Plant of the Month
When choosing flowers for the winter garden, the oriental hybrids are worthy of their place as they provide more large and colourful flowers than many other plants at this time of year. They bulk up quick and by having avoided the more woody group, do not take up awkward space once flowering is over.
Chimonanthus praecox is one of six species in the genus, all of which are from China. It is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 13m tall. Leaves are oblong shaped, 2-12cm long and papery. The waxy, buttery coloured flowers are each about 2-3cm wide and are formed on the branches of previous year’s growth.
Mistletoe, or Viscum album, currently in the Santalaceae family, grows on mainly deciduous trees throughout most of Europe, central and northern Asia to Japan, south to North Africa. Common in central and southern England, it becomes harder to find north of Yorkshire. When looking for mistletoe, common host trees are apple, poplars and limes.
Neoshirakia japonica is a hardy shrub/small tree native to Korea, China and Japan where it grows in moist forests at an altitude of 100-400m. In the wild they can reach a height of 25ft, but in cultivation they don't often get this big.
It is the potential use for delicate interest under trees and shrubs, alongside their cheery yellow that make Sternbergia so appealing to me, and popping a few in the ground next year may provide you with a pleasant surprise when you least expect it.
Phygelius the 'Cape Fuchsia' in the Scrophulariaceae family, is a fabulous but still underused garden plant. As the common name suggests it resembles the well known Fuchsia with long tubular pendant flowers and similar foliage. However they are not closely related, stemming from different plant families.
As recalled in the well worth a read, 'Growing Guide to Penstemons', the founder of what is now 'Thompson and Morgan' wrote in 1855 that should he have to pick just two plants to sell, they would be the Penstemon and the Salvia.
There is something very special about Meconopsis and crowds are often seen admiring them when displayed at shows or in gardens. The bright blue flowers occur from late spring-early summer on open heads of up to 6 flowers per spike and can be 5cm in diameter.
Trees such as the Foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa), the Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) and perhaps, most gloriously, the elegant Snowdrop tree (Halesia tetraptera), reveal charms of the garden border high up along the skyline.