Salvia Companions: Kentish Hero Pouch Flowers
Bright orange as a pumpkin, the plump, prolific blossoms of the Kentish Hero Pouch Flower (Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero') bloom from spring into summer lighting up perennial gardens.
This water-loving member of the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae) also is often grown as an annual in areas with colder winter temperatures than those of its range from USDA Zones 7 to 11. It does well in in full sun to partial shade and particularly favors locations with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Kentish Hero dies to the ground like an herbaceous perennial after frost in most USDA zones. But it is a subshrub with a combination of soft and woody growth in warmer areas.
What's in a Name?
Calceolaria comes from the Greek word calceolus, which means "slipper." Integrifolia refers to leaves that have smooth edges without indentations. In addition to Pouch Flower, common names for this tough species have a decidedly gentle sound. They include Slipperwort, Lady's Slipper and Pocketbook Plant.
Calceolaria integrifolia is common to Central and South America from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. Its flowers are predominately yellow, unlike the bright-to-burnt orange of Kentish Hero. According to records at Britain's Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, the species was introduced to horticulture in 1770. Then, sometime around 1840, an unknown British gardener hybridized the species to create Kentish Hero.
The British connection helps to explain the plant's cultivar name, which honors Caractacus, a Welsh chieftain who battled conquest by the Romans in 43 A.D. When defeated, Caractacus hid in the local mountains and continued to fight the Romans for years.
If you decide to grow Kentish Hero, be glad that you don't have to call it "Caractacus," which is quite a mouthful when combined with the species name.
Nineteenth Century Favorite
Kentish Hero first emerged in British garden publications in the mid-19th century. By 1849, the Manual of Flower Gardening for Ladies referred to it as a "new shrubby variety" of the species with "deep yellow and bright brown" flowers, which may seem a bit puzzling. However, climate and local growing conditions -- such as soil chemistry -- can affect flower color for almost any species.
Description of flower color can also depend on the eye of the beholder. In 1851, an anonymous author writing for Britain's Chapman and Hall -- Charles Dickens' publishers -- described Kentish Hero as being a "rich bronzy color" creating a "blaze of beauty. " This was in The Florist and Garden Miscellany, Volume 3.
Similar to the Garden Miscellany author, we "beg to recommend" this lovely species which mixes well with water-loving Salvias, such as ones appropriate for Florida gardens. Mass it along a walkway or at the front of a mixed border. It's also an excellent container plant.
Questions About Salvia Companion Plants
If you have questions about Kentish Hero or any of our Salvia companions, please contact us. We enjoy helping you make good decisions for your garden.