Shrubbing up nicely...
With Diarmuid Gavin As autumn breezes in, hardy fuchsias lead a legion of beauties to brighten up September
With a gentle cooling of temperatures and a softening of the light, we welcome the start of autumn – and hope it will be a clement one as it’s a wonderful time to be outdoors.
Walking in a country lane recently I saw sorbus trees laden with red berries, as well as shiny, plump blackberries ripening on the vine and rosehips swelling.
As the poet John Keats wrote, it’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But there are also plenty of flowers to admire as well.
There are many beautiful herbaceous plants dancing in the borders – crocosmia, asters, rudbeckias, heleniums and sedum to name but a few – but this week I am going to celebrate the shrubs that shine in September.
Top of my list is the hardy fuchsia, F. magellanica. It’s such an easy plant to grow despite its wonderful purple and red exotic Chilean flowers.
They thrive in sun or shade in any well- drained soil.
‘ Mrs Popple’ is an excellent ent cultivar but I also like the graceful ‘ Alba’ which has delicate white flowers, faintly tinged with pink.
‘ Tom Thumb’ is a dwarf variety, perfect for patio or balcony.
Then there’s the blue spiraea, Caryopteris. This is a lovely front- of- border compact shrub with terminalnal clusters of blue flowers – the he more intense blue varieties s are ‘ First Choice’ and ‘ Kew Blue’. This is a particularly good species for chalky soil.
Grow in full sunshine to benefit from the scent of its aromatic leaves and for maximum flowers.
It’s easily propagated from cuttings and most attractive to wildlife.
Other blue flowers at this time can be found on Ceanothus ‘ Autumnal Blue’ – a hardy evergreen ceanothus packed with sky blue flowers and Ceratostigma willmottianum – the hardy plumbago which produces azure flowers over a long period in autumn.
Hebes are a sometimes overlooked shrub, but there are some beautiful varieties – and ‘ Great Orme’ which is currently in blossom is one.
It’s an evergreen with narrow dark leaves and lovely long spikes of pink flowers from July to October.
Also known as shrubby veronica, hebes are often seen in coastal districts as their leaves are well adapted to repelling salt- laden winds.
Plant in moist, well drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
Plenty of pink blooms are also still being produced by the trustworthy mallow, Lavatera, and of course our old favourite, the hydrangea.
I have a relatively young Clerodendrum in my garden, and this year it has started to bloom with small white and maroon lily scented flowers.
These will be followed by bright blue fruits. If you crush the foliage, weirdly it smells of peanut butter. It is therefore sometimes referred to as the Peanut Butter Tree but is also known as Harlequin Glorybower.
It’s a deciduous shrub, small at the