Pink ladies

Oc­to­ber is when all of na­ture seems in tune. Del­i­cate blos­soms dis­play against mounds of fresh new fo­liage.

NZ Gardener - - Wairarapa Flowers -

Ire­alise anew how im­por­tant are the per­ma­nent fix­tures of shrubs and trees in the gar­den, and their place­ment in re­gard to one an­other.

Con­fined to bed for a time last spring, I was struck by the beauty of the dif­fer­ing shapes and colours out­side my win­dow: the hor­i­zon­tal lay­ers of the Mariesii vibur­num and Shimizu-Sakura cherry con­trast­ing with mounded and up­right spec­i­mens. How lovely too was the ver­ti­cal punch of the pagoda-mim­ick­ing Chi­nese toon with its shrimp pink leaves, all en­hanced by the sparkle and scent of many trea­sured vibur­nums.

Shrubs and small trees with pink new fo­liage are rare but at­trac­tive ad­di­tions to the spring dis­play.

They are par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing among ton­ing mag­no­lias, prunus, rhodo­den­drons and vibur­nums.

Chief among these pink-leaved glo­ries is the el­e­gant Chi­nese toon ( Ce­drela

sinen­sis), with its im­prob­a­bly pink ferny leaves, tiered hor­i­zon­tally on a very up­right lit­tle tree.

In light soil and full sun, the toon tends to sucker, but when deeply planted in good cool loam that is south-fac­ing, it has never done that with me.

It also holds a se­cret: when young, they are ed­i­ble, tast­ing mildly of gar­lic and are widely used in Asia in stir-fries and sal­ads.

A re­cent dis­cov­ery is a shrublet with truly beau­ti­ful peachy pink fo­liage,

Al­chornea trewioides. It is also from Asia where it highly prized as a gar­den plant. This is a gem that de­serves to be­come much bet­ter known.

Many maples also sport pink-leaved hy­brids. Acer ‘Esk Sun­set’ is my favourite but there are many oth­ers.

Sim­i­larly, dwarf Ber­beris thun­bergii ‘Rose Glow’ has pink-and-cream splashed leaves which would make a nice lit­tle hedgelet in front of a pretty pink and white bor­der.

These plants, when com­bined with sil­ver-leaved cen­tau­reas, artemisias, senecios, grey-leaved hebes and the white-felted fo­liage of Stachys ‘ Bello Gri­gio’, can make a de­light­ful rose and white scheme may be cre­ated to which tulips such as the cherry-striped dou­ble white ‘Car­naval de Nice’ or ‘Pink Im­pres­sion’ may be added.

Vibur­nums are a huge and di­verse race of flow­er­ing plants.

Some de­cid­u­ous, some evergreen, they may be found flow­er­ing in ev­ery sea­son of the year. Hap­pily, they are also ridicu­lously easy to grow, hav­ing no par­tic­u­lar or spe­cial needs.

Some are prized for their evoca­tive fra­grance. Most sport red­dish au­tumn leaf colour and many bear at­trac­tive clus­ters of ber­ries that may be red, orange, yel­low or blue.

But it is the ones that add their charms and flo­ral feasts to Oc­to­ber that I want to men­tion as they make such glo­ri­ous ad­di­tions to the spring gar­den.

Fondly re­mem­bered from child­hood is the Chi­nese snowball tree Vibur­num

macro­cephalum f. macro­cephalum, which is also known as the em­broi­dered ball tree in Asia. The rounded heads of petalled blooms that grad­u­ally change from green to white do re­sem­ble snow­balls hang­ing low to tempt chil­dren and I well re­mem­ber happy “snowball fights” with my Christchurch cousins.

These en­tic­ing hor­ti­cul­tural gems grad­u­ally de­velop from smaller emer­ald spheres, be­com­ing iced-lime globes that are won­der­ful in flower ar­range­ments be­fore they reach their snowy per­fec­tion.

Vibur­num x burk­woodii smoth­ers it­self with waxen clus­ters of gor­geous pink and white blooms for two months. Pos­sessed of the most se­duc­tive pow­dery fra­grance, it forms an airy, twiggy shrub that is semi-de­cid­u­ous, de­pend­ing on the cli­mate. The Korean spice vibur­num ( Vibur­num

carl­cephalum) makes a more com­pact bush cov­ered with per­fumed globes of spicy sweet­ness. Many gar­den­ers and ex­perts con­sider it to have the best scent of all vir­bur­nums.

Dwarf white ‘Eskimo’ is an­other use­ful late-flow­er­ing scented hy­brid. Ar­chi­tec­turally per­fect is Vibur­num

pli­ca­tum ‘Mariesii’, which lacks scent but pro­vides one of the most sat­is­fy­ing shapes with its low-topped broad out­line of tiered branches and lay­ered leaves. The white flow­ers re­sem­ble lace­cap hy­drangeas while the whole con­struc­tion imi­tates a grace­ful old-time cri­no­line as it dips and sways in the breeze.

A rel­a­tive new­comer to me, with pos­si­bly the most beau­ti­ful flow­ers of all, is Vibur­num sar­gen­tii ‘Onondaga’. Mine has formed a colum­nar pil­lar stud­ded with cir­cu­lar plat­ters of crim­son and white blooms re­sem­bling the finest em­broi­dery or porce­lain. The ruby red fer­tile cen­tres edged with lacy flo­rets are so per­fect in colour and con­struc­tion, they might have been fash­ioned by Fabergé or Sèvres. The at­trac­tive new leaves are claret coloured and in au­tumn the flow­ers turn to clus­ters of translu­cent scar­let ber­ries beloved by the birds.

A pair of these vibur­nums would make stun­ning sen­tinels guard­ing a path or gate­way open­ing.

How lovely are the leaves, colours, shapes and scents of this spe­cial sea­son.

How lovely is Oc­to­ber.

Vibur­num ‘Onondaga’.

Vibur­num ‘Mariesii’.

Vibur­num carl­cephalum.

Chi­nese toon.

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