Lots of deciduous delights

SEEING the old-fashioned Tamarisk tetrandra with its soft-pink flowers on long racemes in older gardens is a reminder to discuss deciduous shrubs.

In modern, instant gardening any plant that loses its leaves is almost eliminated. As one person said to me: “I do not want any dirty shrubs that lose their leaves that I have to clean up”. This is a sad reflection on gardening today.

Some deciduous plants will always be popular, the rose for example. Many of our best floral displays combined with wonderful fragrances are deciduous shrubs. One can have flowers from late winter to late autumn followed by spectacular autumn leaf colours.

Tamarisk has been grown in southern Europe for more than a thousand years. It is extremely drought hardy and great for the salt-laden winds of the coast. The flowers appear on the new season’s wood, so winter is the ideal time for a good, hard prune.

Most folk are familiar with evergreen viburnums, especially Viburnum laurestinus, usually shortened to V. tinus, popular for hedges. But there is a whole world of deciduous viburnums to consider.

Hillier’s “Manual of Trees and Shrubs”, one of the bibles of the gardening world, lists an impressive 132 varieties and cultivars of deciduous and evergreen viburnum. I am going to mention just a few that are available at most garden centres, concentrating on those with the best fragrance.

Viburnum carlessii is a winner with its delicious fragrance in early spring. The clusters of white flowers opening from the pink buds, followed by black fruit. This was introduced into western gardens from Korea in 1902 and has been a firm favourite ever since.

V. x burkwoodii is a cross between V. carlessii and V. Utile. This has all the great properties of these two viburnums and was raised by the world-famous nurseries of Messrs. Burkwood and Skipwith in 1924.

One cannot leave out V. opulus known as the “Guilder Rose”. As with most viburnums, it has white flowers similar in looks to a hydrangea. In autumn, the bright-red, translucent berries stay well into winter creating a special feature with rich, autumn leaf colour. Possibly one of the most well-known is V. “Sterile” or “Snowball” bush with its flowers resembling snowballs.

Other deciduous shrubs to consider include Cotinus coggygria or “Smoke Bush”, with the plume-like inflorescences turning smoky-grey in late summer. Look out for C. “Royal Purple” with rich, deep-purple leaves, appearing translucent in bright sunshine.

For the smaller garden Weigela florida is perfect with flowers, depending on the variety, from deep, rose pink to pale pink. This was introduced by the famous plant hunter Robert Fortune in 1845 from the East. It is widely grown in local gardens and is the parent of many fabulous hybrids.

VACCINIUM, or blueberry, is an underrated deciduous small shr

ub that originates from North America. Its berries have one of the highest contents of antioxidant properties.

What I love about the blueberry, besides the fruit, is the wonderful display of autumn leaf colour.

Why discuss some of these plants that may not be in garden centres at this time? Usually, they are promoted in winter, bare of leaves that do not give much clue to the flowers. I have done this deliberately, as a garden should be a wonderful mixture of evergreen and deciduous shrubs to provide colour and interest all year.

In this day and age the first place to turn to for more details is the web. If you are planting out a new garden do not fret, they may not be available, but do leave sufficient space for planting later.

Dripping with success

WITH days getting hotter, a few reminders:

  • It is two years since I used our drip system, two glorious years with regular rain. But all good things come to an end. Flush out the drip-irrigation system. If you do not have a tap at the end of the line, then install one.

  • Keep drip lines above the ground and under the mulch. Run the system for a while to check how many times you have put a fork through the line.

  • Re-program the timer if on an automatic system.
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