Magic Dragon vs Rehmannia elata

A few people have asked how Magic Dragon compares to Rehmannia elata which you might already be familiar with – well, aside from improved garden performance, a longer flower season and better colour, these pictures neatly show that Magic Dragon (on the left) has *much* bigger flowers. A real improvement!

Rehmannia Walberton's Magic Dragon has much larger flowers than Rehmannia elata
Rehmannia Walberton’s Magic Dragon has much larger flowers than Rehmannia elata
Compare the size of flowers - Rehmannia Walberton's Magic Dragon (left) with Rehmannia elata (right) and a fifty pence coin for scale.
Compare the size of flowers – Rehmannia Walberton’s Magic Dragon (left) with Rehmannia elata (right) and a fifty pence coin for scale.

What makes Magic Dragon special

Magic Dragon is an exciting new garden plant. Ideal for use in borders or as a patio container plant, it has a very long season of flower beginning in May and continuing until frost.

The sturdy, upright plants grow to around 70cm tall. The flower stems keep branching from the base to produce more and more buds and flowers.

The flowers are very large, up to 7.5cm diameter, and are a strong pink with attractive markings in the throat.

Magic Dragon is a good plant for pollinators – bees love the big open flowers and you will be able to watch honeybees and bumblebees visiting the plants in your garden.

It is also easy to grow – any soil that is not very dry or boggy will satisfy this plant’s needs. It does best in a sunny position or with a little light shade. It is a herbaceous perennial – this means that it dies back to ground level once the autumn frosts arrive and then regrows from the soil when warmer temperatures come in spring.

The first flowers on a young plant at Walberton Nursery.
The first flowers on a young plant at Walberton Nursery.

The story behind the plant

Rehmannia Walberton’s Magic Dragon is the product of breeding work by experienced plantsman and breeder, David Tristram, of Walberton Nursery in West Sussex.

David has been breeding plants for many years and has given our gardens some excellent and innovative new varieties, including Scabiosa Butterfly Blue, Helleborus Walberton’s Rosemary and Spiraea Magic Carpet.

David says: “I crossed my selected plants of Rehmannia elata with Rehmannia glutinosa in 2006 and produced seedlings which showed varying degrees of sterility.  So I then made crosses between the better looking hybrids for the next couple of years, continually selecting for appearance and reduced fertility. In 2011, I selected a few of the best and left them outside over the winter to see what sort of plant they produced in the spring and whether or not it was fertile.  From these, I selected Magic Dragon as being sterile and a very attractive plant which went on flowering all through the summer.”

All plants bred by David are subjected to rigorous trials before being released to the public. They have to show that they make an attractive plant that has good garden qualities—ease of cultivation, a long season of flower and hardiness. Magic Dragon passed all those tests with flying colours.

David Tristram at work in his glasshouse
David Tristram at work in his glasshouse