Genevieve Willoughby recommends plants to make your gardens laden with scent and colour.
How often do we look longingly at pictures in garden books and glossy magazines and wish we could get our hands on some of the plants? Every gardener will have a wish list, and every list will be different.
I had wanted an Edgeworthia chrysanthia for a long time, and despaired of finding one. But, just recently, I went into a nursery and there, standing almost a metre high, was a group of these eye-catching beauties covered with their strange creamy yellow flowers.
To me, it is a must-have plant. With its stiff, upright branching habit, devoid of leaves until after flowering, it's an unusual feature in the spring garden. The buddleia-scented flowers open golden yellow and fade to white before the dark grey-green leaves unfurl.
The edgeworthia fits in well with azaleas, along with another must-have: the lily-of-the-valley bush or pieris. White or delicate pink bell-shaped flowers can literally smother the shrub in spring, followed in some varieties by brilliant orange-red shoots.
My favourites are ‘Christmas Cheer', with dusky pink bells; ‘Temple Bells', with pure white flowers; and the taller-growing Pieris formosa var. forrestii, again with white bells. There is also a variegated leaf P. japonica ‘Variegata', with green and white foliage.
Sunshine yellow is the colour of spring, and daffodils come immediately to mind. This bright cheery colour is repeated in forsythias, and I don't know why more people don't plant such happy-looking shrubs for spring.
They don't have to be grown as stiff, overly pruned squared-off shrubs, as many of us remember them from the 1960s and 70s, when our fathers got carried away with the clippers. Try them as a centrepiece in a large container surrounded by bulbs, as a standard in the flower garden, or as a fabulous hedge around the vegetable garden.
Most people will have a camellia or two on their "must-have" list. There are so many from which to choose that it really comes down to how many you can squeeze in. At the top of my list is Camellia japonica ‘Tinsie'. This camellia, with its anemone-form flowers in rose red with a prominent inner circle of pale pink petals, has an attractive open habit and glossy green foliage. It's a beauty.
I don't think there is a single philadelphus I would not have in the garden. They all clothe themselves in masses of white-scented flowers which cascade to the ground like overblown wedding gowns. Favourites include the smaller-growing ‘Sybille', the taller ‘Beauclerk' and the difficult-to-track-down, golden-leaved mock orange P. coronarius ‘Aureus'.
The person who styles himself as the labourer in our household has Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii' at the top of his list. As a result, there are two in the garden, and one V. plicatum ‘Pink Beauty'. These shrubs need space, as they like to stretch out their branches to show off the large white or pink flower heads.
Architectural plants are an important part of garden design, and you can't go past mahonias, with their big holly-like leaves and canary yellow flower spikes.
Chaenomeles, japonicas or flowering quinces require some controlling, and the late Rosemary Verey suggested growing them against a wall.
They also suit planting next to tall shrubs which flower at the same time, such as mahonias, witch hazels or Garrya eliptica. C. speciosa ‘Green Ice', with its cool-coloured flowers, or the pristine white ‘Nivalis' go beautifully with these.
Most would agree that gardens must have scent, and the more the better. Winter sweet, or Chimonanthus praecox, starts things off, followed closely by Daphne odora and the scented viburnums. Just as they start to fade, the osmanthus group takes over, and the early prunus trees fill orchards with their subtle fragrance.
Perfection is difficult to achieve but, like the "must-have" plants on our shopping lists. we keep striving for it in our gardens.
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