It is a plant name, both scientific and horticultural, that gives cause for confusion and consternation. When I first saw this plant in the 1980s it had the wonderful name of Zauschneria californica, and the clonal identifying name of Dublin. I learned more of its muddled history from accounts in An Irish Flower Garden, An Irish Flower Garden Replanted and finally the entry under Epilobium canum (its currently accepted name) in A Heritage of Beauty. Although there is confusion as to who found it and in which garden the plant originated, it was most definitely Dublin.
The lesson in the tale is that among great gardeners a forgetfulness can set in and tales are told that may or may not be absolutely true. What is true is that this willowherb is a real stunner. It forms a plant of approximately 40cm tall and can spread to the same amount by means of rhizomes. In late summer the spikes of fiery-red flowers cannot be ignored. It enjoys a sheltered, well drained site and gets its name from part of its native distribution, the California fuchsia. Testament to its calibre is an Award of Merit from the RHS.
(As appeared in Newsletter 150, September 2020. Text courtesy of Brendan Sayers and photos by Paddy Tobin)