Resolute London Pride

Saxifraga x urbium.
Saxifraga x urbium. / Diane Dewhirst
  • Saxifraga x urbium is a hardy, low-growing perennial which loves dry, shady locations and has spikes of dainty pinkish flowers in spring

Common names for this member of the Saxifraga genus includes St Patrick's Cabbage, Whimsey, Prattling Parnell, Look Up And Kiss Me and London Pride, the latter being the most popular. Although 'true' London Pride (Saxifraga x urbium) is a hybrid between Saxifraga umbrosa, native to the Spanish Pyrenees, and S. spathularis, the 'true' St Patrick's Cabbage native to Western Ireland, many plants in the genus are called London Pride saxifrages.

Saxifraga x urbium forms dense rosettes of scalloped-edged, spoon-shaped leaves; fleshy stems up to 30cm high with pale pink or white panicles of flowers appear in spring.

It will grow in dry shade where few other plants will survive but prefers a loamy soil with partial shade and occasional watering in the heat of the summer. It is an aggressive grower but is not invasive. Propagation is by potting up the slender stolons (runners) which have a small rosette of leaves on the ends.

Before the 17th century, London Pride referred to the Sweet William. In the language of flowers it stands for frivolity but after the London blitz in WWII it came to symbolise the resilience of Londoners as it quickly colonised the bomb sites.

Besides being an excellent plant for dry, shady areas of the garden it can also be used as ground cover (it is brilliant at suppressing weeds) for path edging, rockeries and containers.

There are many species and named varieties available, a particularly striking plant is the S. x urbium 'Aureopunctata' which has yellow spotted leaves. Other exceptionally pretty varieties are S. x primuloides 'Clarence Elliot' and the tiny S. cuneifolia.

The main photograph this week was sent in by Diane Dewhirst who says they are "just a pink cloud at the mo and seed everywhere".