Aspidistra Collection at OpdeHaar Gardens

Apidistra eliator cultivars in a shadowy corner
Aspidistra cultivars in a shady corner

This is a plant that brings back memories of something green standing in its pot in a shadowy, possibly dusty, corner of grandma’s house – it might even have been her back porch. Having said this, it doesn’t come as a big surprise to learn that Aspidistra are wonderful candidates for sheltered shady spots in the garden where they are tolerant of (very) dry conditions once established. Aspidistra eliator comes from Japan as The Flora of China makes abundantly clear :

“Widely cultivated in China [native to Japan (Osumi Islands)].

Aspidistra elatior was said to be of Chinese origin, but no wild plants have been found in China. Sako and Maruno (Bull. Kagoshima Univ. For. 11: 33–78. 1983) and Sako et al. (ibid. 16: 83–108. 1988) noted that the species originated from Kuroshima, Suwanose, and Uji Islands (Osumi Islands, S of Kyushu, Japan). The Uji Islands are largely covered with thickets of Ardisia sieboldii Miquel, where Aspidistra elatior grows abundantly. Kuroshima Island is largely covered with forests of Castanopsis sieboldii (Makino) Hatusima ex T. Yamazaki & Mashiba, the understory of which is occupied by A. elatior.”

Here in the Central Netherlands, you would do a double take if you came across an Aspidistra for sale as a garden plant and, in fairness, a combination of prolonged Arctic winter temperatures of years past and soggy conditions could have finished the plant off which maybe rationalises this observation. However, that is no longer the case and we have had different Aspidistra cultivars growing in shady spots in the garden for several years. In fact, I have to plead guilty to putting my first plants in a totally impossible spot in shade and dust-dry soil under a holly tree. I can’t say the plants thrive but, 4 years later, they are growing and still decorating what would otherwise be a bare area of garden. If you go onto the Internet, you can locate suppliers of Aspidistra in Europe but if you want a glimpse of the variety is available , just take a look at what Plant Delights have on offer in the USA.  If that choice makes you think, then just look at their photo gallery.




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