Small buds make big impression
THERE are many flowering shrubs or small trees that can easily be planted at any time of the year, summer or winter. Some now on sale at garden centres are already in bloom, or are in bud and are about to flower.
It’s worth wandering around these places to choose the plants you like best while in flower.
Among the most well- known and loved of all winter and spring- flowering shrubs are the viburnums.
There’s a huge range of them and almost all produce spectacular displays of pink, white or green- tinted blooms.
They are also among the toughest plants we can grow and tolerate the most savage frosts, while many are also wonderfully droughtresistant with a few living to a great age.
Most viburnums grow happily in full sun or dappled shade and can even thrive in relatively poor or slightly heavy soil.
Among the first to flower is Laurustinus ( Viburnum tinus) with lovely displays continuing for weeks during winter.
Growing more than 2m, a single plant makes a great lawn specimen.
If an attractive privacy screen is needed, a row of Laurustinus can be planted 2m apart and – if regularly clipped after flowering – can soon create a magnificent, traffic- stopping, dense, evergreen flowering hedge.
V. burkwoodii is another easily grown beauty that can reach about 4m.
This outstanding, semi- deciduous shrub-tree has been blooming furiously in many Tasmanian gardens during the past few weeks, producing hundreds of white, golf ball- sized, scented flower clusters. Prune back hard after flowering if necessary. V. carlesii, a deciduous parent of the shrubs mentioned above, grows to about a metre with a spread of about the same. Originating from Korea, it is considered to be among the most beautiful of all flowering shrubs.
The unopened bud- clusters are a bright, almost shocking pink, opening to clear white.
That’s when the full, powerfully sweet scent is released.
A week or two later, the closely related and twice as tall V. x juddii also produces similar flowers and fragrances.
There are several Snowball Tree forms of viburnum, mostly variations of V. opulus.
By late November the Kolkwitzia comes into full display, presenting a totally breathtaking sight that dominates any garden
The variety Aureum produces golden- green, maple- like leaves in spring, mingled with lacy, flat- headed, white flower clusters.
V. opulus Roseum is still found under the old name Sterile.
When in flower during spring, this 3m shrub looks as though it is covered with huge, greentinted snowballs.
V. plicatum comes from Japan and is parent of an extraordinary range of natural hybrids and cultivars.
This spreading deciduous shrub has long, horizontal, overlapping branches and dazzling green leaves in spring and summer.
The much sought- after Mariesii can grow to 3m and in mid- spring is covered with hundreds of plate- sized, intensely white flower clusters, and it withstands the heaviest frosts with ease.
The Chinese Beauty Bush ( Kolkwitzia amabilis) is distantly related to the honeysuckles.
In winter, it is nothing more than a pale thicket of bare, leafless branches.
However, by late November it comes into full display, presenting a totally breathtaking sight that dominates any garden.
Growing to 4m, the entire plant becomes covered from top to bottom with thousands of pink, bell- shaped blooms, each with a soft, yellow throat.
Although an extra- large shrub, the Chinese Beauty Bush seems to thrive with little care in just about any soil, including light clay, provided drainage is good.
A Kolkwitzia we inherited in our own garden has now been growing for at least 60 years. To my knowledge it has rarely been watered or fed, yet never fails to produce outstanding displays, year after year.
Every three to four years a few older branches are cut back almost to the ground and some remaining younger ones pruned lightly or just thinned.
This simple, quick job is always carried out immediately after all flowers have faded in early summer. It is the only care it gets, but is clearly enough to keep it young, vigorous and blooming profusely.