiza 'Palace Purple'|
|Geographical Origin||Horticultural cultivar probably derived from Heuchera villosa or Heuchera villosa f. purpurea from Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee|
|Cultivation||Rich, moist, but well-drained soil. Sun or partial shade|
|Eventual Height||15 cm|
|Eventual Spread||Spreading habit|
|Hardiness||Fully hardy perennial|
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