I USED to be a snob. A plant snob. I re­call a con­ver­sa­tion with my brother in which he said that he in­tended to plant his small front gar­den with African Marigolds. I de­rided the idea, to my shame, of plant­ing this brazen, brash, bright or­ange bouf­fant of a flower in­stead of giv­ing a non gar­dener some en­cour­age­ment.

This was not the only com­mon plant to face my de­ri­sion. Forsythias , Berberis and Spi­raeas didn't es­cape amongst oth­ers. Any­way I have grown up since then, that was years ago and I have come to see the value and charm of these ubiq­ui­tous plants.

There is a rea­son these plants are so pop­u­lar. It is be­cause they are showy, eas­ily grown and ef­fec­tive. What's not to like. April seems to pro­duce these plants in abun­dance. All the plants listed be­low if planted with care, in or­di­nary soil that is not prone to wa­ter­log­ging and given a bit of sun should be suc­cess­ful for ev­ery­one. And not all were on my hate list.

For­sythia x intermedia 'Spectab­lis' [ Bor­der For­sythia]: The branches of this shrub can hardly be seen for its bright yel­low flow­ers in early April. Gen­er­ally about 2 m x 2m in size but with va­ri­eties such as F. 'Minigold' mak­ing only 1 me­tre x 1 me­tre. I have still never spec­i­fied one for a client but re­cently have planted F. Ashmount Gold a small pen­du­lus va­ri­ety in my own gar­den.

Camel­lia x william­sii 'Do­na­tion': We all love Camel­lias but this one is as tough as they get. I have one planted more by chance than de­sign. It's sand­wiched be­tween two Thuja hedges and a brick wall and un­der a birch tree. It's do­ing fan­tas­ti­cally well. It can make 4m x 4m or big­ger and has semi dou­ble pale pink flow­ers. A plant that has a x in its name as with this Camel­lia shows that it is a hy­brid be­tween two species, in this case C. japon­ica and C. salue­nen­sis. It re­sults in a plant that has the best at­tributes of both species.

Erysi­mum 'Bowles Mauve' [Peren­nial Wall­flower]: A plant that should be in ev­ery gar­den. There is not a day that this plant does not have some flow­ers grow­ing, in my gar­den. The colour is ap­par­ent in the name, it is ever­green and about 0.7 m x 0.7m in size. It is short lived, maybe 4 to 5 years then needs re­plac­ing. It can make a great in­for­mal hedge much the way laven­der does. My only qualm is that it doesn't come in white.


Iberis sem­per­virens [Candytuft]: This does come in white and it's one of those whites that seems to glow at night time. It is only 0.2m high and spreads to 1.2 m and is ever­green peren­nial. It's great on the ground or over a wall. It grows just about any­where for me even in quite shady spots and flow­ers for ages. One of my desert is­land plants.

Gera­nium macr­or­rhizum 'Be­van's Va­ri­ety': This plant has a sim­i­lar growth habit and uses as the Iberis and re­ally is in­de­struc­tible. I have thrown this peren­nial on to a com­post heap only to find it grow­ing a cou­ple of weeks later. It has pale pur­ple flow­ers and ever­green fo­liage. It also comes in pink G. mac. 'Ing­w­ersen's va­ri­ety' and white G. mac. 'White­Ness' . Both are great and all flower well in full shade as well as sun.

Vibur­num ti­nus 'Eve Price' [ Lau­rusti­nus]: Vis­i­ble nearly every­where this Vibur­num starts flow­er­ing in Jan­uary and is still go­ing in April. An ever­green shrub 3m x 3m with white flower clus­ters fol­lowed by pur­ple berries. Grows in shade and sun alike. Makes a good hedge ei­ther for­mally or in­for­mally. It is an in­valu­able land­scape and cor­ner­stone plant. Gives so much and asks for so lit­tle.

Berberis dar­winii [Bar­berry]: Not my per­sonal favourite flow­er­ing shrub in a shade of Marigold or­ange but hard to deny the value of this thorny plant. Makes a great in­truder proof hedge or a spec-

“There is a rea­son these plants are so pop­u­lar. It is be­cause they are showy, eas­ily grown and ef­fec­tive.”

tac­u­lar fea­ture shrub at 3m x 3m. It never fails to dis­ap­point in its fe­roc­ity of flower. There are two dwarf va­ri­eties, B. dar 'Nana' 1.2m x 1.2m and B. dar. 'Com­pacta' 0.9 x 0.9 both equally good for small hedges.

Spi­area x arguta [Bridal Wreath]: The best of the early flow­er­ing Spi­raeas. Its slen­der arch­ing branches are, as the name sug­gests, wreathed in white blos­som. It makes about 2.5m x 1.5m and gives a soft­ness and move­ment to an other­wise rigid shrub bor­der both in flower and later in leaf. Well wor­thy of its place in any gar­den.

Iberis sem­per­virens (Candytuft) seems to glow at night time

Erysi­mum ‘Bowles Mauve’ Andrew Col­lyer pro­vides a gar­den de­sign, con­sul­tancy and

plant­ing ser­vice. He can be con­tacted by email­ing


Camel­lia x william­sii 'Do­na­tion'

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