Raised by Lady Henderson at Hensol Castle, Castle Douglas in Dumfriesshire, Scotland towards the end of the last century, Meconopsis baileyi 'Hensol Violet' has since become firmly established in cultivation. With glorious violet purple blooms, it has proven to be a good perennial form that comes true from seed.
Meconopsis are one of the most impressive plants for the shade garden. They are not always easy to please, requiring an evenly moist, rich soil and cool woodland conditions. In warm climates partial shade is needed. The plants typically flower in the second or third year, setting seed, then dying out. They grow to a height of around 60cm (24in) and a spread of 30cm (12in).
Hensol Violet is a superb addition for woodland borders and shady areas. Like other Meconopsis varieties, it is perfect for a shady, well-drained border.
'Hensol Violet' bears large satiny violet purple blooms 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) wide. The colour of the blooms range from light to deep violet depending on soil nutrients. The blooms are produced above rosettes of hairy leaves during early summer.
Meconopsis baileyi 'Hensol Violet' is an impressive variety that is a treasure for any garden.
Sowing: Sow February to June or September to October.
The type of compost used for seed germination is not too critical. An important feature is for it to have high air porosity. The incorporation of grit enabling minimum root damage when pricking out is also preferable.
Place seed on the surface of the compost and cover with a very fine sprinkling of sieved compost or vermiculite. Water the pots from below (to avoid seed disturbance), or from above with a fine spray.
Seal the container inside a polythene bag or cover with glass or plastic to protect from heavy rain but not frost. Place outdoors in a cool greenhouse, coldframe or sheltered corner.
Keep the compost moist, never allow surface to dry out, especially after germination has taken place.
Germination can take two weeks to several months, sometimes occurring in the second year. Once germinated, place at 10 to 15°C (50 to 59°F) and water carefully from the base of the container to avoid damping off problems. Very dilute fungicide applied on first observing the problem can help.
Prick out seedlings at the two or three leaf-stage. Avoid damaging the stem, by handling the leaves only. Transfer gently to the same light compost, avoiding compaction. Place in a cooler place with shade from strong sunlight until growth has resumed.
Keep the plants growing actively, and repot before the pots become root-bound. It is important not to let the plants suffer a check in growth. Transfer into the garden when well grown, plant 45cm (18in) apart in deep, moist loam in a sheltered, partially shaded position. Remove spent flowers to encourage prolific blooming. At the end of the season, leave a few plants to die down and self seed. Others can be pulled up and composted.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Borders and Beds, Woodland Garden
Meconopsis is a genus of about 45 species of annuals, biennials, and deciduous or evergreen, often short lived or monocarpic perennials. They occur in moist, shady, mountainous areas, alpine meadows, woodland, scrub, scree, and rocky slopes in the Himalayas, Burma, and China, with one species from W. Europe.
The species has been introduced into cultivation during the past 150 years from their mountainous Asian habitats. In recent years a lot of focus has shifted onto the nomenclature and identification of many plants due to hybridisation in gardens.
The genus name is from the Greek mekon meaning 'poppy', and opsis which indicates a resemblance, so meaning 'resembling a poppy'.
The Tibetan blue poppy was discovered and named for by Col. F.M. Bailey in 1913 in the Rong Chu in SE Tibet and named in 1915 from a limited amount of pressed material.
In 1924 Frank Kingdon Ward travelled to the same area and collected more substantial amounts of herbarium material and also seeds. In this way, M. baileyi (also widely known as Bailey's blue poppy) was introduced into western gardens. This name persisted until the publication of George Taylor's monograph of the genus in 1934
A closely allied plant had been discovered earlier (in 1886) in NW Yunnan by Pere Delavay. This plant was described and named, M. betonicifolia, in 1889, but it was not introduced into cultivation. Then, in his 1934 monograph, George Taylor maintained that the two taxa, were conspecific. Thus, as the name M. betonicifolia had priority (being the earlier validly published name!), M. baileyi became a synonym.
The species M. baileyi has been known for many decades under the name Meconopsis betonicifolia. However, the original name, M. baileyi, has recently (2009) been restored to this taxon. Seeds and plants will undoubtedly continue to be labelled M. betonicifolia by seedsmen, nurseries and garden centres for some time to come before the restored name baileyi catches on and is accepted.
Meconopsis baileyi 'Hensol Violet' was raised by Lady Henderson at Hensol Castle, Castle Douglas in Dumfriesshire, Scotland towards the end of the last century. It came from Scottish Rock Garden Club seed that had been erroneously labelled M. x sheldonii.
A bed of the plants was noted and liked by a visitor, Les Newby, who drew it to the attention of nurseryman Bill Chudziak, who asked Lady Henderson for permission to name it M. 'Hensol Violet'. Bill Chudziak was initially largely responsible for getting it known. It has since become firmly established in cultivation.
Catherine Henderson 1915-2010:
Catherine Henderson was president of the women’s section of the Royal British Legion Scotland for 15 years, and a rare recipient of the Legion’s Gold Badge, presented to her by the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Lady Henderson was active too on behalf of the RNLI (as a branch president for a remarkable 29 years), and the RSPB — whose Ken-Dee nature reserve is on the Hensol estate and for whose local organisation she held every office including that of tea lady.
She also gave her energies to the museum commemorating the birthplace of John Paul Jones, the founder of the US Navy, at Arbigland on the Solway Firth, where Jones’s father had been a gardener. As a trustee, Catherine travelled twice to America in her eighties to drum up support.
But her greatest enthusiasm was for Hensol, the granite mansion set among woodlands on the Black Water of Dee which she inherited in 1959 from her godmother Helen, Marchioness of Ailsa, who had herself inherited it from her first husband, a Cuninghame of Lainshaw whose ancestor built the house (designed by the Gothic revivalist Robert Lugar) in 1822.
Catherine Henderson redesigned its formal grounds and created new woodland and water gardens, taking great pride in showing visitors its distinctive features: both an aquilegia and a meconopsis are named after Hensol. Her 90th birthday was marked by the planting of ornamental cherry trees along the drive.
Catherine Mary Maitland was born on March 28 1915 into one of the oldest landed families in south-west Scotland. She spent her childhood at Cumstoun near Kirkcudbright, a Maitland seat for many generations, and was educated at Westonbirt. In 1935, in Malta on the way home from visiting her godfather in Jerusalem, she met a handsome young naval officer, Nigel Henderson; they married in Plymouth two days after war broke out in 1939.
He joined the cruiser Bonaventure and news of its sinking in March 1941, by an Italian submarine south of Crete with the loss of 139 lives, reached Catherine some time before the update that her husband had survived. He remained at sea for much of the rest of the war.
The demands of postwar naval service meant the Hendersons were perpetually in transit. When the time came to move her young family from Perthshire to Portsmouth, the resourceful Catherine Henderson packed everything into a small car with a crate of chickens on the roof. Stopping at an aunt’s flat in London en route, she left the chickens overnight with the porter, offering him any eggs laid as reward. From Portsmouth they moved to Rome, where Nigel was naval attaché and Catherine gave Scottish country dancing classes, and later to Paris, where they lived and entertained in style on a barge moored opposite the Eiffel tower.
Nigel Henderson was promoted to rear-admiral in 1957 and was knighted in 1962. He retired a decade later as chairman of the military committee of Nato in Brussels, Catherine having played a key supporting role in his senior career as a hostess of great charm, energy and poise.
Thereafter she threw herself into life at Hensol, enjoying every aspect of the rural scene. She hosted annual cocker spaniel trials, and was a keen and skilful fisherwoman. On public occasions she was always elegant, yet at home she would cheerfully tackle any DIY task — even riding in a cherry picker to adjust the top of Hensol’s flagpole. Indomitable in her nineties despite confinement to a wheelchair, she took to attending weekly computer classes.
Sir Nigel Henderson died in 1993; Lady Henderson is survived by their son and two daughters.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20mg Average Seed Count 70 seeds Family Papaveraceae Genus Meconopsis Species baileyi Cultivar Hensol Violet Synonym Formerly Meconopsis betonicifolia Common Name Blue Poppy, Himalayan poppy, Tibetan poppy Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Late spring to early summer Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Partial Shade Soil Deep, moist, loamy, well drained, acidic, Time to Sow Sow February to June or September to October.