Agapetes serpens

Scientific name: Agapetes serpens


Common name: Agapetes

Family: Ericaceae


Agapetes serpens   


Just as you thought the colour and warmth had left us for winter, one plant has refused to go out without a fight. As you stand at the sundial and face the Visitor Centre it’s only a short walk to your right along the road to the Barbecue lawn, then at the south end of the lawn you will find a small path. This path will reveal the radiating heat and beauty, which persuaded me to choose this outstanding plant related to a few household plants such as ericas and rhododendrons.

This plant, although not as hardy as rhododendrons, is and would be a great addition to anyone’s garden provided it has the conditions it is best suited to. These include a cool, shaded area sheltered by a wall, hedge or the south side of your house, or in a hanging basket near the house, where arching branches will produce lovely little flowers at eye level. An acid soil, good drainage, high humidity up until flowering time and adequate water year round are also required.

The plant’s origin is Nepal, Bhutan, Northern Assam and some remote but close-by areas at altitudes of 1500-3000 metres. It grows there on mossy banks within the forests or as an epiphyte. Although this shrub may only get to one meter of height it would still make an excellent splash of colour in winter in anyone’s garden, against a green background this would look magnificent, or even trained across a wall it would look equally impressive.

The Greek word ‘agapetos’ beloved, refers to the showy nature of these plants and ‘serpens’, from the Latin for serpent or snake could refer to the creeping habit or arching form of this graceful plant. Could it also refer to the ‘snake-skin’ pattern on the petals?