Plant of the Month
Tricyrtis Formosa ‘Dark Beauty’
Commonly known as the Toad Lily, this is a plant that I always look forward to in the autumn. It sits just below my kitchen window in a very shady north facing border. It never fails to lift my spirits on a dull day. The purple spotted star shaped flowers remind me of an orchid and are set off well against the smooth deeply veined leaves. It is the perfect plant for a tricky spot where you want late interest. The toad lily flowers from September through to the end of October and is fully hardy requiring little or no attention. It makes a lovely and unusual addition to any shady or woodland border. 30cm W x 50cmH
Commonly known as the Japanese Pagoda Tree, this wonderful tree flowers late in the year delivering interest at a time when there is little going on making it even more spectacular. It is a large, well shaped deciduous tree with a rounded head and low branching habit. It flowers in late summer into autumn (August -September), bearing long, fragrant, creamy white pea-shaped flower panicles at the end of the branches which later become beaded seed pods. The bees absolutely love this tree and it positively hums when in flower! The leaves are pinnate and similar in look to an ash. Ideally this tree needs a sunny spot but will tolerate most aspects. It's also tolerant to urban pollution. It is best planted in nutrient rich, well drained soil.
Common Myrtle is a lovely evergreen shrub with glossy, pointed, aromatic leaves. At this time of year it is festooned with white, fluffy, puffball flowers which are sweetly scented. Later these will be followed by purple-black berries. The bark too is a lovely rust colour which adds to the overall interest. A bushy shrub, it makes an excellent backdrop in any border with well drained, fertile soil. Plant in a sunny position against a south or west facing wall, as it only frost-hardy and needs extra protection in cold areas. Can also be used as attractive hedging. Prune in late spring to keep a good shape and mulch with manure.
Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost'
I love to use Eryngium to make a bold statement in my borders. Sea Hollies have striking teasel-like flowers - wonderful for cut and dried arrangements - that sit above lovely heart-shaped foliage. Planted in drifts they make a wonderful feature in a sunny border or set amongst grasses. This variety, Miss Wilmott's Ghost, is named after Ellen Wilmott, who, as legend has it, would secretly drop its seeds into other people's gardens. From June to September it produces stunning cones of tiny blue flowers that sit above silvery grey star-shaped bracts, which will pick up the light and almost sparkle on a bright summer's day. It will eventually grow to 30m wide x 90cm tall. I often use other varieties too such as Eryngium x zabelli 'Joss's Eijking' which is a vibrant metallic blue and flowers slightly later in the season or the smaller Eryngium bourgatti that has a deeper cut bract with a slightly softer look.
Kolwitzia amabilis 'Pink Cloud'
This lovely shrub, also known as the Beauty Bush, produces pink and white foxglove-like flowers with yellow throats from May to June. It is a deciduous, sucking shrub with arching stems and masses of flowers. It is a great addition to any mixed or shrub border as it thrives in both sun and partial shade. It is fully hardy and very tolerant of a range of soil conditions including chalk. Ultimately it grows to 4m wide and 3m tall but can be kept in check with pruning which should be done after flowering in mid summer. A beautiful plant that lives up well to its name.
Malus Transitoria is a small ornamental crab apple that bears clouds of delicate white blossom in May. This gently spreading, ornamental tree is suitable for any garden. It has beautiful, deeply lobed bright green leaves, like those of a maple which turn a lovely buttery yellow in the autumn, along with small amber-coloured berries that stay on the trees well into winter and twinkle like little jews in the rain. This tree prefers fertile moist loamy conditions but is pretty tolerant provided the ground is not waterlogged. Ultimate height is 6m with a spread of 5m.
Exochorda x macrantha Niagara
Exochorda is one of my favourite shrubs and I often include it in my planting schemes. It puts on such a lovely show at this time of year and maintains a good shape throughout the rest of the growing season. 'Niagara' is a beautiful variety that is a hybrid cross between ‘racemosa' and ‘macrantha'. It is compact in habit and grows into a rounded bush with slightly arching branches, producing masses of creamy white flowers in spring. Being smaller in form it is more versatile in a wide range of gardens. Exochorda does well in full sun but will also grow in dappled shaded, it prefers moist well drained soil which is neutral to acid and is easy to grow.
This is an unusual shrub which makes a lovely addition to a late winter or early spring garden. It bares pendant racemes of small, cup-shaped pale yellow flowers which drip from bare, arching bronze coloured branches. It flowers from February to April so is a good plant for early pollinators. It ultimately grows to size 3m x 3m and prefers ericaceous soil.
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'
A majestic shrub that bears clusters of small, deep pink flowers which are strongly scented from January to February. The flowers are followed by rounded, purple-black berries. This semi-evergreen shrub thrives in a sunny, sheltered position. It is slow growing, but well worth having and it is particular lovely when planted near a path so that the scent can be appreciated. It ultimately grows to 1.5m wide by 4m high and requires minimal pruning.
Chimonanthus praecox - Winter Sweet
This large shrub produces small, sweetly scented, yellow flowers with purple stained insides. The flowers appear on bare branches throughout the winter months from December to February. This is a vigorous shrub that take a few years to start to flower but it is well worth the wait. It makes a lovely specimen plant for a sunny, well-drained mixed or winter border. When mature it reaches up to 4m high by 3m wide. Minimal pruning is required.
Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty'
A star performer for the winter months bringing scent and colour to the garden from December through to the end of March. This superb evergreen clematis has delicate, waxy, bell-shaped flowers with lush foliage. This variety likes a sheltered site with some winter protection. Grows up to 4m high with a spread of 1.2m. It requires very little pruning other than to remove diseased, damaged congested or crossing shoots.