Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brant not Brandt

There was some discussion recently of the books of Phillips and Rix , and I was reminded of an interesting piece of Canadian Horticultural history that I uncovered a few years ago.
Vitis vinifera 'Brant' is commonly seen in British and French garden books and magazines, it is grown mainly for it's Fall colour, and certainly from the pictures one sees, it should be a very desirable plant. However I was frustrated that couldn't find it anywhere in Canada, and to add to this, I read in the Phillips and Rix book on Shrubs that it was in fact hybridized in Paris, Ontario!

The book says "Vitis 'Brant' A hybrid between V. finifera 'Black St Peters' and an American grape, 'Clinton', a cultivar of V. riparia, raised by Charles Arnold in Paris, Ontario in c. 1860. Fruits sweet, black but small. Leaves turning red, with contrasting green veins, in late summer".

When I told Roger Phillips that this Ontario native was unavailable here he said with disgust "Typical". But since then my friend David Leeman and I tracked the plant down to a Agricultural Station in Vineland Ont. and were able to buy some hardwood cuttings, which we grew on with varying levels of success. In my own garden the Fall colour wasn't outstanding and it did tend to get mold in the hot humidity of Toronto summers. Perhaps it performs better in European climates, and maybe this explains it's popularity there and it's scarcity here.

Paris Ont. is in Brant county, and named after Joseph Brant who was a famous aboriginal leader and political figure in this part of Canada. Whether the vine was named after the man or the county, I haven't been able to confirm, but one thing is for sure and that is the plants name is 'Brant' not 'Brandt' as one often sees it in the UK ( no less an authority than Penelope Hobhouse has used the name 'Brandt' in one of her books).


James Missier said...

Did you manage to plant it?
How is it doing now?

Barry Parker said...

Hi James, we grew the hard wood cuttings with about 90% success.
I was disappointed with the plant in my own garden and eventually took it out.
We donated one plant to an historic house in Toronto that has a garden planted in the style of 1800's. So I should check on this in the summer.