PLANT OF THE MONTH
The genus Aconitum or Monkshood is often thought of as a plant for the herbaceous border but there is a lesser group of these plants that are successful herbaceous climbers and look very attractive winding their way into small trees or shrubs or even bigger herbaceous plants. Though maybe not as flamboyant as the cultivars of their herbaceous cousins, they look particularly beautiful when they are caught with the sunlight behind them. One of the most frequently seen of this group is Aconitum episcopale.
As with other monkshoods the tubers enjoy a shady spot in a cool rich soil. When the soil begins to warm, growth starts and can be quite rapid. At this stage a bit of attention may be necessary to ensure it goes in the best direction. There are few things more infuriating than having to untangle a plant that has successfully attached its self to the support and has then chosen to be redirected on another course. Also slugs and snails are totally unaffected by the poisons that are in these plants so be ready to wage war on those molluscs if they are likely to cause problems.
Once they are on their way they seldom have any other problems and will wind themselves ever upwards to the light. Flowering usually starts about mid-August and will continue until they are knocked down by the frost. If you do not mind the odd bit of debris around in the garden the old, dead stems can be left in place and this will act as an ideal framework for next year's growth to climb up and they may also act as a reminder that there is something waiting beneath soil to lift its blue hooded flowers to the sunlight.